Immigrants deserve chance at ‘American Dream’


President Obama recently announced an executive order that states that immigrant families will no longer be split up through deportation.

By Pablo Roa, Production Editor

For hundreds of years, immigrants from around the world have come to the United States in search of a better life and to live the “American Dream.”
In recent years, however, strict deportation laws and a broken immigration system have forced millions of hard-working, undocumented immigrants to live in constant fear: a forced return to the place they sacrificed so much to leave. Fortunately, many of those immigrants will finally be able to live in peace thanks to President Barack Obama’s recent executive order on immigration.
Obama’s order protects millions of men, women and children from being deported to countries that have been riddled with poverty and violence for decades. Nevertheless, immigration has always been a hot-button issue, and Obama’s unilateral action has drawn great criticism not only around the nation but also right here at CHS.
The day after Obama announced the order, several CHS students took to social media to voice their concerns with the President’s agenda, criticizing him for “letting all the Mexicans stay for free” and “granting amnesty for criminals.” It should be noted that neither of these blatantly ignorant comments is true – nor were many of the other equally-uninformed comments that were overheard in the hallways throughout the day.
The fact that many CHS students were vocal about the order is not surprising, given that most of us have been fed a strong ‘anti-illegal’ rhetoric our entire lives. Be it from adults or from media, it’s not unusual for undocumented immigrants to be characterized as lazy freeloaders, or even criminals, who are only here to cause problems and steal jobs.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that some CHS students are so vehemently opposed to Obama’s order. That being said, it’s very easy to criticize something that you don’t know much about. Before painting the President’s action in the worst light possible, it’s important to realize exactly what his executive order will do.
The order, which the President announced Nov. 20 during a primetime address to the nation, would delay deportation for an estimated 4 to 5 million undocumented immigrants, most of whom are parents of children who have been U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents for at least five years.
Obama’s action also expands the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, extending legal status to an additional 290,000 undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children prior to 2010. The 2012 DACA program previously provided protection for 1.2 million undocumented immigrants, bringing the total to roughly 1.5 million after the executive order.
This is not amnesty, nor is it “letting them stay for free.” Those who benefit from this order will have to reapply every three years in order to avoid deportation and are not granted citizenship or residence simply because they are protected under the order.
Undocumented immigrants who are granted a legal reprieve from deportation must still apply for citizenship like every other immigrant, and as Obama said in his speech, they must go to the “back of the line” if they wish to do so.
Obama’s executive order ensures that families will not be split up and that hard-working undocumented immigrants – most of whom, according to Pew Research, have been in this country for over 13 years – are not forced to return to the poverty and violence they escaped in coming here.
Also, many of those protected by the order will be given work permits, and the order will also make it easier for those who invest in the US and those who pursue science, technology, engineering and math degrees to obtain visas.
This also does not mean that they will steal our jobs, since many undocumented immigrants work jobs that most Americans are not willing to do anyway. What it does mean, however, is that millions of people will be able to work freely without fear of arrest or deportation, while also contributing to the U.S. economy by paying taxes and providing services in the work force.
The best way to help solve the immigration crisis in this country is to prevent illegal immigration from happening in the first place. Obviously, that is much easier said than done, but Obama’s order will help accomplish that goal by adding resources to strengthen security at the border.
The main criticism that Obama has received for his action on immigration is that he acted unilaterally, without any legislation from Congress. But, as the immigration crisis grew in the last year and climaxed this summer when the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border illegally skyrocketed, Congress refused to act, so Obama had to take matters into his own hands.
In fact, the Senate passed a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration bill over a year ago that would have accomplished much of what Obama is trying to do with his executive order. But the House of Representatives not only didn’t pass it – they refused to vote on the bill altogether.
It’s a painful irony that a nation built on the backs of immigrants would spend so much money and time trying to kick out diligent immigrants. Through his executive order, Obama is ensuring that millions of hardworking people can stay with their families and contribute to American life in a positive way.
In the isolated Potomac “bubble” that we live in, it might seem like the immigration crisis are too far away to warrant our attention. But that simply is not true. Immigration law affects millions of people throughout the country, even some right here in MCPS.
According to Laura Newton, MCPS Director of the Division of School Counseling, Residency and International Admissions, the number of unaccompanied minors entering MCPS increased dramatically this year, with 330 Salvadoran, 62 Guatemalan, and 179 Honduran students enrolling in MCPS from July 1 to Sept. 5. Seventy-eight of those students enrolled through the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Obama’s executive order will go a long way in improving the lives of immigrants in the US, but it is not a permanent solution. While 5 million undocumented immigrants can rest assured that they will not be forced to leave the US any time soon, the other 6.2 million undocumented immigrants who are not protected by the executive order will still be forced to live in the shadows until Congress passes legislation to solve the issue once and for all.
While it does not fully solve the problem, Obama’s executive order is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. In the coming months, many politicians will try to dismantle the President’s order and jeopardize the American Dream not only for millions of the country’s hardest workers, but also for millions of children around the nation and in MCPS who are trying to get the fair education they deserve. One can only hope that those politicians remember that America is a nation of immigrants, that it always has been, and that it always will be.