Today, there are many young immigrants who were brought here by parents seeking a better life. These promising young people grew up here and call this country home. They deserve an opportunity and so do their parents.
One year ago Saturday, the Department of Homeland Security took action to lift the shadow of deportation for eligible young people – who we often call the “DREAMers” – so they can fully contribute to our economy and our society. This process is known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
DACA is just one of the many steps the Department of Homeland Security has taken to make our immigration enforcement policies smarter and more effective at focusing on our priorities. These steps all ensure that our immigration enforcement can focus on high-priority individuals instead of clogging the system with low priority cases.
Those who have been approved for deferred action include earnest, productive young people who are ready to give back to the only country they have ever known and in the fullest possible sense. They are American in every way but on paper. As the President has said many times, it makes no sense to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language.
While DACA is an important step forward, the only way to have a lasting solution is for Congress to pass commonsense immigration reform that includes a pathway to earned citizenship. We welcome the Senate’s current debate on a commonsense immigration reform bill that has bipartisan support.
This legislation isn’t just about policy – it’s about people. The President and Vice President recently met with DREAMers as well as with the siblings and spouses of undocumented immigrants, to hear directly from those affected daily by our nation’s broken immigration system.
One person in that meeting was Kevin Lee, a DACA recipient who currently resides in Los Angeles, California. Kevin’s parents emigrated from South Korea to California in 1999 when he was 9 years old. Kevin graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles and has a B.A. in History and a minor in Asian Humanities. Understanding the struggles of recent immigrants, Kevin recently took his LSATs with the hopes obtaining a law degree in order to serve and advocate on behalf of his community.
I am also a graduate of UCLA. I am certain that Kevin and I walked the same streets on campus, studied in the same libraries, and frequented the same coffee shops on late night studying breaks during finals. When I see Kevin’s story captured here, I cannot help but imagine what his life would be like if he did not have to worry every day about his undocumented status. Imagine how much more he will be able to achieve when commonsense immigration reform is enacted.
Kevin is not alone. He stands with others who only want the chance to earn their way into the American story. We hope that the Congress will answer his call.
Felicia Escobar is Senior Policy Director for Immigration in the White House Domestic Policy Council