There is a man I greatly admire, a man of some means who heard God ask him to buy a blighted trailer park near his home and restore it to what it ought to be. A couple of years ago, I went out there to see the repaved roads and the neatly arranged trailers and the new sewer system and the new security lighting and all the other changes that he and the residents of the park had been making.
As we stood in the double-wide trailer that he has set up to house celebrations and meetings and educational opportunities, he showed me the computers for the students to work on and the materials for tutoring and the plans for new mentoring relationships to flourish.
He was so enthusiastic about all of this that it took me by surprise when his voice took a subdued tone. "The problem is, of course, when the kids get to a certain age and realize that there's no future for them. They love school and they love to learn until about tenth grade, when they realize that because their parents brought them here illegally, they will not be able to work when they graduate from high school. Then it's really hard to keep them engaged."
As we talked further, he said, "You know, because they've been here all their lives, their English is much better than their Spanish. We are considering teaching them professional Spanish in case they get deported, then maybe they would at least have a chance in their home country, even though they've never lived there and don't really know the language and customs. It's hard, because mentally and emotionally, they're Americans all the way through."
This is just one of many reasons that I have passionately supported the DREAM act and have felt so discouraged by the refusal of our politicians to come up with any kind of meaningful, realistic immigration reform. And this is why I was thrilled--absolutely thrilled--to see that the president has enacted an executive order to put in place a stop-gap measure (in his own words) to give hope to all the young people who live in this limbo, through no fault of their own. By his own admission, it's not a path to citizenship, it's not meaningful immigration reform, but it's something and I, for one, rejoice. (Seriously, ask C--I was rejoicing all over the place last night. He said, "Honey, I don't think that everyone is going to be as excited about this as you are," and of course, he's right. But I had lots of fun celebrating, as long as it lasted.)
Personally, I don't see what the downside of this is. Young people, full of promise, will be able to serve in business, in the military, in education instead of living aimless lives with no way to contribute to society at large. They will pay taxes, and more importantly, they will pay into Social Security, helping to support the disproportionate number of baby boomers in the system. We will benefit from the education that we have provided them, no longer cutting off our noses to spite our faces. In my opinion, the list of advantages goes on and on.
I know that many people are crying foul, and the main objection seems to be, "It's not fair!" That's true--it's not. I really do get the frustration of those who point out that these kids are benefiting in spite of their parents' illegal actions. I understand that we have the right and the responsibility to protect our borders and the integrity of the legal immigration process. And yet, we also have to deal with this reality--that all those years that we turned a blind eye to undocumented immigrants because we needed to have our meat slaughtered and our crops picked and our houses cleaned and our condos built, we were also raising their children to be Americans.
So. Like we all tell our kids, "life isn't fair." For those of us who were born in this country, life has already been vastly unfair . . . in our favor. As MLK used to say, it's easy to be born on third base and think you hit a triple. I decided a long time ago that I don't really want to live in a fair world. God isn't fair (thank God). Grace isn't fair. Neither is love.
The hard work is still ahead of us. Real immigration reform is complex and difficult and will take lots of hard work and compromise, if it ever happens at all. But this decision by the president is a breath of fresh air and I applaud it.