The issue of “American-ness” is a heated one. I am an immigrant myself. My parents moved our family to the United States when I was a baby. I’ve lived here for 43 years. I know no other home and I would not fit in back in the country of my birth. I look Indian, but nothing about my paradigm is Indian. I have been back to Calcutta, the city of my birth, and it is alarming to be a brown face among my people and feel so glaringly different. I am more accustomed to being one brown face in a sea of white faces where I live, yet I feel like I fit in more here. Though I was not born American, I was raised one. For the record, my family’s immigration was legal, and we have all since become United States citizens. My sons are first generation American. It's kind of a big deal.
My paradigm as a naturalized American sheds a different perspective on President Obama’s recent announcement to grant deferred action process for children of illegal immigrants. It’s a tough call because those children are victims of their parents’ choices. They have lived here their whole lives and consider America home. It is, in fact, the only home they know. Such is my life. These are the same kids who sit next to mine in school and frolic in the swimming pool on summer vacation with my sons. They are not the stereotypical visions of illegal immigrants people conjure up. Whether people admit it or not, there are shadows of racism and discrimination peeking through the veil of "patriotism" and the barking about what's fair and just. I can’t help but feel pangs of compassion and sympathy for these children.
Note that President Obama is not granting full blown citizenship rights to the children and their families. He is simply stating that in the scheme of things, this segment of illegal immigrants is a lower threat to our national security. I concur. Dealing with immigration issues must be handled in a logical, cost effective, compassionate manner. In terms of prioritization, the people whose parents brought them here as children pose no threat to our nation’s safety. There is the argument of illegal immigrants “taking our jobs.” From where I sit, I don’t see a whole lot of legal citizens lining up to take the same sort of jobs illegal immigrants are taking on to pay their way. The mantle of entitlement is not one worn by immigrants, for they are grateful to be in a country that is the purported land of opportunity.
I think this directive makes sense. Are there political underpinnings here in hopes of winning the critical Hispanic vote? Sure. Everything is political, even more so in an election year. Nonetheless, I think it makes sense to approach immigration on a case by case basis and target the real threats first. If we have committed, patriotic, productive members of society who came here illegally as children but contribute to our country in some fashion, let’s find a way to help them, not punish them. Punishing children for the “sins of their fathers” is ludicrous. Those who oppose this directive are up in arms about details that are simply not true. No one gets a fast pass to citizenship. No one moves to the front of the line for scholarships and college admissions. This directive allows legions of illegal immigrants to apply to work legally in this country. That means more people paying taxes, spending money, and boosting our economy. President Obama’s directive is about relief, not immunity. It makes sense from both a human and economic perspective.
This post is part of a weekly conversation with our Moms Matter 2012 political bloggers. To see the original question and see what all the bloggers had to say, read What Do You Think of President Obama's Immigration Decision?