"Hello, I’m Esther Yu-Hsi Lee, Deferred Action Beneficiary And ThinkProgress Immigration Blogger"
For two million immigrants living in the United States, June 15, 2012 is a date that is indelibly imprinted in their hearts. On that day, President Obama issued his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which is an executive action that allows legal employment for young people under the age of 30 who were illegally brought to the US before the age of 16.
As a DACA beneficiary, I am experiencing milestones now that many Americans experienced in their late teens. In receiving a NY State ID card for the first time, I finally understood the old jokes about the DMV and the Social Security offices. I experienced the joy of writing a resume and cover letter with a sense of purpose and the nervousness of getting interviews. And finally for the first time in my life, I received an offer letter with a letterhead so patriotic that the American Flag would be jealous. Today marks my first day not only as Immigration Reporter for ThinkProgress, but as a taxable pay-stub receiving, FICA hating employee with a key fob.
I can understand the skepticism of my impartiality that some readers may have. However as someone who has experienced life in the shadows, I am able to understand the shades of grey between legality and morality. I see the basic sides of the debate as “You’re illegal and you should go back to your mother country,” versus “You’re here already and we should do something about you.” To the former view I understand the resentment, but my mother country is America and has been since I was a barely cognizant two-year-old toddler. To the latter view I understand the gritted teeth sentiment that drastically sways with public opinion. Above all else though, my purpose as an immigration reporter is to bring facts to light including the points that would hurt my chances at a legal path to citizenship.
Finding common ground in the immigration debate needs the guidance of people who found June 2012 to be a significant month as well as the guidance of Americans who are imminently affected by the introduction of DACA recipients into the American economy. What the immigration debate has devolved into is unfortunately one that turns people like me into an election cycle afterthought.
Immigration reform will not come easily and it certainly will not please everyone. Every immigration wave has experienced a backlash, but the end result has been that the American dream is expansive and welcoming for every person who wishes to obtain it. While the DREAM Act has spent more than a decade being tossed around in Congress, it took all of one week for President Obama to introduce DACA and change the lives of millions of people for at least the next two years. In the end though, I will serve as a reminder that without immigrants like me, you wouldn’t have breakfast, lunch, or dinner. There is not one thing on your plate that hasn’t been picked, produced, or cooked by someone who was in my position. Remember that fact the next time someone says that immigrants don’t contribute to the economy.