By MIGUEL SOLIS
Dallas Morning News
Published: 23 June 2016 05:11 PM
Updated: 23 June 2016 05:35 PM
In the early 1900’s, a young girl named Emilia Diaz from the town of Ojuelos, Jalisco, Mexico fled her homeland after her father was gunned down by an assassin during the Mexican revolution. With tears in her eyes, and as much of her personal possessions that her small hands could carry, she and her sisters would seek a new home in the shining beacon on a hill, America, who opened up her arms for these girls as it had for others previously.
Today I speak to you as a direct result of the impact this most hallowed American dream can have. You see, Emilia was my grandmother. And just one generation removed from Emilia, I would go on to live a productive life working hard, graduating from college and receiving a master’s degree from Harvard University. I would engage in our democracy by working on a presidential campaign, and later I would be elected to public office to serve the children of Dallas. And all the while I have remained proud of the fact that I am an American and will strive to do everything I can to ensure our nation’s success.
My story is not unique, and neither is Emilia’s. We all share similar stories in some form or fashion because America has been and will always remain a proud immigrant nation. To quote Robert Kennedy, “All of us…share one precious possession, and that is the name American. It is not easy to know what that means. But in part to be an American means to have been an outcast and a stranger, to have come to the exiles’ country, and to know that he who denies the outcast and stranger still amongst us, he also denies America.”
As our country’s history tells, immigrants have built and continue to build the very core of America’s culture, infrastructure, and economy. And future generations of Americans are much better off when we choose to embrace our immigrant population rather than turn a cold shoulder. That’s why I find today’s Supreme Court 4-4 decision regarding the expansion of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents so disappointing. President Obama’s executive action on immigration would have lifted the threat of deportation for millions of America’s children and parents who would have qualified, and the future generations that would have benefited.
Let’s be clear, DAPA and the expanded version of DACA were not permanent solutions to our nation’s broken immigration system. They were loose Band-aids to help the hard-working immigrants who grew up in America and their families, who are significantly contributing to our community. Immigrants like Maleny, a DACA fellow from the Latino Center for Leadership Development’s DACA Cultural Exchange Program and a calculus teacher in Fort Worth. Or Jesus, another fellow who’s pursuing a master’s degree in public policy at Texas A&M so that he can become a public servant. These are the kinds of people and families this 4-4 ruling impacts. These are the people we are robbing of their dreams when we allow a broken immigration system to persist.
This decision does not just affect the 5 million people whom the Supreme Court apparently sees as dispensable. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that, with this decision, the U.S. forgoes $38.3 billion dollars in gross domestic product that would have been created by giving them temporary work permits. So we are not only robbing people of an American dream, we rob ourselves of economic prosperity.
Dallas, today we face a moral test of our nation’s conscience. Will we continue to uphold our nation’s promise to those who arrive seeking the refuge of a loving colossus? Or will we establish a new precedent with defined parameters and a one-way ticket back to torture and despair? Today’s Emilias, Malenys and Jesuses, and tomorrow’s Miguels, await your answer. They beg you not to deny America.
Miguel Solis is president of the Latino Center for Leadership Development and a Dallas Independent School District board member. Twitter: @solisforDISD