Debra Rawlings

Debra Rawlings

Rantoul, IL

My father’s family came to the US from the Netherlands in the 1850s, seeking a place to farm because the family farm there would not support so many adult children and their families.

They were legal immigrants; I have no idea what that process involved. They settled in northwest Iowa. It was an opportunity that would be much harder to come by these days.

I live now in a small town in another midwestern state, where immigration, legal and illegal, impacts everyone, though not necessarily visibly. We deal with the legacy of enforced immigration — slavery — as the school districts and the community struggle with a black-white racial divide.

Migrant workers following the crops are here for several months each summer, and over the years the permanent Hispanic segment of the community has grown. The schools offer ESL classes for Spanish-speaking students.

One of the negatives is the practice of some migrants of driving without a license and without auto insurance, creating a risk for everyone. To me, America is at its best when it is diverse, when it builds on the strengths of that diversity, uncomfortable as that may occasionally be.

I empathize with some of the stories I hear about illegal immigration; others I don’t. I do not want this country to become a police state, where people have to show identification because of the way they look, or the language they speak.

I do want the immigration process to be orderly and fair. I also want countries like Mexico to do a better job of taking care of and providing opportunities for their own citizens. Mexico has resources. Why is that country failing so miserably? It doesn’t appear to be for a lack of hardworking citizens.

Let's Talk

It's time for a new conversation about immigration in America, and it starts with us.

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