Twenty-five years ago, I immigrated to the U.S. from Russia with my parents. We came just after the end of the Cold War, an era many Americans remember for its ongoing nuclear threats and bomb-shelter drills. Yet we were lucky then and welcomed with open arms, despite coming from a place affiliated with America’s ideological enemy.
That ethos of openness and acceptance has changed and this week’s announcement of plans to repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) is simply inhumane. The policy reversal will uproot the lives of nearly one million young adults who came to this country as children, were raised in the American school system, and have grown up as Americans in all ways but for the strictest interpretation of law. The DACA program has been running for 5 years and is now set to drive people into the shadows rather than allow them to work both openly and legally.
The US has 43 million 1st generation immigrants, 76 million 2nd generation immigrants and approximately half the country identifies itself as at least 3rd generation immigrants. To say that we are not a land of and for immigrants is at best spin and at worst a denial of over half of America.
Today, the essence of what it means to be American is in question. The freedom of a fair and equal opportunity to come and be as you are represent historically American values that so naturally reflect a nation forged by a diverse group of immigrants. Yet our citizens are being indoctrinated with isolationist rhetoric that blames others for our own shortcomings. I firmly disagree.
Immigration is the lifeblood of our great nation. We are a nation founded by immigrants and constantly reinvigorated with the talent and culture that new people and perspectives bring. Immigrants expand a young and healthy labor force, which balances out an otherwise aging workforce. Immigrants learn to redefine themselves (and their livelihoods) in a new country and as such, are “twice as likely to start a new business as non-immigrants.” Immigrants and the children of immigrants have founded and led “over 40% of Fortune 500 companies,” and researchers estimate that for every 100 immigrants, an average 120 new jobs are created, most of which go to native born employees.
I take hope from the thousands of Americans who welcomed me and my family, and the millions more supporting the rights of Dreamers, refugees and other stranded immigrants. Despite the alienating rhetoric that seems so pervasive, know that the majority of Americans stand firmly for the ideals of fostering an equal and open world.