I am a daughter of immigrants from Italy. Many of you, too, have parents or grandparents that came from other countries and contributed their blood, sweat and tears to build a life and a home here in the United States. In fact, somewhere in the past, an immigrant family is the common heritage of almost all Americans.
Our families came to America to make a better life for themselves, and through their hard work they made a stronger America.
An anti-immigrant fever is rising
But pressure is building to slam America’s doors shut. Our local Republican Party of Sarasota proactively initiated a petition drive supporting passage of an Arizona-style immigration law in Florida. These laws don’t just allow, they encourage racial profiling and harassment of Hispanics and other minorities — whether they are in the country legally or not.
This same Republican Party of Sarasota has now started a second petition drive calling for English to become the official language of the United States – another effort to disenfranchise and make life harder for those who have come here from another country, including those who are here legally.
And on the national stage, Mitt Romney has said that America should make it so miserable for undocumented immigrants that they will “deport themselves.” That sounds like support for the Arizona law to me.
President Obama and the DREAM Act
In a nation where greatness was built on a foundation of immigrant families, these harsh and punitive proposals are neither appropriate nor beneficial for America.
President Obama knows this and believes comprehensive immigration reform is needed to protect the interests of Americans while at the same time creating responsible options for those who want to start a life in the United States. The DREAM Act – a law that would provide a path toward citizenship for young people eager to get an education, work hard, and make a contribution to America’s future – is a part of his solution.
“We’re going to keep fighting for this common-sense reform — not just because hundreds of thousands of talented young students depend on it, but because ultimately America depends on it,” the president said recently. And he added that "no" is not an option.
How we treat immigrants will continue to define America in the eyes of the world. Will we become a pariah nation known to make life so miserable for outsiders that no one wants to come here? Or will America stand proud by creating a path toward citizenship for young people who want to work hard and help make America’s future brighter?
President Obama has chosen the second option, and I hope that is the choice we will make as a nation.