EDITORIAL: Let’s encourage exceptional Americans

People sneak into America for all sorts of reasons: more freedom, better economic opportunities, escape from repression, the American Dream. Some people come for no reason other than it’s where their parents brought them when they were too young to know what was happening.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is a logical and compassionate solution for these children, who have never known any life outside of the United States. This is their only home. DACA recognizes this in a way that almost defies what passes for American “exceptionalism” these days, a term that has strangely come to mean the opposite of itself.

Who gets to be an American? Those of us who were born here are nothing more than lucky. Our parents and grandparents may have struggled to come here and survive, but most of us did nothing important to be rewarded with American status, other than be born to the right people at the right time, which really takes no effort at all. We’re not here because we’re smart, although we might be smart because we’re here.

It’s painful enough to be an American watching other Americans turning immigrants away, as if we alone deserve the good fortune we’ve inherited. But when children get caught up in family deportations and separations, it makes America look anything but exceptional. That is, until people come together to create organizations such as 21 Progress (see story here), dedicated to spreading opportunity to those who would otherwise remain on the outer fringes of society.

This country is better when it opens its arms and shares its bounty. Who knows what contributions to American society a promising young person like Jae Jun (Brian) Lee may make in the future. Anyone who works that hard to stay in school is truly exceptional. In awarding him a college scholarship, the folks at Avidian Technologies said they were “impressed with how tenacious he was in pursuit of education.”

It’s not like young Mr. Lee was going to easily return to Korea — a country he’s never really known. Programs like DACA and California’s DREAM act give ambitious, hard-working young people a pathway to success, instead of forcing them to become a drain on society. Isn’t that what we all want? (end)

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