My mother used to say to me while I was growing up, “You hit the jackpot being born in this country. Now, you have to figure out how to pay it forward.”
The first part of her words hit home when I was a young child, knowing that my father, an immigrant from Iran, needed to work hard to prove every day that he could become part of the American community, just like those who were lucky enough to be born here. He undertook jobs at factories, in construction, and as a community college volleyball coach. Immigrants like him work hard to become part of our communities, so that they too can realize the American dream.
While nearly all of us have an immigration story in our families of coming to America, the stories we are telling each other about immigration have changed. I recently sat with an educator in Salt Lake City as she sobbed, talking about the fear her grade-school children are experiencing, not knowing why their friends are pulled out of school from one day to the next. She sees the bullying on the playground that trickles down from the words of our leaders, words that reflect a loss of decency, kindness, and respect.
Every day, due to the inaction of our Congressional leaders, over 100 Utahns lose legal status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. There are over 10,000 Utahns and 800,000 Dreamers across the U.S. whose fate hangs in the balance of Congress to find a solution so that they can continue to contribute to our communities.
And where are our Utah federal leaders? We have heard from these representatives, for well over six months now, that they want to find a solution. However, I have seen no action from the Utah federal delegation in building bridges. Instead, I see partisan politics as usual that pit people against each other rather than working towards solutions that the vast majority of Utahns and Americans want to see.
This state has a long history of being a safe haven for those who would be cast out elsewhere. The children and adults whose lives hang in the balance with no solution on childhood immigration are sitting next to us in our churches, shopping at the same stores for groceries, and working beside us in our schools and in our workplaces. They are part of the fabric of our communities that makes Utah a strong and welcoming state.
Dreamers are Americans waiting for solutions. We are all Americans waiting for solutions. I was lucky enough to hit the jackpot to be born as an American, and you know what? I took my mom’s words to heart and every day I’m paying it forward, so that each and every child across this great nation who works hard every day can get ahead. If our Congressional leaders can’t find a solution to keep families together and uphold the values our country was founded upon, then it’s time to find new leaders.
Shireen Ghorbani is a candidate for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District.