Two years after the DREAM Act failed to pass in Congress, hundreds of thousands of young immigrants in America, DREAMers, finally have the opportunity to live the American Dream. They were brought to this country by their parents in search for a better life and opportunity. Like parents all over the world, they want the best for their children. For years, these young immigrants have lived in our country and have learned the American way of life but have lived in the shadows. They have been taught that obtaining an education pays off, but have yet to see the fruits of their hard work as they live in undocumented status.
On June 15, President Obama announced that certain young immigrants will be eligible to receive deferred deportation action and will be eligible to apply for work authorization permits. For young DREAMers, this means that after living in this country for the majority of their lives, they will finally be able to have a career and will no longer have to live in fear of being deported to a country they do not know and separated from their family. This is the humane thing to do, as these young people are Americans in every sense of the word, except they don't have a piece of paper stating that they are American.
Like many young immigrants, I am elated over President Obama’s executive order. I share in their joy because I was once in their position. Although I was too young at the time to fully comprehend the life-changing effect the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 had for many families, I remember our family’s excitement to know that we would finally be able to come out of the shadows and no longer have to live in fear of being deported. I believe it was at this point that my life’s path took a new direction. After becoming a naturalized citizen, I continued to work hard in my studies, earning a scholarship to attend and graduate from the University of Houston. I graduated from The University of Texas Law School. My commitment to public service has taken me to my current office of state representative. All this became possible because of bipartisan comprehensive immigration policy.
This new immigration policy will also change the path for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants. Albeit temporary, the president’s executive order will provide relief to approximately 800,000 young immigrants that do not have criminal histories and are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained their GEDs, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States. Many DREAMers have already obtained their college degrees but are unable to utilize their skills and training because of their undocumented status. By allowing these individuals to obtain work authorization permits, our local, state and national economies will benefit. There will be the benefit of having an increase in our taxable income base when these individuals are allowed to practice in their trained professions, and an increase in jobs when the entrepreneurs are allowed to open businesses that create additional jobs.
Throughout the many visits I have made to schools and community gatherings across the State of Texas, I have met many outstanding young men and women who are products of our public schools and universities but cannot seek employment because of their legal status. I have met valedictorians, honors graduates, engineers, teachers, architects and nurses who live in the shadows even though there may be a need for their skill or trade. DREAMers have worked tirelessly urging our federal leaders to give them a chance and finally their voices have been heard and action is being taken.
In contrast, the Republican approach and proposed solution to our broken immigration system has been simply focusing on increasing deportations. In support of their position, they have looked to Arizona and Alabama as practical solutions to immigration. Our immigration problem is not a simple problem that can be fixed with nothing more than deportations. The Republicans take the position that changes in immigration policy that will provide relief for young college educated students will encourage illegal immigration. They ignore the fact that immigration is driven by supply and demand for cheap labor. That demand has dropped off significantly in recent years and is reflected by a sharp decrease in immigration. Comprehensive immigration policy must address all facets of this issue.
While this new immigration policy is a small step in the right direction, it changes the focus of our nation's immigration policy towards the ultimate goal of comprehensive immigration reform. We cannot continue to ignore the problems in our broken immigration system. I applaud President Obama for doing the right thing and giving these young people the opportunity to succeed.
Ana Hernandez Luna, D-Houston, is serving her third term in the Texas House of Representatives, representing District 143.