Transcript

John Yang:  Devashish Basnet is a Rhodes Scholar studying refugee and migration patterns. He was a refugee himself, leaving Nepal as a child when his family sought asylum in the United States. Tonight his brief but spectacular take on embracing Immigration.

Devashish Basnet, Hunter College Senior: ¬†I lived under almost four or five different immigration statuses, including DACA, which is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program that the Obama administration created. My identity and my presence in this country is inherently politicized. One morning you’re waking up and seeing the Supreme Court debate over whether or not you belong in this country. The next morning, you’re seeing news of a Congressperson declaring that DACA recipients are, you know, stealing jobs. So it’s a harrowing experience.

My family and I moved to the United States from Nepal when I was about six years old. The country was in a time of political transitions. It created a really unsafe environment. And so my family and I chose to seek asylum in the United States. I grew up faster than a lot of my peers, and I think a lot of immigrant children have to live with this reality. I was pulled out of school days just to go to immigration court hearings, just to go to asylum interviews.

At a certain point, I knew more about immigration policy than any 11-year-old should have. Being black and brown and experiencing the immigration processing system is not just a difficult journey, it’s a racist and rather discriminatory journey. Black and brown immigrants tend to resettle into neighborhoods that are already predominantly black and brown. And so not only are they facing the perils that I described in the immigration experience, but they’re also facing the same impacts of institutional racism and institutional discrimination that U.S. born citizens are subject to as well.

A fair immigration system lies at the midpoint between enforcement and legal pathways. And so the more legal pathways you create, the more likely migrants will be subject to follow those legal pathways. Migration has been a permanent feature of human life from long before now and will be a permanent feature long after. As we see more and more climate disasters, war and political disasters, we’re going to see more migrants.

It’s not a question of if, but it’s a matter of when. That’s why we need to build a flexible and humane immigration processing system first start to not treat migration as a threat, but as an opportunity. We are missing out on tapping into potential to drastically transform our country’s economy, to drastically transform cities.

My lived experience going through immigration and experiencing the core tenets of the application process, all of that is directly influenced how I view and how I hope to shape policy in the future. I think the people closest to the problems are the people closest to the solutions. My name is Devashish Basnet, and this is my brief but spectacular take on embracing immigration.