11/21/2014 01:34 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

I'm a Legal Immigrant and I Welcome the President's Action on Immigration


Image by Gerson Galang, used under Creative Commons licence

President Obama has announced that he's taking action to protect 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, and to allow them to join the workforce legally.

Lots of people are predictably outraged, and one of the central criticisms is that this move is "unfair" to immigrants who come here legally.

As one of those immigrants, I find this reasoning absurd.

All of us, documented and undocumented immigrants alike, are on a common journey in search of a better life.

We came to America because this is a country where everyone here has the freedom to build something new -- a family, a business, an idea. In America, people aren't judged by where they've come from in life, but where they're going. We came here to join a country that has always been a nation of immigrants, and a beacon to people from all nations.

And we don't just share the same dreams. We've faced the same huge challenges -- legal, financial, cultural, emotional. We've all left behind homes, friends, family and people we love to achieve something in our lives. We've all faced the strangeness and loneliness of being aliens in a foreign land. We've all had moments where we wondered if it might be easier to just pack up and go home.

And in spite of the difficulties, we've all kept our faith in this country.

For those who come here illegally and are denied the full opportunities of participating in society, those difficulties are infinitely greater.

As a penniless intern in New York City, I didn't arrive with very much. But I always had a place to sleep and (mostly) a meal every day. For many newcomers that's an impossible luxury. Building a new life here is a struggle for survival -- a quiet desperate battle to achieve normalcy when absolutely nothing, including your legal status, is even vaguely normal.

Being an undocumented immigrant is hard work -- harder than anything most of us can imagine.

So for all the politicians and lobbyists gathering their counterattack against the President's immigration policies, here's a tip -- trying to exploit the politics of division by driving a wedge between immigrants isn't going to work.

Not only do I not feel angry about undocumented immigrants receiving the support they deserve, I believe that people who've endured so many challenges to live in this country deserve massive respect.

As far as I understand America, immigrants embody the best qualities of Americanness -- courage, persistence, diversity. When a parent does everything in their power to give their kids a better life, or a smart young person wants to remain in a land where they can reach their full potential, that's not something that deserves punishment. They deserve our help.

This is a global age. In every nation, talented and hardworking people are looking beyond their borders to dream global dreams -- to imagine new lives in new countries. Immigration made America great. Why reject the people who will make America greater still?

A version of this blog post was originally posted on Facebook here.