Nearly every family in America has its own immigrant story. Whether we came over on the Mayflower or on an airplane, almost all of us initially came here from somewhere else. There is no question that our current immigration system is broken and in need of serious repair. But the Trump administration’s demonization of immigrants is profoundly un-American, and its efforts to block all immigration to this country would do enormous economic harm.
I make this argument as an immigrant, myself – although I didn’t have much choice in the matter. My parents arrived here from New Delhi, India when I was only three months old. My father came in search of a higher education, having been accepted into the engineering graduate program at the University of Buffalo. He pursued his studies and supported our family as a teaching assistant. Enamored of the opportunity that life in America presented for himself and his children, he and my mother eventually applied for citizenship.
Unfortunately, the recession of the early 1970s hit our family very hard, just as it hurt millions of other families across the nation. For a time, our family had to rely on public relief. But my parents never gave up their hope or belief that America was the land of opportunity. Eventually, my father found a job as a professor in the engineering department at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., where he has worked for 40 years.
We didn’t know anything about Peoria before we moved there. And there weren’t many other Indian-American families in town. But our neighbors accepted us as full-fledged Americans, and my brother and I enjoyed an all-American upbringing that included football games, school plays, and fireworks on the Fourth of July.
Thanks to the great education afforded us by Peoria’s public schools, my brother attended medical school, and I obtained both engineering and law degrees. We owe our success to our hardworking parents and the generosity this great country provided. We have both tried to give back in our own way: my brother through his medical service for children and families in inner-city Chicago, and me through a career in public service. I am grateful every day that my parents brought me to this country and struggled for the opportunities provided to me.
That is why I am so disappointed that our current president constantly portrays immigration as a threat to our nation rather than the bedrock of its success. Many of his policies aimed at immigrants are needlessly cruel. We all know about the forced separation of children from their parents – some of them infants still in diapers. Court rulings and public revulsion forced the reversal of this policy, although many children still have not been reunited with their parents. This is shameful and must never happen again.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration has continued to pursue similarly cruel policies that have received less attention. For example, it recently took steps to end a deportation relief policy that allows some undocumented families with serious medical conditions to remain in the U.S. While the administration abandoned this plan under pressure from my colleagues and me, this would have denied needed medical care to people with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, sending them back to countries without the means to treat their conditions. It would have been a literal sentence for immigrant families needing medical help.
These measures seem purposely designed to discourage potential immigrants from seeking U.S. citizenship. They replace a message of opportunity and hope with one of cruelty and fear. They might have discouraged families like mine from pursuing a better life in America while simultaneously denying our contribution to its future through educating students, treating veterans, and passing laws in the halls of Congress. We would all be poorer if those opportunities had been lost.
Yes, let’s fix a broken immigration system. The basic outlines for reform were established in a bipartisan bill that passed the U.S. Senate only a few years ago. But let’s not turn our backs on a fundamental principle of our nation -- that welcoming aspiring people from other lands contributes to the strength of our own.
Raja KrishnamoorthiSubramanian (Raja) Raja KrishnamoorthiTikTok, Snapchat executives to make Capitol Hill debuts House Oversight Democrats ask NFL for information from investigation into Washington Football Team FDA authorizes an e-cigarette for first time, citing benefit for smokers MORE represents the 8th District of Illinois.