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AN ALLY'S PERSPECTIVE, Caroline Steele

My name is Caroline Steele and I am from Olathe, Kansas. I have three siblings– an older brother, older sister, and younger sister. I’ve been in Kansas my whole life. I went to Olathe Northwest High School and now I am studying Political Science and Spanish with a minor in Social Justice at the University of Kansas in the Honors Program. 


My connection to being passionate about immigration came from taking Spanish classes. I started in eight grade and really realized just how beautiful and vibrant the Spanish speaking community is here in the United States. I wanted to continue with it and decided to major in Spanish to learn more about it. I want to achieve fluency to connect with the immigrant and Spanish speaking population we have here.


When I read The Devil’s Highway –  a book about the journey of immigrants who cross through the US Mexico Border and the challenges and difficulties they face– I realized there has to be a better way than making people risk their lives to cross and come here. That moment really stood out to me the most because it made me see how broken and dehumanizing our immigration system in the US is


My family has several connections to people who have immigrated here. I saw firsthand the challenges they faced and the tenacity. I am just so impressed and admire people that have done what they’ve done by coming here because it is not an easy process. It is lengthy. There is so much paperwork (especially when English might not even be your first language). 


My dad has a patient that help’s immigrant families and she was needing some extra support because she had 10-12 families she was helping. She does this on the side and volunteers. She reached out to my dad asking if there was anyone he knew that could help. He thought about me since he knew I was really passionate about this. I got to know two families that immigrated here, supported them and built relationships with them. I realized that a lot of times, it can be really lonely because you leave your families behind. I was helping them get acquainted with the area and that was a really special moment. 


These moments made me realize I want to be an ally and support these communities in any way that I can. 


It is so important to build these connections because a lot of times there is this conversation of the “other” and the “other side” and we dehumanize people that are different from us especially with the rhetoric we are seeing from Former President Trump. Making people seem inhuman is how you push policies to do things that are wrong. By building those relationships, actually getting to know the person, recognizing their story and what they’ve gone through makes us realize how much we really do have in common. When you get to know somebody, you humanize them. 


There is a common misperception that immigrants come here and will be on our welfare systems, use tax dollars or take our jobs which is false. Immigrants are some of the hardest working people that we have in this country. The reason that we are where we are today is because of the work immigrants do. What shocks me is thinking about what is involved in the citizenship test. There are things that US born citizens don’t even know so why are we expecting other people to know the answers? 


I heard someone describe America as a salad because you don't necessarily mix together but you’re all together. I unfortunately don't think I would disagree with that representation. We have an incredible, diverse, and honorable community here, but not everyone appreciates or views it like that. Because of this, I think there are a lot of conversations right now about the importance of being an ally and respecting other cultures. In Olathe, the immigrant population is small and my location has inspired to pursue a space later in life that allows me to have more contact with immigrant communities 


Everyone I know that has parents that immigrated here or immigrated themselves are the strongest I know and some of the best friends I’ve had in my life. They have this whole different level of understanding of allyship, and they inspire and teach me how to be a better ally myself. 


It is important to be an ally because there are not a lot of them out there due to misinformation and lack of personal relationships with immigrants. However, I want to make sure that I’m not coming across in a savorist way because immigrants are 100% capable of doing whatever they need to. I simply think it is important you have friends and someone by your side to support you. 


I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to go to a completely foreign country with a different language and resettle my life. One person to be there for me would be all that it would take. I want to make sure I can be that for someone else. 

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