Chances are that the majority of students entering college as freshmen this semester were only five years old when the entire world changed.
Most may not remember those days as well as the upperclassmen, but the trauma of September 11th has had a lasting impact that historians still cannot measure because we are still feeling the effects of it today.
For some time, many did not want to get on an airplane.
We were prepared to send American men and women to a country we had never heard of, because it gave us the illusion of feeling safer.
It suddenly became okay to have disdain for someone who was wearing a kaffiyeh or hijab, even if they were innocently standing in line next to us at the supermarket.
We didn’t know who we were anymore.
Twelve years later, after invading two countries and killing Osama Bin Laden in 2011, it is time to ask ourselves what it means to be American.
Our disdain is no longer with the man wearing the kaffiyeh, but the invisible alien.
He is invisible because we cannot tell if he is “illegal” unless he says so, though many have tried to discern someone’s immigration status with their keen eye.
Is a dreamer who has been living in this country for almost his entire life less American than everyone else because he does not have the right paperwork?
Although there is no escaping the fact that this university was built in Orange County, we are one of the most diverse communities for higher education in the country.
Of the 34,000 students that attend Cal State Fullerton, the Immigration Policy Center estimates that 0.83 percent are undocumented. That is less than 300 students.
These students not only make classroom discussions more colorful by adding their unique perspectives to the marketplace of ideas, but they have to do so knowing that their admissions put other family members in jeopardy.
If they were lucky enough to receive Deferred Action, which protects students who were brought to the United States as children, their parents or adult age relatives still remain in legal limbo.
An undocumented existence in the United States does not mean that the experiences of dreamers are any less painful than the immigrants who are granted legal asylum in this country.
As Kristina Rizga from Mother Jones magazine points out in her article, then 12-year-old Maria did not want to leave her native El Salvador, but it was only after the gang MS-13 had killed her relatives that she was forced to join her mother in San Francisco.
Maria had to deal with the deaths of her family members while making a 3,000 mile journey to the United States by way of coyote.
Sending Maria back to El Salvador would not only deprive her of a chance to receive higher education, but would throw her back into the drug cartel violence that she had narrowly escaped years earlier.
9/11 made us reexamine our humanity. The citizens of this country need to look at it again. We cannot continue to call our country the “Free World” if we are sending people back into the hands of tyranny.
The myth of the illegal immigrant is that he doesn’t pay taxes and that he brings the crime rate up with him wherever he goes.
The truth is that undocumented immigrants contribute 15 billion dollars each year to the Social Security trust fund, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
What’s more is that the National Institute of Corrections points out that immigrants regardless of naturalization status are incarcerated at a much lower rate than native born Americans.
When you reflect back on the events of 12 years ago today, consider this quote from The West Wing, where Press Secretary C.J. Cregg asks President Bartlet to accept a North Korean man’s request for asylum: “This young man is asking for freedom. It’s what this country was built on; everyone is from somewhere else, someplace less free.”