Former OU President David Boren releases op-ed, expresses support for DACA recipients

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President David Boren gives speech dedicating the Bizzell Memorial Library's new study space to the Zarrow family May 24.

Recently retired OU President David Boren released an op-ed denouncing anti-immigrant sentiments and expressing support for immigrants protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. 

Boren, a former Oklahoma governor and senator, left office as OU's president July 1. He sent the following op-ed to the Norman Transcript and The Tulsa World: 

"Many of us have been rightly alarmed by the appalling practice of separating immigrant families at our border. We must also remember the danger and uncertainty facing thousands of young undocumented immigrants who already reside in the United States.

I have drawn great inspiration from the thousands of undocumented students known as Dreamers who are making significant contributions to our nation. As a former U.S. senator, I am deeply troubled by Congress’ failure to protect them.

Many undocumented immigrants were brought to this country as children. These Dreamers are already deeply woven into our social fabric and have lived up to the best standards of our country. Some have even served our country in uniform. The United States is the only home these young people have ever known. Dreamers attend school, contribute to our economy, pay taxes, serve in the military and add cultural richness to our nation. Above all else, they are neighbors and friends. They are as American as any of us, and they deserve a legal status that acknowledges this reality.

Anti-immigrant demagogues argue that protecting Dreamers would dilute our common American identity. They are entirely wrong. Rather, if we reject these aspiring citizens, we forsake our common American identity and the reputation of our country as a land of opportunity for all. The debate over Dreamers is a moral identity crisis for the United States. How we respond will rightfully define us at home and around the world.

Throughout my 16 years in the U.S. Senate, I participated in debates and policy discussions about many difficult issues facing our nation. At its best, Congress has protected the most vulnerable among us and enshrined our most precious values into law. At its worst, our nation’s elected officials have indulged our worst impulses and succumbed to paralyzing partisanship. Dreamers now present Congress with its clearest test in a generation: Will America stay true to its commitment to justice for all or will we slam shut the doors of opportunity? The right answer is obvious and urgent: Congress must pass legislation to keep these young people in the United States and put them on a path to full citizenship.

I have seen firsthand the impact of our leaders’ inaction on this issue. In May, at my final commencement ceremony as president of the University of Oklahoma, I watched one extraordinary Dreamer walk across the stage as she received her hard-earned graduate degree.

I have to be very careful about what I say about this graduate, a woman to whom I’ll refer with the pseudonym “Anika,” for fear of making her a target instead of an illustration of how we need to reconsider our policy. But believe me: She is the epitome of what we should want more of in America.

Anika was brought to the United States when she was a young child. Even after immigrating legally, her family fell out of legal status amid a waiting period that averages 16 years. Anika and her family were then forced to live in the shadows as undocumented residents. Nevertheless, Anika nurtured an intellectual curiosity throughout her childhood that ultimately led her to pursue an advanced degree in a scientific discipline. As a researcher at OU, she presented at prestigious conferences around the world and published her scientific discoveries. Her pioneering research has the potential to help save lives in the future. But Anika will not be able to contribute her gifts unless a pathway to citizenship opens up for her. Her case has languished in our byzantine immigration system for more than two decades, and she lives with constant fear about her future in America.

Anika should be proud of her identity: She’s an accomplished scientist, a devoted daughter and sister, a proud woman of Asian heritage, an Oklahoma Sooner and so much more. Anika represents the best qualities of citizenship in the United States. In short — she is an American.

History will judge us harshly if we allow outstanding young people —those who have met all the requirements that our nation has set — to be forcefully deported to places around the world where they are virtual strangers. If we don’t act to protect people like Anika, who are we? What does America stand for?”

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