This is not a delineation of the brilliant optics and strategy of President Obama's announcement to cease deportations of young people who would have been covered by the DREAM Act. That's for another essay, and soon, because the brilliance of the man as both strategist and tactician is just compounded by the goodness of his actions.
This is a very personal essay.
My parents came here legally. Even if they hadn't, being Cuban, they would've been welcomed with open arms once setting foot on US shores. But they went through all the hurdles, all the procedures of leaving a country that looked very askance at those who wanted to leave it. They got visas. They had people here who could vouchsafe them. They waited nine years from Fidel's victory until they could finally get on a plane in 1968 and make it to New York. They did everything by the book.
And to a large segment of the GOP, they'd still be nothing but dirty spics. Foreigners here to take good, white, Christian, American jobs. (Never mind that my father opened his own barber shop once he got here, and was a contributor to this American economy. Never mind that my mother worked in the last heyday of the US garment industry, making clothes for those far richer than her. No, that doesn't matter for certain people.) They did everything they were supposed to, and still, to more than a few people, they were the alien, the Other, regardless that they loved this country with the passion of a new love, of a broken heart for what the country of their birth had become. Our name ended in a vowel, and that was proof enough for some.
Now, imagine a child, brought here at age three or four, involuntarily, of course not wanting to be separated from his loving parents. These parents who come here not to go on welfare, but to work the most menial jobs, because the most menial jobs here are as manna from heaven compared to what they left. Jobs that Americans DO NOT WANT. (It is the truism of an advanced economy that its citizens eventually do not want to engage in work that their parents and grandparents would have taken as a matter of course. The economies of the advanced countries would collapse without a steady influx of immigration -- as Japan's will, with its unwillingness to admit immigration and its aging population.)
Imagine this child, who has known only this country since he could remember, speaks the language, participates in the culture, was educated in its schools. Imagine this child -- now an adult, or on the cusp of adulthood -- facing the horror of being picked up one day in an ICE sweep, arrested, brought before a judge, marked for deportation, and sent back to the country of his parents' birth, a country he does not know, whose language he may not even speak well. The country he's called home for most of his life has discarded him. He did nothing wrong. A child cannot make a conscious choice to break immigration laws. He follows his parents. He makes a life for himself with them in their new country. And that country brands him a criminal, for something in which he had no hand.
This is the weight, the dread which President Obama's action has lifted. The DREAM Act has bipartisan support. But the leaders of the GOP, prodded by the racist element in their party, and by the raging animus they have towards this President, refuse to move it. Refuse to consider it. Do this out of no less a petty desire than to hand Barack Obama a black eye, to stymie him in all his initiatives, no matter how needed they are. That child or adult will have a way to stay in the only country he's known, to study and work, to contribute to its betterment. That child or adult has been acknowledged as a human being by the most powerful man in the world. That child or adult is no longer a statistic, but a fully formed person, with dignity, no longer having to live in the shadows, fearful of being expelled from his home.
There are so many things for which we can thank this man. For today, I thank him for recognizing the human worth of people with my name, with my language, who look like me, who are as American as I am with the difference that they don't have the paper to prove it. Son americanos como yo, americanos como tu.
The world is changing for the better. We will NOT go back.