Ali Noorani: For Young Immigrants, a New Dawn

Today is a new beginning for hundreds of thousands of aspiring Americans. Yesterday, young undocumented immigrants across America awoke to new hope and new possibility as they requested deferred action via the Obama administration’s new initiative, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Those who receive deferred action will be able to remain in the country legally and obtain work permits.

Across the political spectrum, faith and law enforcement leaders recognize the importance of creating an immigration process that welcomes young people for whom “home” is America alone.

Half a dozen evangelical Christian leaders — including the Reverend Luis Cortes, Jr., president of Esperanza; Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; and Noel Castellanos, CEO of the Christian Community Development Association — expressed their support for the program the day before the government started fielding requests.

“As these children benefit from deferred action, our nation will come to realize that they represent not a burden but a blessing to the collective American experience,” Rodriguez said. “Now we urge Congress to keep pressing forward to pass a new immigration policy that will meet the needs of the 21st century.”

Hispanic evangelicals weren’t the only ones to step forward.

“Today dreams come true for young immigrants who have grown up in America,” said Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals. “Now let us all dream of our country with new immigration laws of opportunity and justice for all.”

These leaders see the moral imperative in keeping families and communities together and honoring the fundamental rights of young people who were brought to this country as children — the rights to work, study and pray that we all value.

On the law enforcement side, Mark Shurtleff, Utah’s Republican attorney general, continues to blaze a trail for an immigration debate that goes beyond partisan politics and rhetoric. Shurtleff penned an opinion piece in support of deferred action in which he cited not only DREAM students’ work ethic and loyalty but also strong economic arguments in favor of deferred action.

Oh, and he also made the point that setting priorities helps law enforcement use its limited resources wisely. Deferred action will help Shurtleff and other leaders focus on the real troublemakers instead of chasing down students and workers who contribute to our culture and are committed to our country.

These comments are just one example of an emerging consensus on immigrants and America, led by people who carry a bible, wear a badge or own a business. They appreciate that all of us must and can work together to create a stronger country, no matter where you were born.

Tempting though it may be to celebrate deferred action as a victory, it is a temporary step.

Now we must raise our sights higher, to the goal of federal laws that transcend partisanship and create a new immigration process — one that opens the door to freedom and opportunity for all who call America “home.”

Today is a new beginning. And it is only the beginning.

Ali Noorani is Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum.  

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