“Our government [is] just leaving us behind. American dream is gone. It’s not here no more. … That’s just a dream. That’s all that’s left. Just the dreams,” Jaroslav ‘Jerry’ Schuster told NPR.
Schuster is an immigrant from Yugoslavia. His American Dream, NPR reports, was the ranch he bought 40 years ago in southern California. On this land that Schuster owns in a small border community of 600, the U.S. Border Patrol has established camps for the hundreds of illegal migrants who cross there every day.
“[Migrants will] be here for three days, destroying my property. They’ll be gone, and I have to live with their destruction right here,” Schuster explains.
Ash Ponders for NPR
Every year, millions around the world try to come to the United States, legally or illegally, to build their dream—their American Dream. Most likely, many of the more than 8 million who have crossed our borders illegally in the past three years have been seeking that dream, too. But the massive influx of illegal immigrants who have arrived and have stayed with the blessing of the current administration is having a negative impact on much of what the American Dream represents.
The American Dream is part of what makes America exceptional. It is the dream of “a better, richer, and happier life for all our citizens of every rank … a life in which a man might think as he would and develop as he willed,” explained James Truslow Adams, who is credited with coining the term “American Dream.”
It belongs to native U.S. citizens and immigrants alike and is unique to each of us. It alludes to possibilities unmatched anywhere else. As much as the American left tries to wish it into reality, no one talks about a European Dream—or any other national dream, for that matter. But it also stands for a person’s endeavor to build their own dream—by and for themselves.
While each dream is unique, a few themes have been echoed over the past 250 years. Many, American born and immigrants, cite home or land ownership as their American Dream—this was Schuster’s dream. Others cite more opportunities to build financial freedom and have a better life.
A recent Seattle Times opinion collected several immigrants’ vision. Rony, from El Salvador, shared that he and his wife “can work at any job we want and be safe in doing it—that’s my dream. … Also, here, the police and courts are honest and when applying for documents, you don’t have to pay bribes or wait for months—that’s my dream.”
Jasper, from China, explained that “the Chinese government is so oppressive—they control everything and dictate all that you say and do. Here, you have a free press and can openly criticize your president—try that in China and you’ll be arrested.” Amaira, from India, appreciated feeling safe as a single woman and free to pursue her own choices.
For many immigrants, it is the American ethos that brought them here. Most people recognize personal responsibility, initiative, hard work, and merit as key components of the American Dream—not factors such as the class you were born into or how well-connected you are, as is the case in so many countries still. In return, opportunities abound like nowhere else.
Why is it that America offers so much more? What makes the American Dream possible? It is what has attracted me, an immigrant from France, in the first place: the very principles on which the United States was founded. For a house is only as strong as its foundation—and the U.S. delivered big on foundations: respect for individual rights, including free speech; freedom of religion; property rights; the right to be secure in our own homes; and the respect for the rule of law or all being equal before the law—each a sine qua non for the American Dream and the American way of life to continue to exist. You can’t turn your dream of homeownership into reality if property rights are not respected.
Unfortunately, the mass illegal immigration crisis we are living and that the federal government at best does little to limit is eroding some of these principles, endangering the American Dream that millions of Americans and immigrants before us have had the opportunity to build for themselves. Jerry Schuster is just one example of that erosion.
The federal government’s complicity in the border crisis, which has now reached every corner of our country, is making the American Dream less accessible, less respected, and less realizable–from violations of individual rights in the form of trespass and destruction of property or human trafficking, to making a mockery of the rule of law.
In the subsequent editions of this newsletter, we’ll take a closer look at how the current administration’s immigration policies are eating away the principles on which America was founded—and by extension, eroding the American Dream.