The Unites States is a land of opportunity, encapsulated by the idea of the “American Dream.” The United States is also the most powerful country in the world, and its actions, especially in the global arena, are watched by all other international leaders.

However, the United States immigration system is disorganized and nothing to be proud of. Immigration reform repeatedly fails in congress. The issue of Syrian refugee acceptance exemplifies the brokenness of this system. While President Barack Obama has pledged to admit 100,000 Syrian refugees, 24 governors want to block refugees from their states. Presidential candidates feel pressure to pick one side or the other—to be in total support of accepting Syrian refugees or completely against it. As a Honors student who doesn’t have to conform to a particular set of views, I postulate that the solution to this issue is murkier than some would like to suggest.

I spoke with Paula Rotscher, a UF Honors student from Germany who led the successful campaign to make Gainesville a “Welcoming City” as part of the Welcoming America initiative, and who is now implementing programs to make Gainesville a more inviting and inclusive place for immigrants. Paula said that making Gainesville a Welcoming City gives its residents the opportunity to “celebrate the diversity of its members.” She stated that Gainesville has many foreigners, and that it’s time for Gainesville to show, “we are a diverse place and we’re proud of it.”

Rotscher believes that the people responsible for the recent terrorist attacks are not representative of the immigrant community. She stated that, “this country was built by immigrants, and it would be hypocritical to think that we don’t need them here.” Paula has worked hard to help eradicate misrepresentations of immigrants that are prevalent in our society, and through the Welcoming City program, has held interfaith visits between churches and Muslim communities to determine the true needs of immigrants and to connect them with local groups that try to integrate new immigrants into existing communities.

Immigration is an important aspect of American society, and immigrants contribute to our country’s diversity and prosperity. Helping immigrants to come to the United States and become productive citizens not only improves their lives but can better the United States as a whole. Opening our borders to immigrants who want to contribute to the U.S. in a positive way is part of what perpetuates the American Dream. Addressing negative perspectives on immigrants and Syrian refugees is a bottom-up process, and Prism applauds Paula Rotscher for her work in Gainesville.

Photo from