At the Southern foothills of the Appalachians, in the northeast corner of Alabama, my great, great, great grandfather stopped to drink from a spring while on route to join a Confederate army that by 1864, was losing badly.

The grim prospect of horrifying slaughter and inevitable defeat must have filled the 18 year-old Mercer Cunningham with an unusual amount of clarity, for at that moment he decided that if he survived the war he would buy this beautiful piece of countryside.

More than 150 years later that land and that spring remains in my family’s possession, all within a community that became known as Collinsville, a classic American small town, coated heavily in Southern-fried charm. As humble as it may seem, it remains an unlikely destination for people seeking better lives, except now not just for those of Scotch-Irish lineage.

Among its other charms, Collinsville is today one of the most diverse small towns in Alabama, with over 40% of the town’s population reported as Hispanic, according to the most recent census. Most of these are immigrants who came to DeKalb County in order to work in chicken farms and poultry plants.

While there have been notable exceptions, the community has largely accepted and even embraced their new neighbors. Even so their presence stirs debate among the native community, because many of these workers crossed into this country illegally.

This debate extends within my own family, particularly when my Aunt Joanne, who currently occupies the old family farm, began renting parts of the property out to migrant workers, many of whom have spoken little to no English.

While Joanne is as conservative as you might expect from any elderly country woman, she has had little shame about renting to these undocumented immigrants, even sardonically referring to them as “my illegals” and on one occasion politely telling prying Federal agents to come back with a warrant if they’d like to know more about her tenets.

Over a short period of time, these new members of the community have put on a showcase of the dynamic effects migration can have on an economy. Officials at the poultry plant Cagles have freely admitted that without the migrant workers, the town’s biggest employer would likely have had to close their doors.

Then there is the revival of the old Collinsville downtown, where once empty shops are now thriving businesses, including a restaurant serving the best authentic Mexican food this side of the Mississippi. When I, along with my siblings and cousins first rebelliously ventured into Los Reyes Market and Restaurant, we were rarely served by anyone who could speak English. More recently we are usually served by students of Collinsville High School, whose English is a mix of their parent’s native Spanish with a hint of the distinct Dekalb County twang.

All of this firsthand knowledge runs through my head as I listen to the incredible inanity of Republicans arguing about the best ways to force immigrants to learn English and/or deport them. I find myself asking, is it really that difficult to see what Donald Trump and his ilk are advocating, whether they realize it or not, is the destruction of thriving communities like Collinsville?

And I’m just talking about one small town in Alabama. Imagine the catastrophe that would accompany the forced removal of undocumented immigrants from Texas, Florida or California.

Many would fire back that they are happy to have immigrants in this country, but only if they came in legally. But illegal immigrants are not deviant criminal boogeymen as they all too often have been portrayed of late. If anything, they are brave souls defying an unjust system.

They are valued co-workers, business owners, priests, parents and classmates, all making better lives for themselves and enriching their adopted communities. Republicans should stop their obsession with building new walls. Rather they should emulate every conservative’s supposed favorite Republican and tell Trump to tear down walls instead of building new ones.