From 1900 to 1915, it is estimated that 15 million people from all over Europe, especially from countries like Italy, Poland, and Russia, arrived to the United States. Many of these people were relatively poor, and many of them had heard rumors and stories of how great and easy it was to become wealthy in the “land of the free,” where anything was possible. They would soon realize that it would be very difficult to acquire wealth in this foreign state. An Italian saying surfaced because of this disillusionment: “I came to America because I heard the streets were paved with gold. When I got here, found out three things: First, the streets weren’t paved with gold; second, they weren’t paved at all: and third, I was expected to pave them.” If these hardworking and courageous immigrants had not paved the streets and helped build the United States, would America as we know it today exist?
In the past the Supreme Court has dealt with many cases regarding the rights of immigrants, legal and illegal. In Supreme Court case Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 1886, a case involving the rights of a Chinese immigrant, the Court cited the 14th Amendment’s statement “... nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” and stated that it applied to all persons.
The Court would rule in favor of immigrants in several other cases, including Wong Wing v. U.S., 1896, which dealt with the rights of an illegal Chinese alien. The Supreme Court stated that even illegal aliens have 5th and 6th Amendment rights. Another case, Plyler v. Doe, 1982, removed a Texas law prohibiting illegal aliens from attending public schools quoting the Equal Protection Clause.
Currently, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is making it increasingly difficult for immigrants to successfully live in the United States. Recent issues include improper detainment of individuals, Secure Communities, and immigration raids. All violating immigrants’ 5th and 14th Amendment Rights.
If the Constitution and the Supreme Court have already established that immigrants, legal and illegal, deserve certain inalienable rights then why is ICE treating these people with such disrepect? Every person, citizen or noncitizen, illegal immigrant or legal immigrant, deserves equal protection. Yes, there are rights reserved to citizens, such as participating in the government, but the rights of immigrants should not be overlooked.
Americans should never forget that the United States began as a republic of immigrants, where “individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labors and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world,” as St. Jean de Crevecoeur described it. The hardships that immigrants are facing today should not be in existence because every American can trace their lineage to an immigrant. Immigrants are the ones that will form the future of the United States, and they will do so proudly.