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The Daily Tar Heel

On the immigration fence: Study abroad process might ironically reshape views

Five months ago, it seemed immigration would be the issue to rile up voters this election. Maybe we just wanted to be mad at something other than the economy. But people HATE this economy, even here in North Carolina — home to roughly a quarter-million undocumented immigrants.

Given that a former student starved herself for two weeks in June, I’m surprised it hasn’t been a more vocally supported issue on campus. And I think I know why: political apathy! OK, another reason: Many of us have studied, lived or at least traveled abroad and can appreciate the method to the immigration madness.

Since kindergarten we have been taught to wait in line. Waiting sucks; we spend years in a lifetime doing it. But it’s fair. If you want to anger someone in this society, cut in front of them in line. That’s essentially undocumented immigration.

For any of us who have studied abroad, we know that there is a forest’s worth of paperwork. Even a simple leisurely trip can require visas and fees that are quite the hassle. There’s nothing like being held up for an important research trip to another country because everyone in that country handling the paperwork has taken the month off for the World Cup.

But you wait, persist, resist learning/using Portuguese profanity and definitely don’t hop the fence to another country to get something done. And were you to illegally cross a border, you wouldn’t be too surprised about deportation, unless your left pinkie toe accidentally crossed into Iran or North Korea, in which case you’d expect incarceration.

Today, the status of undocumented immigrant children has boiled back up off the back burner. The parameters of the DREAM Act’s current incarnation set up a fair situation, though it should be attached to a greater enforcement of immigration as a way to address the issue of children who have grown up here (Congress: This process would be called “compromise.”)

Otherwise, it would still be no tougher to hop the border and give birth, or at least be encouraged that if you can hunker down for five years starting before the age of 16, all is good.

But it’s not. For example: The Charlotte Observer’s Franco Ordoñez recently wrote a great piece about the financial bind hospitals and undocumented immigrant patients see, which in turn drives up health care costs.

Still, I’m amazed by how people come to United States, go through the legal process, find or create work, wait for their turn, do the right things and ultimately receive a green card. I saw a whole new kind of love for this country when I saw a friend and her family receive a call saying that she received a green card.

That’s the way it should be done. I think you agree but might be hesitant to express it.

Sam Perkins is the Graduate Student Perspective Columnist for The Daily Tar Heel. He is a graudate student from Charlotte. Email him at

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