REASON 39: President Obama has taken the first step toward bold immigration reform.
In 2010, Congress voted to block the DREAM Act. The act would allow young, undocumented immigrants who have grown up in the United States to become legal residents after fulfilling certain requirements, including college or military service.
This past June, President Obama boldly circumvented the DREAM Act's Congressional block. He issued an executive order that halted the deportation of between 800,000 and a million young people who were brought to America illegally as children. These are youth who have known the United States to be their home. Some of them may not even speak the language of the country their parents are from. These young people, who are under thirty and were brought to the United States before the age of sixteen, are being granted a temporary reprieve. These young people, who do not present a risk to national security or public safety, are now able to apply for work authorization and live without the fear of deportation.
Yes, the solution is temporary. But rather than a band-aid fix, it is a stepping stone on the path to a more fair immigration policy: one that will review cases on an individual basis, and one that acknowledges the involvement of individual human beings and not just numbers on a page. This is not, as many misguided Republicans state, “a reward for illegal activity.” The community members benefitting from the measure have been raised as Americans, and were not responsible for the actions that brought them to our country in the first place. It is a direct action against what President Obama calls "one of the most egregious flaws of a badly broken immigration system... that forces children who have grown up in America, who speak English, who have excelled in our communities... to put their lives and talent on hold."
For students, this is a major development. For many undocumented high school graduates, twelfth grade was the end of the line because they were unable to apply for college financial aid or scholarships. Students who grew up in America, and went to school in America, were not able to pursue their aspirations in the only country they knew as home. Now, we hope, they can. In Washington DC, Los Angeles, Chicago, and other cities across the nation, undocumented youth, the “DREAMers,” rallied in support of Obama's mandate. For once they were being treated as individual humans, and not just a statistical problem to be dealt with as clinically as possible.
Ambitious, hardworking young people should not be the focus of immigrant deportation. These people are Americans in all but legal status. They grew up here, lived here, and contributed to their communities. For the first time they will be able live without the fear of being deported—without the fear of being lifted from their lives and sent back to a place they do not know. I will be voting for President Obama because he needs another term in office to see this mandate grow to its full potential. He needs this next term to make the DREAM Act, and the hopes of these promising young people a reality.
Los Angeles, California