As a magnet for immigrants, New York City has a vested interest in the nation’s ongoing and long-standing debate about immigration reform. So President Obama’s recent decision to stop the deportation of illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children cannot but help thousands of New Yorkers who currently live in the shadows, fearful that one false move might lead to a one-way ticket to their place of birth.
Mr. Obama’s decision will directly affect the lives of about 800,000 young people nationwide. The President did not offer them amnesty or a chance to regularize their status. But with the threat of deportation lifted, they will be able to work on the books, apply for driver’s licenses and other government documents, and otherwise enjoy a much-better quality of life.
The President described these immigrants as “Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper.” Substitute “New Yorkers” for “Americans” and you have a fine description of thousands of people who live, work, play, and love in the five boroughs. They may have been born in Mexico, Brazil, Poland, or Thailand, but their formative years have been spent in New York. They may have a childhood memory of their native land, but for them, “home” means an apartment in Jackson Heights, a playground in Sunset Park, a school on the Lower East Side.
They are New Yorkers.