Brian Kim

Brian Kim

Washington, DC

Having lived in California my entire life, the issue of immigration reform has been a touchy subject for Californians and Americans alike in addressing the illegal immigration that is taking place along the US-Mexico border today. But these “illegals” are not too far from my story of being a first generation immigrant. In 1986, the Reagan administration granted my parents, South Korean immigrants, amnesty for permanent residence and therefore I am a product of the American dream just as much as any first generation “illegal” immigrant is who had no choice in coming to the United States… except I have papers to show for it. “You can just call me Lance.” (Speaking off the record) In high school, I met one of my closest friends, who is just as American as anyone else and dreamt of college and a better life. The more I familiarized myself with Lance, the more I learned of the barriers of not being a citizen and the fear of living in the United States without actually feeling like you belonged. But help came too little too late. In October 2011, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the DREAM Act into law in order for students to seek federal aid starting in 2013. The DREAM Act would have provided Lance with much needed federal aid and also would have given students under the age of 16 birthright citizenship. The general public still argues against giving a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Proponents against illegal immigrants argue that Mexican illegal immigrants should return to Mexico and file for citizenship legally. They also argue that illegal immigrants are taking jobs from American citizens and that because illegal immigrants are not citizens, they do not have to pay taxes, whilst consuming high amounts of government resources which is doubly unjust. While it is true that illegal immigrants came to America unlawfully, it is also true that illegal immigrants cannot all be deported. In our current state, the United States is a stronghold for roughly 12 million or more illegal immigrants who have found no path to citizenship. It is clearly impossible for tens of millions of people to apply for citizenship and achieve that goal legally which effectively puts all illegal immigrants as displaced people. Legally attempting to apply for citizenship as a Mexican can take decades, and even then it depends on how much money and connections one has. Furthermore, the link between poverty and illegal immigration is clear, and therefore in a competitive American market, without the current amount of illegal immigrants, there would be a lack of workers to work in agricultural and service sector jobs. Even more shocking is the fact that more than half of illegal “aliens” pay taxes in the billions yet they will never see any of their money in retirement or social security, largely because many of them do not qualify for these benefits after the 1996 Welfare Reform Bill. By accepting some solutions to a pathway for citizenship, Lance could create meaningful change in America and not be forced to take his education, skills, and talents elsewhere after graduation. Currently, more forums to speak of meaningful immigration reform seem to be what is lacking. Though, I am not distressed at the technicalities of the debate, but rather the lack of human perspective in sympathizing for those who are displaced and live in fear everyday. The dismissed point of view is clearly that of our youth that are considered illegal immigrants yet are given no steps to succeed, ultimately, living through a struggled narrative they never chose and succumbing to a system that does nothing to help. Effectively, Lance and all other illegal immigrants are in limbo and they will continue to stay there as long as Washington continues to ignore the issue. Wasn’t the American dream about creating your own life and about achieving equality both socially and economically? Don’t get me wrong – I cannot say that I have lived one day in Lance’s shoes and do not believe that my secondhand experience in telling his story is enough to even tell it. But for what it’s worth Lance received a full scholarship from a 4-year university who provides private financial aid and that was his story but it is not the story of the millions of other immigrant youth who need the DREAM Act passed today. In working towards a practical solution to address immigration reform, let the American public adopt an idealistic solution in giving opportunity seekers become and contribute to the American dream. This is a call to all legislators in all fifty states: Pass the DREAM Act.

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