Imagine a young girl growing up in a small town going off to college then law school. She then takes the bar examination and becomes a licensed attorney. She has accomplished what most people would call the American Dream.
However, one thing is missing — her father. You see, her father was deported when she was three years old and they have been separated ever since. She has lived 30 years without him.
Her father came to this country from Nigeria. He saw America as the land of opportunity. Her mother tells her that before coming to America he believed the streets were paved with gold. I’m not sure if his statement was figurative or literal, but I do know that he saw it as a wonderful opportunity.
Her father came to this country as a student on a student visa. He was able to obtain a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. He worked hard in school and earned both degrees. He longed to begin his career as an architect in America. He desperately wanted his piece of the American Dream.
However, for citizens of some countries, the road to naturalization or citizenship is not paved. In fact, the road has a dead end, with signs that read “You’re Not Welcome Here.”
What did her father do? He stayed anyway.
Now, some of you would call this man an “illegal immigrant.” I would call him a husband, father, hardworking, educated man who wanted to build a life for his family. He was my father and he was forced to leave. It was at that point, my life would never be the same.
Now I’m sure you are all asking, “Why didn’t he just apply for a visa?” or, “Why didn’t he just do things the right way?”
The truth is, emigrating from some countries is easier than others. Our country opens the doors wide for some immigrants and not others. I could go on for days about the treatment my friends from many countries have endured just trying to visit America. It is not easy at all. The immigration debate is not just about Hispanics, but it includes all ethnicities and social classes who have been disproportionately discriminated against when trying to enter our country. We claim this to be the land of opportunity, and I agree that it is; however, I cringe at the fact that it appears to be an exclusive land for some and not others.
I challenge all of you, including myself, to become educated about immigration reform. I challenge you to open your minds and hearts to see the benefit and the need to make it a fair process.
Am I biased? Yes. Yes, I am. I don’t want you to continue to view immigration as a political debate. It is an issue that affects the lives of real people. I am a child who is the product of a family torn apart by immigration. I am thankful for all of the benefits my country has afforded me, but no accomplishment can take the place of my father being a constant physical presence in my life.
Carmille Akande is a licensed attorney and minister who spends her time visiting prisons, homeless shelters, hospitals, and nursing homes sharing the love of Jesus. Carmille blogs at carmilleakande.com and you can follow her on twitter @CarmilleAkande.
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