(Editor: Venkatraj was invited to testify in the House Education Committee on Monday when SB–126, granting in–state college tuition to illegal aliens, was heard and ultimately rejected on a 7–6 vote. Here is his prepared testimony.) I am a Staff Assistant at the Centennial Institute and an Engineer Officer in the Colorado Army National Guard. My narrative as the son of immigrants may shed light on this pending legislation.
Over 30 years ago, my parents began the long and arduous process of immigrating to our great nation from Southern India. My father told his family of his desire to come to the United States and his sister sold all her gold to pay for the young couples’ ticket as well as spending money—$100. The young couple began their lives in one bedroom of a crowded apartment in Brooklyn, NYC, where I was born. My father began as an X–ray courier for New York hospitals and my mother worked as a nurse’s assistant in a busy Manhattan hospital. Ten years later, my father would be graduating with his PhD from New York University and my mother would finish her schooling as a full M.D.
This narrative is the narrative that is repeated time and time again. It is the story of immigrants who lived and exemplified what we treasure most in our nation and what makes this nation great—the American Dream. It is the dream of a better life in the context of a better nation.
What bothers me about this legislation is not so much what it means for my parent’s narrative but that this legislation embodies a piecemeal approach to real immigration reform that is vested in mere political gesturing than legitimate public policy option. To elucidate, an individual illegally here with a bachelor’s degree will have slim to no opportunities of obtaining employment.
I think it’s time we get serious on immigration reform and focus on public policy rather than mere political gesturing. Our citizens and immigrant communities deserve better than that and we, as Americans, can and will do better.
I look around this room and see kids wearing shirts saying “future researcher”, “future teacher”, and “future lawyer” and I don’t doubt it for a second. In fact, I would be honored to lead or be led by some of these kids in our armed forces. But let’s do it in the right way to truly help our immigrant communities.