An open letter to legal immigrants / by Jeff Zhao

(read on Medium)

As a documented immigrant to the United States, I unequivocally stand with DACA recipients.

There is a lot of talk about white bigotry, anti-immigrant racism, and the cruelty of the Trump administration. Many of these points are valid, and I encourage you to continue listening to the voices of those affected by DACA. But now I speak directly to communities of legal immigrants — people just like me.

Don’t let your personal sacrifices taint your worldview with cynicism and bitterness. While you and your parents may have had to make huge sacrifices to become legal permanent residents or citizens in the United States (I know we did) that should color your perspective with more empathy, not less. The wall between legal and undocumented Americans is reams of paper thick, but the enthusiasm with which the Trump administration seeks to deport hundreds of thousands of young people should remind you that were it not for flimsy legal protections they’d send you away with equal zeal.

Don’t project dissatisfactions with your life onto innocent people. Like me, you’ve probably looked longingly out a window (or more likely, into a digital screen) at people living their life with undeserved frivolity while you are (as usual) working hard — paying your dues — making the necessary sacrifices. Why do they get rewarded for taking shortcuts? It’s easy to misapply this frustration onto DACA recipients for “skipping the line”, but just like the myths of undocumented immigrants being drains on the economy or minority students getting free university tuition, it’s simply misguided. Before DACA, undocumented students lived in constant fear of deportation, their family being separated, or opportunities being denied to them simply due to their immigration status. Mental health deteriorated. It became a massive feedback loop of suffering.

Don’t treat DACA recipients as a generic brown-skinned conglomerate. Put a face and a story to DACA. Not every DACA recipient is Mexican. Their parents are often not that different from your own. Having parents who successfully navigated the complex immigration landscape is a tremendous privilege. It may be the greatest contribution your family ever made to your well-being. If you found out tomorrow you were undocumented, what would that mean for you?

It’s time to look in the mirror. It’s no longer enough to be a neutral party or ignore our own prejudices. We have hidden in blackness and faded in whiteness for too long. Stand up for your brothers and sisters.