What’s Next? A Legislative Solution for Immigrant Communities Remains Critical
Like many Americans, I have been moved to tears by the recent images and stories of children being separated from their parents and detained on America’s southern Border.
While I was relieved that pressure to end the separation of families at the border resulted in the signing of an executive order, I know that immigrant communities in the U.S. will continue to face immense challenges here until lawmakers find a legislative solution to fix the policy permanently and take needed steps to reform our broken immigration system.
Scenes we once associated only with war-torn and despotic lands far removed from our country’s universal promise of humanity and justice for all have somehow found their way to our shores in 2018. This abhorrent practice will be stain our national conscience until a lasting legislative solution is enacted.
It is tragic that a crisis of this magnitude was required to jar us back to first principles. But it raises an important question that we must consider if we are to understand the very human reason why policies of harsh deterrence miss the larger point. Why is it that individuals would continue to risk it all, their lives and their families, to come to America under these conditions and in this current environment? The answer provides a ray of light.
Last week my company, Remitly, a digital remittance provider, released data from a recent study conducted on the attitudes and experiences of immigrant communities in the U.S. Amazingly, nine in ten immigrants believe the American Dream — that everyone in America has the chance to be successful and happy if they work hard — is still achievable. This, despite persistent attacks on immigrants as a class and the cynical use of their very lives as political bargaining chips.
I have spent my career serving migrants around the world whose hard work provides money to family and friends back home for basic necessities such as food, shelter, and education. They willingly sacrifice to provide a better future for themselves and their families in the U.S. and back home. To understand this heroic motivation is to realize that the promise of America as an idea will not be easily deterred or detained.
For those who continue to seek this dream in good faith and the families that count on them, we cannot let them down. I call on the corporate leaders of America — many of whom themselves came to this country seeking the American Dream — to speak out against policies that harm these individuals and suppress the pursuit of their dreams as loud, if not louder, than when immigrant work visas appeared at risk. We, as a business community, waxed poetic about humane and fair immigration policies when it affected our businesses, so let’s be equally passionate and vocal on behalf of the voiceless children of those that were detained at the border until Congress steps up to do right by these families.
It is my sincere hope that by passing a permanent solution to make sure something like can never happen again we will have reached that defining moment when we recall our uniting principles and then reexamine the larger immigration debate in light of our shared values. If we pause to reflect upon the deep motivations of our immigrant communities and the value they provide to our country we can restore the path towards building a fair and just immigration system for the 21st century, one that includes all of the children, dreamers, and workers those who seek only to achieve the American Dream.
We cannot relent because the work is not done. We need swift legislative action to send our leaders a clear message that places the value of American humanity, decency, and unity above politics and partisanship. By reaffirming our basic principles we will have taken our collective first step towards building an immigration policy worthy of the American ideals of liberty and justice for all.
Matt Oppenheimer is CEO and co-founder of Seattle-based Remitly, a digital remittance company. Data from the Immigrant Sentiment Study conducted June 1–5, 2018 can be accessed here.