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Just make them legal already

On Nov. 6, 1986, the U.S. passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act and granted amnesty to illegal aliens under certain criteria. If immigrants could prove their employment, how long they had been in the U.S. and displayed knowledge of U.S. history, government and the English language, they were granted citizenship.

The act, signed by Ronald Reagan, was the most liberal immigration act to date. It’s time we pass such an immigration act again.

For the first time, racial and ethnic minorities make up roughly half of the young population. The baby boomer population is hanging on, but as years pass, the historic shift grows and children and teenagers are spearheading the change. Based on current rates of growth, whites in the under-five group are expected to tip to a minority this year or next, Thomas Mesenbourg, the U.S. Census Bureau’s acting director, said.

While minority populations rise, huge numbers of children are at risk of losing their undocumented parents. This could be especially crippling to Latino children, who rely heavily on their family systems. These systems extend back a few generations to those family members who may not have received amnesty and subsequent citizenship yet.

Our country is changing and that’s terrifying. Even the people who have been waiting for change don’t know how it will ultimately affect them. Because of this, we have a lot of fearful people who only know how to raise their voices in anger. Everywhere you look, there is hate for racial and ethnic minorities — especially for those who live here undocumented.

But these undocumented immigrants live and work here, pay U.S. taxes and place their kids in U.S. schools. They belong to live here freely just as much as any of us, regardless of when or how they first arrived.

If you make the argument that immigrants, Latinos from Mexico specifically, aren’t legal and therefore need to be deported, then you have to acknowledge the fact that all non-Native Americans are illegal by definition of invading land that isn’t theirs. Therefore, they also need to be deported. This land does not belong to us and we cannot justly decide who we share it with based on their arrival in our neighborhoods.

There are 11.4 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. as of 2013 and we have a disproportional hatred towards those who are perceived as newcomers: especially Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and people from other Latin American and Caribbean countries who don’t “look” like they belong.

A study by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government found that generally, native-born Americans with higher levels of contact with immigrants have more positive views of immigrants and immigration than those with less contact. People in contact with documented and undocumented immigrants were more likely to say that immigration in recent years has been a good thing for the country, that recent immigrants are unfairly discriminated against and that immigrants today strengthen the country. They also were less likely to say that immigrants take jobs away from Americans, that recent immigrants do not pay their fair share of taxes or that the federal government is not tough enough when it comes to immigration.

Congress should make moves to propose, further and pass acts to improve the lives of immigrants and grant citizenship to more of those in the undocumented population. Once we accept them on a constitutional level and push to protect them legally, public acceptance and approval of immigrants from non-European countries will rise and future generations will be raised more tolerant of their neighbors regardless of ethnicity.

We can make the lives of our children better and ultimately make our country better by not turning away the people that come to the U.S. looking for opportunities for a better life just as our families have been doing since so many centuries ago.

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