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Telling the stories about why immigration is important

In the heated debates over “securing our borders” and “protecting American jobs,” many seem to forget that the story of America is the story of immigration. Individuals and families facing oppression and poverty in their home countries came to America to build a better life. Many of America’s greatest thinkers, inventers and business barons were immigrants or the children of immigrants.

America’s immigration story continues to this day and is just as full of hard-working people who embody American values. Unfortunately, many of these stories do not have a happy ending. A recent article in the New York Times is one example.

The Times article shares the story of a man named Angelo who came to the United States from Mexico in 1990. He was just 15 years old when he crossed the border. He lived in New York City for the next 24 years.

While here, Angelo earned his high school equivalency degree, followed by his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He supported himself in low-wage jobs while also volunteering to help those who lived in his community.

Less than a year ago, Angelo received an amazing opportunity, but one that would require him to legalize his immigration status. He took a risk and returned to Mexico. He applied for a waiver that would allow him to reenter the country legally. It was denied, and he must now remain in Mexico, away from the New York community he worked so hard to build.

If upheld, President Obama’s executive actions on immigration reform may help many immigrants achieve the legal status that was denied to Angelo. Hopefully, high-profile stories like this one published in the New York Times will help more Americans remember that the story of the United States is the story of immigration.

Source: The New York Times, “Seeking Legal Immigration Status, Longtime New Yorker Can’t Return to U.S.,” Kirk Semple, Jan. 16, 2014

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