Damian Dovarganes, AP
Immigrants from El Salvador, Adan and his mother Roxana, hug after attending the "Mass in Recognition of All Immigrants," an annual mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, Sunday, June 24, 2018. After he made it across the U.S.-Mexico border in 2016, Adan was reunited with his mother who had arrived in the United States earlier. It took him three attempts to seek asylum before he made it into the U.S. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Family reunification allowed my adult father to immigrate to the U.S. when he only had the equivalent of a sixth-grade education. Because my grandfather had first emigrated to the U.S. from China when my father was very young, he was able to come to this country to build a better life. Meanwhile, my mother’s family arrived as unskilled laborers from China who helped build the Transcontinental Railroad.

Flash ahead one generation — my generation — to see how my parents raised four high-performing, successful American citizens. Two now have law degrees. One has a doctorate. One is a judge — the first Chinese-American judge in Utah. One is the first Chinese-American state legislator. President Trump, we have “merit.”

President Trump has introduced a “merit-based” immigration plan which he thinks will improve America’s immigration system. At the same time, the administration wants to diminish family-based immigration which they disparage as “chain migration.” We shouldn’t be so quick to discriminate against immigrants who are seemingly unskilled, or otherwise unworthy of pursuing the American Dream.

My family’s story is a common story for many, many immigrant families, whether they arrive from Asia, Africa, the Middle East or other parts of the world. They may arrive with few possessions and little education. But often within one generation, their children are working hard, getting educated, innovating and building a stronger America.

My family's American immigrant story would never have happened without immigration laws that allowed for family reunification. And yet there are still many Utahns today who have been patiently waiting, some for over two for decades, to be reunified with their loved ones.

In Utah, we value immigrants because we recognize that for most of us, at some point in our family’s past, we experienced immigration. I love that Utah’s values are family values. I also love that Utahns value innovation and hard work. But I am disappointed that this administration is pitching a program that discounts and devalues family ties. I am saddened that this administration wants to overlook nearly three centuries of immigrants building the America we love through hard work and innovation.

1 comment on this story

We shouldn’t allow the current immigration policy to pit strong border enforcement against common sense, compassionate support for “Dreamers,” refugees and hardworking immigrants and their families. We shouldn’t have to choose to have one or the other.

Of course, we should encourage and welcome skilled professionals with needed talents to immigrate to the U.S. from abroad. But we should not discount the promise and potential of other immigrants who want the same equal shot at the American Dream.