By Emmy Liederman
On Tuesday, August 21, 20-year-old University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbets was found dead after she was missing for more than a month. After learning that an undocumented immigrant was charged with her murder, I held my breath—- I knew people were already using the young girl’s death to fuel their anti-immigration beliefs and generalize the intentions of an entire population.
I spent the summer working and growing close with immigrants from Guatemala and Mexico, many of whom I hope to remain in contact with. I have seen firsthand that making blanket statements about immigrants undermines and disrespects those who have risked it all in hopes of a better life.
When I heard this story, I thought of Josue. He busses tables six days a week and moves at the speed of light to get his job done. I can honestly say I’ve never heard the man complain. He speaks about missing his home country and family, but he is thankful to be here. Unfortunately, he knows he has something to prove.
I thought of Maria, a young Guatemalan girl who was eager to start work and support her family. I knew I would be able to get through my shift when she greeted me with open arms and a beautiful smile. During the dead business hours, Maria would help me improve my Spanish while I helped her with English. When I told her it was admirable that she started working at a young age, she shrugged it off. For Maria, starting work as soon as possible to support the family is nothing out of the ordinary— she was simply doing her part. At her age, I don’t think my friends and I even possessed a fraction of her motivation and work ethic. She is truly inspiring.
I thought of the head chef, who spends hours behind a hot stove and is responsible for countless happy customers. If I went into the kitchen in a panic because something went wrong, he remained calm and had an immediate solution. His food was always brought to the tables in a timely manner, and tasted great too. I don’t know many people who wouldn’t crack under the pressure of that job.
I challenge those who find themselves generalizing the actions of immigrants to try to survive even a few hours doing the demanding work that defines these people’s lives. I challenge them to consider whether they would want to move to an unfamiliar country to find work and seek a better life only to be denied well-deserved respect. Maybe then they would understand the harm caused by their flawed mentality.