By Alexandra Gomes
When the topic of immigration is discussed, much of the attention is focused on adults – those who actively choose to enter the country illegally.
Immigration opponents argue that these individuals are criminals, rapists and gang members – lazy moochers who are using up American resources
And while this is painfully false – immigrants make up just 13 percent of the population, but 17 percent of the workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor – the opponents believe they are the victims.
There are indeed victims of the country’s immigration policies, but they are not native-born Americans.
They are the child immigrants. Brought to this country by their parents, these children had no say about coming to the United States. Many don’t even remember life in their native countries.
What they do remember is growing up in the United States. They remember eating American food, watching American T.V. and learning American history.
They remember being told no child would be left behind. They remember being instructed to pursue higher education, work hard and follow their dreams.
But for many, those tasks are nearly impossible.
This past semester, I spent much of my time interviewing DACA recipients – those who immigrated to this country as children, graduated from an American high school and are now granted permission to work and live in this country for two years at a time.
And what became clearer and clearer to me with every interview was the fact that these individuals are not just undocumented immigrants – they are, at their core, Americans.
In June 2012, President Barack Obama instituted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, making life a little bit easier for the 780,000 undocumented immigrants who can now legally live and work in the country.
However, without a path to citizenship, DACA is essentially useless. Being able to work in a country is one thing – being able to thrive in the country is another.
DACA recipients who have worked in this country for years, and who have been active members of the community and helped to strengthen the economy, should be granted citizenship – or at the very least, green cards.
It is not realistic to expect these individuals to return to countries they barely remember.
And why should Americans want these immigrants deported in the first place?
Aside from the fact that they are just as American as any native-born citizen, they tend to contribute more to this society than many actual American citizens.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, immigrants are “disproportionately likely to be working.”
Additionally, immigrants are more likely to own a small business, and comprise 18 percent of small business owners.
They are active contributors to our society. Why should we turn our backs on them?
The United States is often thought of as the land of opportunity. The country has prided itself on its supposed commitment to freedom and equality.
However, if America were truly the land of opportunity, the government wouldn’t continue to hinder those who would only thrive in and contribute to the United States.
DACA recipients deserve the chance to prosper in the country they call home.
To not provide them with that opportunity is not only wrong, but plain un-American.