My father boarded a plane from Caracas, Venezuela to Philadelphia, PA with his student visa and one suitcase, nervously wondering how he would communicate with his new advisor in graduate school. Not being able to speak English proficiently would make his first year in his pursuit of his Ph.D. in Economics at the University of Pennsylvania a great challenge. He managed to trade his expertise in mathematics for English lessons with his fellow classmate and soon-to-be wife. My father developed a strong grasp of English and began to flourish among his peers.
Five years later, with his degree and newlywed by his side, my father got in a 1981 Chevy Citation and drove to Washington, D.C. where my parents would spend the next 30 years of their lives as economists in the Federal government and raise me and my older sister. He became a U.S. citizen in 1987 and voting every single year in Virginia’s elections since then has been more than a source of patriotism for my father, it has been a statement of commitment and gratitude to the United States for welcoming him.
The American dream pursued by my father is being threatened by broken party politics and reckless negotiations. The Trump administration has offered Immigration Principles to Congress in exchange for protected status for Dreamers. These concessions include dividing families, putting children in deportation centers alone, and even deporting children as young as 4-years old completely alone unless immigration officers can find family members.
The country we live in today has moved backward from the country my father came to 40 years ago. President Trump has created an environment in the United States that discourages all forms of immigration and is working to spread toxic xenophobia that could have rejected immigrants with student visas like my father - immigrants who also dreamed of America.
I made the decision to share my father’s story because he represents who Americans are. Dreamers are a part of the fabric of our society. To threaten them is to threaten the very essence of who we are as a country.