Readers’ Forum: Immigration is a rising problem in America

Sebastian Mancilla is grateful for his grandfather’s example of courage and hope. His grandfather immigrated from Mexico and is the reason he is at BYU today. (Photo courtesy of Sebastian Mancilla)

Immigration is a rising problem in America. Many say the problem cripples the economy, steals tax dollars and takes away our children’s opportunities. But since the birth of this country, we have blossomed because of what their descendants have and will continue to accomplish. Immigration is not a bad thing, it’s a beautiful thing.  

One such story occurred more than 40 years ago with a man named Jose. He was from a small town in Mexico called San Luis Potosi filled with cow farms and cilantro fields. For many years Jose tried to pursue an education in Mexico. But with poverty so prevalent and no help from the government, Jose went straight to a working job at the young age of nine.

When he became a father and started to have children, he looked back on missed opportunities in his youth, especially of the chance to attend a four-year university. So, after kneeling at his beside and praying to God one night, he told himself he would give each of his 10 children a better life. 

Thirty-nine years later from that day, Jose was on his deathbed in Los Angeles. The day before he passed, I asked him with a sincere heart,  “Abuelo porque venistes a este pais con tus diez ninos chiquitos?” (“Grandpa, why did you come to this country with your 10 young children?”)

With what was one of his last dying breaths he told me, “Para un nuevo futuro y un educacion para mis ninos.” (“For a new future and so that my children could have an education.”)

Part of Jose’s legacy was that 6 of his 10 children went on to get bachelor’s degrees from four-year universities. Three of the 10 went on to get master’s degrees and another attended law school. Jose had 23 grandchildren born in the United States in the years that followed. Twelve have graduated from four-year universities and four have master’s degrees. One graduated from medical school and another from dental school. Six are currently college students, and four are enrolled at Brigham Young University.  

For many years we have faced issues with immigrants coming into the United States undocumented and uneducated. Jose, a good and honest man fell into both categories. But Jose’s family is a byproduct of what the United States can do for immigrants. Give them a new future and a better life than their forefathers.  

On the other hand, many people have said immigration steals jobs, robs us of our tax dollars and hurts the economy. In some instances, this is true. It creates competition; illegals don’t pay taxes and their children go to our public schools. 

But what the critics don’t say is what they do for everyone else.

In this country’s history, it was always the newest immigrants that had the toughest jobs, from African Americans picking cotton to Mexicans cutting lawns.

Or how immigrants bring their culture and traditions to this country, like Africans bringing their music, which later became jazz, or Mexicans bringing their staple food: tacos. These things are what make America what it is.

Remembering the founders of this great country, they were not natives of these lands. They were immigrants, coming from a place where their lives were limited by their government. And as a result, they took heart and traveled with their families to a far-off land.

As I look back on Jose’s life, I see how he had that same courage as our Founding Fathers. The same heart, the same hope. Immigration is beautiful.

–Sebastian Elias Mancilla

Riverside, California

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