Festival of Lights: “A Flicker of Hope”

Pratishtha & Manar

As I entered the warm hallways last week at the White House Diwali, it dawned upon me that exactly a year ago, on November 4th, 2012, the possibilities in my life had expanded – it was the day I received my approval for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). But I never imagined a day when I would celebrate Diwali at the White House.

I was honored to step into such designated, renowned halls; halls that witnessed the proudest and perhaps hardest times in American history. These halls were a testament to how acknowledging the existence and struggles of America’s immigrant youth build upon its honor. As I walked them, I remembered the morning of June 15th, 2012 again, the day that President Obama announced his executive order, “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.”  While it seemed such a small change, the result is that I and many like me are able to live with dignity – to work, attend state universities, and freely be community leaders without the fear of being punished by the system. As I celebrated my own possibilities for the future however, I could not forget the millions of undocumented individuals – over 240,000 Indians alone – who remain in the shadows.  I remembered the hardships of my parents who struggle to make ends meet: my father, a fifty-nine year old, diabetic who still works fourteen to sixteen hours a day and my mother, a long term minimum wage worker, who recently suffered a brain hemorrhage. As I looked around the room, I realized that everyone in the room was probably a first, second, third, or fourth generation South Asian American. I was standing amongst those who live their American DREAM every day. This was my flicker of “hope and change.”

I could finally see myself living my American DREAM, going to medical school and one day, practicing medicine in disadvantaged areas around the world. My DREAM is one that follows the core American ideologies, to help those who are less fortunate, extend a hand in time of need, and be the hope and change for others. As an audience to the First Lady’s Diwali wishes, I was in the presence of advocates and activists, Members of Congress, judges, officers from the armed forces, business persons, and ambassadors from the South Asian community. In this moment, I could not help but wonder about my future as a South Asian American and the future of all immigrants.  And, I yearned for the celebratory day when the “land of the free and home of the brave” accepts all its immigrant communities as Americans. A day when those who long for their “flicker of hope” have a chance at their AMERICAN DREAM.

Pratishtha Khanna

Among the 11 million undocumented people living in this country are South Asians, including those from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.  Many are students who seek to go to college, spend time with friends and family, and pursue their professional interests.  If you are undocumented and South Asian, you might be eligible for assistance under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.  Find out more at: http://saalt.org/south-asian-and-undocumented/