Imagine this as your origin story: Your parents risked death to carry you across Mexico and into the United States—maybe fleeing persecution and violence, maybe for economic reasons—so you could live a safer, healthier, happier life. America largely looked the other way when people like your parents crossed illegally. The nation needed them to pick crops and clean homes.
Imagine growing up in the United States, being culturally American, and remembering no other home. Your parents worked low-paying jobs off the books, struggling to feed you and get you through school.
Imagine the love-hate relationship you’d develop with a country you consider home because of the way our political system has treated you over the years:
A decade ago, reform that might have brought you and your parents out of the shadows failed. Since then, the Democratic Party has said it’s fighting for immigrants while ramping up border security funding and failing to enact meaningful immigration reform—even when it held the majority in both chambers of Congress.
Former President Barack Obama offered you a temporary stay of deportation with his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Meanwhile, he deported more people than any president before him. Imagine the complex feelings you might have about getting to stay when others could not.
Obama also tried to offer your parents a temporary stay of deportation, but the courts stopped him.
And with some exceptions, Republicans were even less friendly to you and your family.
Then Donald Trump, who vilified you and your family in speeches, became president. He put your temporary legal status in doubt. Because of DACA his administration knows where you live. He wants to deport your parents, the people who sacrificed so much to give you a better life.
All you want is to stay in the country you consider home, with your loved ones.
You want leaders to fight for that. Instead, you get Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. They’ve expressed willingness to make a trade with Trump: legal status for young immigrants in exchange for increased funding for “border security,” which presumably would include additional resources to deport others.
Expecting these young people to support such a deal, as Pelosi has done, is asking them to throw their parents and others under the bus to save themselves.
That’s not a deal I would take.
It’s no wonder young immigrants recently hijacked Pelosi’s news conference, some of them holding signs that said, “Democrats are deporters.”
Yes, we need to deport some of the millions of people living here without legal status, violent felons in particular. We also need to reform and streamline our immigration system so there’s incentive to come here legally. Our system is such a mess that it’s not practical for people in immediate crisis to do that.
Our country’s policies and actions often contribute to the crises in other nations that cause people to flee. It’s long past time we admit our own role in this complicated mess.
Most people in the United States without legal status aren’t violent criminals. They’re our neighbors. They’re hardworking people trying to live their lives and raise their children. They should be allowed to do just that.
Politicians must stop expecting young immigrants to smile at news conferences and accept morally reprehensible deals. We need a workable solution that values people more than political victory.
That’s not a liberal or conservative position. It’s basic human decency.
Haussamen runs NMPolitics.net, a news organization devoted to hard-hitting, fair exploration of politics and government that seeks to inform, engage and build community. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook at /haussamen, or on twitter @haussamen.