I came to the United States from Israel in 2005. My parents came to Israel from the former Soviet Union in the early 1990's. My parents' parents fled to Uzbekistan from the Ukraine in 1941 because of the outbreak of WWII. And prior to that, the persecution of Jewish people throughout centuries of European history defined my family's migratory patterns. Immigration is not a phenomenon of globalization–although globalization certainly facilitates it–but a simple, predictable effect of regional instability. Once life becomes unbearable or unsafe, the natural human response is to flee the danger, to move to safety. To deny others the opportunity to reach safety is inhuman.
The question of illegal immigration is a complex, nuanced legal issue, affected both by international law, national security, and ideally, human morality. The question of the 800,000 individuals who fall under the jurisdiction of the DACA is not complex: it's a simple question of decency. When an adult breaks the law and comes to a country illegally, he ought to be fairly tried and either defined as a refugee fleeing instability or deported. But how can a child who has lived here his entire life and came here through no choice of his own be treated as a criminal worthy of deportation? If the sole crime is entering the country illegally and the crime was one he had no control over, how is uprooting his life justifiable? I view my family's migratory history as a point of sorrow. That nearly every generation of my family has had to leave behind one home to seek better life reveals a list of grotesque horrors: antisemites, pogroms, Nazis, communist Russia, middle-eastern terrorism, and others. If the government deports 800,000 dreamers, how will they regard the atrocity? American cruelty? Trumpism? It's embarrassing.
The shift of U.S. public policy away from the actual views of the American people is troubling. According to a recent Politico/Morning Consult poll, 58% of Americans support citizenship for beneficiaries of DACA and an even greater number support some form of legal status for "dreamers." This should come as no surprise in a time where the popular opinion of the American public doesn't even determine the outcome of the presidential election.
Policymakers ought to put more effort into reforming an ailing legal immigration system that needlessly backtracks citizenship and permanent residency statuses through bureaucratic nightmares, the likes of which my family had to combat in moving here. Even disregarding the economic ramifications of deporting 800,000 people, the human cost of pursuing a brutish, base policy of callous persecution is abhorrent. Joe Biden's tweet "Not America" strikes a chord but falls short of the truth. Cruelty and apathy permeate the political climate. Legislators reject consensus and reason. Hatred and division truncate dialogue while elected officials pursue policies antithetical to the interests of their constituents. This is today's America, and until politicians on both sides of the aisle decide to restore humanity and empathy to the national agenda, our newly made "Great America" will continue functioning independently of the will of its people.
Image from CNN