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Letter No. 73: Immigration reform now!

Immigration Korner

Felicia Persaud | 4/10/2014, 9:56 a.m.
I had a conversation with a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officer. She herself is an immigrant but a naturalized ...
Felicia Persaud

Dear Mr. President,

This past week, I had a conversation with a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officer. She herself is an immigrant but a naturalized citizen. Each day, her job entails interviewing dozens of immigrants to measure their qualification for immigration benefits.

Among those that she says are the most heart-wrenching to interview are the Dreamers, those young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. with their parents and are now among the over 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

Luckily, because of the deferred departure measure you approved, many of these Dreamers are now able to apply for temporary immigration benefits, allowing them to get a work permit, Social Security card and temporary travel documents.

This immigration officer interviews many of them and told me she is always struck by how they mask their fear with bravery and pretend all is OK. Yet she says that as she chats with them, the walls collapse, and soon she hears heartbreaking stories of how worried their parents are for them and how worried they are for their parents. She hears of the struggles they face trying to keep up appearances in school and college while their peers are able to live normal lives but they must live a lie.

Most of all, this immigration officer, like millions of Americas, cannot understand why politics continue to trump basic humanity. As she told me in no uncertain terms: “I really think they should do something to help these poor people, even if it’s a temporary adjustment with a delayed path to legalization and citizenship.”

I could not agree more, but I must admit, I was baffled to hear those words come out her mouth. Too often because of the jobs that officers at the Citizenship and Immigration Services and Immigration and Customs Enforcement do, we forget they are also humans with real emotions and opinions. Too often, we think it’s them versus us in the immigration adjustment and benefits battlefield. However, my conversation with this Long Island City officer was a real eye-opener, and I can say I truly have more respect for Citizenship and Immigration Services officers now because of her.

Just imagine if Republican lawmakers were able to listen to Dreamers’ stories all day long? Maybe it would change their hard, cold minds, and they would come to understand that doing nothing on immigration reform out of fear of losing majority status in the United States is definitely not the way forward.

The reality is, change is coming whether the GOP and the tea party like it or not. Just look at the very same immigration officers who now hold the posts and you can tell America is changing drastically.

Mr. President, the time to use your office to help these 11 million-plus people who are living in limbo and are a security risk, to say the least, is now. No more sitting around waiting for House Republicans to act. If they can’t get their act together by this summer, you must act unilaterally using your prosecutorial discretion to also give deferred departure to the parents of Dreamers and those who have been nothing short of good residents of this country.

Even the agriculture industry as well as the business community and evangelicals, which all largely support the GOP, may thank you. Hope is waning, and the cards are definitely in your hand. Play the trump card please!

Respectfully,

Felicia Persaud

The writer is CMO of Hard Beat Communications, which owns the brands News Americas Now, CaribPR Wire and Invest Caribbean Now.