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Opinion Columns

Opinion: I’m the proof that American immigration reform is overdue

The word immigrant conjures up a certain image. That image might be border detention facilities, or travel bans; it might be of refugees or asylees. It’s probably not of someone like me.

It would be hard to overstate how easy immigrating here from Canada was for me. I’m a straight, cisgendered, white man; calling me an “immigrant” verges on laughable.

Make no mistake – the American immigration process is fraught with angst, confusion, delays and despair.

Kevin Hovdestad

Yet what little hardship I did endure – the agonizing waiting, the inability to earn an income or support my family financially – was pathetically simple compared to what millions of other would-be residents and citizens go through, simply because of the color of their skin.

There are many talented, dedicated folks working for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) – none of the front-line staff I dealt with were anything but courteous and professional.

You could almost be forgiven for thinking that no single individual was responsible for all of the innumerable harms inflicted on people trying to come to America for a better life.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Unfortunately, it really is just one person – Donald Trump. The Trump administration may have kept it quick and painless for people who look like me, but for the far and away majority of potential immigrants, the process has been made more arduous at every turn.

Despite widespread bipartisan consensus and a wealth of statistics showing that immigration is massively valuable to the American economy – to say nothing of the diversity of culture and thought that comes with every immigrant – the United States currently has ruthless and harmful policies on border detention, foreign aid, undocumented immigrants and more.

Fully a third of Colorado’s population is non-Caucasian, and that number is going to continue to grow.

And as an immigrant here in Colorado, I was thrilled that when I came to the Tom Steyer campaign, with no way to support them but my time and talent, they brought me on to the team.

Permanent residents can’t vote. Undocumented immigrants make constant contributions all around us, but live in constant fear of ICE and the current administration’s deplorable behavior toward anyone that isn’t white enough.

We’re all looking for leadership in 2020 and beyond that we can trust to have our interests at heart, even if our voices can’t be heard the same way.

Tom has committed to reinstating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, enacting a Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program, ending the Muslim travel ban, instituting Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designations and so much more.

Knowing how Tom and his campaign treat me, I can see the vision for a future where instead of family separation, inhumane asylum conditions, regressive H-1B visa distribution and a complete lack of forethought around climate change refugees, we could have an America where everyone who chooses to call this great country home has the same kind of experience I had – fair, simple, efficient and with opportunity around the corner.

Kevin Hovdestad is the Communications Director for Tom Steyer 2020 in Colorado. Kevin resides in Aurora with his wife and their newborn daughter.