Op-eds

The Urgency of Immigration Reform Here at Home: Dean Bhaskar Chakravorti

The Huffington Post

Bhaskar Chakravorti is a Senior Associate Dean at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.

What a Reformed Immigrant from Afar Teaches Us About the Urgency of Immigration Reform Here at Home

As I write this, our leaders in the Senate have completed their debate over landmark immigration reform and by the time you read this they will have voted in favor of its passage. This is unprecedented in recent times because, a) little that is "landmark" gets a green light on Capitol Hill these days; and b) we have support on reform from both sides of a deep political divide. While we wait as the Senate passes the baton to the House, I would encourage our leaders to take some inspiration from Hyeonseo Lee's riveting narrative of one immigrant's journey. Granted, her delivery is deadpan and moving from being indoctrinated in the north to fluency in English and worldly freedoms in the south of the Korean peninsula may all seem a bit too "foreign" for our legislators. But Ms. Lee speaks the universal truths of the immigrant experience: a dream, of place not one's own; a journey, quite distinct from travel of any other kind; and what, V.S. Naipaul has so eloquently described as the "enigma of arrival." Her story is simultaneously, harrowing and inspiring; every immigrant can find a tiny piece of their life in it.

Regardless of whether one comes by rickety boat, swims the Rio Grande or flies in on Lufthansa (as my wife and I did), the immigrant's narrative is a powerful one. There is a standard cliché that has been put into service by the Left to justify reform: we are a country of immigrants. I disagree. We are a country that is an accumulation of the results of immigration, but the majority of us have experiences and concerns that are fundamentally American. We perennially fall into the trap of becoming overly concerned about what is going on in the U.S. and despite the status of being the sole world super-power and with our global ambassador, McDonald's, operating in 122 countries, we, on average, care too little about the rest of the world. The ongoing presence of the recent immigrant in our midst is a reminder to not forget that if we go a few generations back most of us came from somewhere else. And that "somewhere else" is a part of the world that we as Americans should care about -- for political, business, security and sociological reasons. We need a jolt, a reminder, of what it means to be an immigrant.

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