The issue of immigration is, and will continue to be, a hot topic. One interesting fact from May’s Conservative Leadership Election was that the two ridings that the most anti-immigrant candidate, Kellie Leitch, won, was two in Surrey. The backlash against immigration undoubtedly exists throughout the world, and Canada is not an exception.

Although the debate often centred on social issues, like culture, religion, and humanitarianism, there is a case to be made which both the left and the right ought to like: immigrants are productive, socially and economically.

Of course, immigrants are often portrayed as lazy, backward welfare queens looking for a handout. But as UK Green co-leader Caroline Lucas recently pointed out, “You are more likely to see a migrant [at a hospital] actually treating you as a doctor than ahead of you in the queue.”

Indeed, we know in Canada that the backbone of our country, and the foundation on which it was built, is immigration. It began with the French and English (which one ought to consider as colonialism more than immigration), followed by people of all ethnicities and religions from around the world: Scots, Irishmen, Italians, Germans, Slavs, the Chinese, the Japanese, Jews, Catholics, and Protestants.

Refugees and immigrants are often thought of as “economic migrants,” in order to paint them as not wretched souls but greedy self-interested peasants out to steal your job. But whether they are “economic migrants” or not is plainly irrelevant.

The fact is that the productivity and the demand generated by immigrants creates jobs and raises living standards for all of us, provided they are treated fairly and not exploited as modern-day slaves. As economist and former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis points out, immigrants actually boost economic growth in the long run. Despite Greece being the epicenter of the European migrant crisis, the Greeks have not started kicking out immigrants left and right.

Matter of fact, international students and immigrants are a part and parcel of the Riverside community, though their stories seldom told, their existence seldom spoken of, their achievements seldom recognised. They are ultimately who we are: Riverside students, Canadians, contributors to our society.

Take Erin Wu as one example, grade 12 student who has been accepted to the University of British Columbia. Although she is not Japanese, she took home second place for two years in a row at UBC’s Japanese language poetry contest. Her previous poem was about her grandfather, and her most recent poem was a piece on the art of traditional Japanese comedy. “It’s important to protect this kind of art because it’s a part of Japanese culture,” said Wu.

Another example of remarkable work was that of Esther Huang, grade 12, who has worked on compiling a binder resource for woodworking that is translated into a variety of second languages, including Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. The resource will have information on woodworking machinery and safety procedures.

Of course, no story on immigrant students would be complete without that of Nathalie Kaspar, another Grade 12 student. She is a Syrian Refugee who fled the battleground city of Aleppo in 2015 and stayed in Lebanon for six months before coming to Canada. Both her parents were electrical engineers in Syria, though have found different fields of work in Canada.

She recalled her previous life as one of danger. “Life in Syria was very dangerous. My [older] brother and sister had to stop going to university,” said Kaspar. “Everyday there were bombs. [There was] no electricity, no water, no gas. Sometimes the bombs fell close to our house.”

For her academic excellence and community involvement since coming to Canada, Kaspar has been awarded the Association of BC Teachers of English as an Additional Language (BC TEAL) Charitable Foundation’s Refugee Award.

They are the immigrants Canada and much of the Western World needs to boost economic progress and replace an ageing work force.