By Jay Steiger
Dear Dreamers, on behalf of our country, I apologize.
You deserve better. It is our country because it is yours as much as mine. Your lack of formal citizenship is not your fault. You grew up here. In so many ways you are exactly the America of our history. Immigrants wanting nothing more than a better life. Adjusting to a strange new place. Adapting to change. Adopting new cultures. Sharing yours…to our collective betterment.
You went to school with my children. I probably coached you in soccer. Your family ate pizza next to mine at our neighborhood restaurant. You are educated, employed, and dedicated to making your own success in the world. You don’t consume our financial resources but instead contribute to our American economy. You do not diminish our national identity but weave a new thread in our flag.
Sadly, you as a group and your cause have been derided by elected representatives and far too many of our citizens. You have been cast as “illegal aliens” when what is alien is the notion that somehow we are upholding American values by deporting you. Why would we send away those who came here as children and whose goal is simply to continue to learn, work, and eventually gain official citizenship?
Some will say that we need to take care of our own people first. There are problems in our country and we absolutely need to take care of all Americans. But except for paperwork, you are part of the American population. By respecting you, we uphold the values which truly make us great as a nation. By caring for you, we care for all of us. True compassion, justice, and opportunity cannot be limited or categorized.
There is room for everyone at the American table. This is a time of fear and frustration, but please do not lose hope. A majority of citizens stand with you, even if that sometimes gets obscured by the public chaos and divisions of these times. Unfortunately, you have become a pawn in the game of politics.
While the motives of those in government who speak up for you are principled, your circumstance should not be reduced to a bargaining chip. Those who do not truly support your requests should recognize that your group is comprised of millions of individuals — people, not statistics. To demand massively transformative immigration policies in exchange for an offer of a tenuous road to formal legality does a disservice to you and the thoughtful and deliberative process that true immigration reform demands. For your case, a reasonable path to citizenship, unchained from other and potentially divisive policies, is the best and most American choice for our government.
You are called Dreamers. Don’t stop dreaming of a secure future. America has a long history of recognizing the rightness of noble dreams. You are here. Together we will make sure that our country…OUR country…will not abandon you.
Jay Steiger is a parent and community volunteer who lives in Spring Valley. He was a candidate for the La Mesa-Spring Valley school board in 2016,