Can it be in our collective best interest to have an estimated 11 million individuals living in our country who have no clear path to a more promising future?
Can it benefit our society to have youth who have known no other home other than the United States to daily fear the threat of deportation?
Do we want to live in a society where we force people to separate from their families? Are we a more perfect union when those we entrust with our children, the care of our homes, the tending of our crops and myriad other critical services, are referred to as "aliens?"
At the International Institute of the Bay Area, a 94-year-old nonprofit that has been helping immigrants become citizens and start new lives, every day we see the humanity of those who have sometime been referred to as "aliens."
Recently, we hosted a group of Dreamers who talked about their hope for the future. They were inspirational, courageous and fearless and gave me incredible hope. They reminded me of what is possible.
They love this land and are bound to it in ways that many of us take for granted. They are our future, and immigration reform is not only their path to a better life, but it is ours, as well.
President Barack Obama and the Senate, in a bipartisan stance, have offered the first glimpse of an attempt to answer to those questions.
As the executive director of the International Institute of the Bay Area, I am hopeful now more than
Obama announced his commitment to moving this debate forward to a moment of action, saying "now is the time, now is the time."
He has reminded us that we have often defined the immigration debate in the divisive context of "them and us."
My grandfather was a "them" from Ireland. He first came through Ellis Island dreaming of a better life. His Irish brogue was nearly as thick the day he died as the day he arrived on the shores of the United States.
He settled in San Francisco, married my grandmother, a native San Franciscan, raised his four children there, became a police detective, solved five murders, saved three people from drowning in San Francisco Bay, was the president of the Dolphin Club and, in his obituary, was referred to as a "modern day Paul Bunyan."
As a young girl, I was uncertain who Paul Bunyan was, but that comparison made me very proud.
What I know is this: My grandfather came here for a better life and on that journey, contributed much to the greater good.
All of us have an immigrant past. Let's commit to a future that recognizes the value in embracing the diversity that has made us such a great land. It is time for comprehensive immigration reform.
Ellen Dumesnil, grandchild of immigrants, is the executive director the International Institute of the Bay Area, a 94-year-old San Francisco-based nonprofit that has been helping immigrants from around the world become American citizens. Visit www.iibayarea.org