Though our worldviews are poles apart, I need this friend

The blanket accusation came as casually as a remark about the weather. For many, immigration is the default response for what ails the country.



March 8, 2024 - 3:50 PM

A woman carries her child after she and other migrants crossed the Rio Grande and entered the U.S. from Mexico to be processed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, in Eagle Pass, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

It’s amazing how long a passing slight sometimes takes to hit its target.

Most times, they glance off. This one, however, took root.

A friend and I were discussing all things Iola earlier this week. On most things we agreed. As longtime Iolans, we’re excited about the possibilities the new state park could bring. We’re hopeful about recent talks about a recycling program of some measure. And we agree the new elementary school is nothing short of a game-changer for our youth.

From there the discussion segued to the town’s other schools and their fates.

I ventured that in the not-too-distant future an enclosed campus should be in the cards for the high school, primarily for student safety reasons.

“Well, as long as immigration is a problem, you’re probably right,” the friend said.

The blanket accusation came as casually as a remark about the weather. For many it’s become the default response for what ails the country.

Knowing that my silence can be interpreted as an affirmation, my friend’s comment ate away at me.

That evening, I discussed it with my husband. The next day with co-workers. On Wednesday afternoon I hashed it out with my “therapist” — the outdoors. Armed with a handsaw and clippers, I took after errant saplings and vines as I pondered the Sisyphean battle of taking such untruths to task.

But try, I must.

A US Customs and Border Protection officer gives food to an immigrant child waiting to be processed at a US Border Patrol transit center after crossing the border from Mexico at Eagle Pass, Texas on Dec. 22, 2023. Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill on Dec. 18, 2023, that would allow state police to arrest and deport migrants who cross illegally into the US from Mexico. The Supreme Court has issued a temporary stay until March 13 while the court considers whether it will allow the state to enforce the law. (Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

Immigrants — including those undocumented and here illegally — commit fewer crimes than people born in the United States. For all matter of offenses, from homicides to sexual assault, thefts to drug violations, “immigrants have lower rates of crimes,” research by Michael Light of the University of Wisconsin recently established.

As for mass shootings, white males are the primary perpetrators according to the National Institute of Justice. Over the last 50 years there have been 172 mass shootings; more than half have occurred since 2000. The racial breakdown of perpetrators is 52.3% White, 20.9% Black, 8.1% Latino, 6.4% Asian, 4.2% Middle Eastern, and 1.8% Native American.

Immigrants today are 30 percent less likely to be incarcerated compared to their American peers, according to a recent study by Stanford’s Institute for Economic Policy Research. Overall, first-generation immigrants fare better, researchers say, because of their willingness to work, their strong family networks, and their resilient natures. After all, many have risked their lives to be here. 

So they’re not all rapists and drug dealers? Not by a long shot.

But does our immigration system work?