On Father’s Day, we honor and celebrate fathers with cookouts and gifts (terrible ties welcomed). Attending the father-daughter dance, filling out college applications and providing emotional support during the uncertainties of young adulthood have been the hallmarks of my relationship with my dad.
However, Father’s Day can also highlight the pain that many young Kentuckians experience as a result of our out-of-date immigration system.
Instead of hugging and presenting gifts, some are waving to their fathers through glass shields in detention centers or through the screen on a computer — if they are lucky enough to see them at all.
Surely even the most adamant supporters of border security and the immigrants’ rights activists can agree on the fundamental role a father plays in a young person’s life.
Like many children in America today, my parents were divorced. As a single parent, my mother worked hard to ensure my sister and I had what we needed. Then, the man I have come to recognize as my father came into our lives. After he and my mother married, he quickly became another member of our close-knit family.
During my teenage years, our family fell on hard times and my father was there to lift spirits with his hearty sense of humor. After I had saved enough money from working at my first job, I bought a 1999 Chevrolet Cavalier. My father was there every step of the way, tightening the belts and checking the fluids.
Later when the engine fell out of the $800 car, leaving me stranded at a stoplight in the middle of a thunderstorm, my father was there to pick me up.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting a fellow college student from the Lexington area who had an experience with her stepfather similar to my own. She and her two siblings, were brought to the United States when she was four years old, so young she says that all she remembers of the experience is seeing a rainbow.
After moving here, they began to experience domestic violence. In spite of their status and fear of deportation, they went to the police and the perpetrator was convicted. Their bravery has made their community safer for everyone.
Her mother remarried, and like mine, her new stepfather quickly became one of the family, contributing financially and emotionally to its well-being. She described happy memories of them at her Quinceanera, a celebration of her 15th birthday where she and her dad shared a memorable dance.
Then, amidst the chaos of her senior year, a member of immigration enforcement entered their home and broke apart her family. Instantly, her home became a single-parent household and, as the oldest, she had to help care for her younger siblings. She took on more hours at her part-time job and adjusted her plans to go to school, opting instead for a local community college.
Beyond these sacrifices, she grieves the loss of her father.
This Father’s Day, her story illustrates the need to update our immigration policy so that it prioritizes keeping families together. We need a common-sense approach that takes into account American values. Rounding up and deporting millions of people will not just be costly to our budget, but also to our humanity.
Consider what it would be like to be unnecessarily and permanently separated from your dad or another important person in your life.
If you believe that our immigration policies need to be modernized, please take action and reach out to your member of Congress.
JaVaughn Hardaway is a senior in political science and public policy at the University of Louisville.