Immigration is an affirmation of our nation’s success, not a threat to it. Throughout our history, immigrants and refugees have built businesses, strengthened our economy, contributed to our cultural fabric, served in our military, and been an integral part of our American story. Whether guided by families, education, and employment, or driven by war, famine, poverty, gang violence, and persecution, those who risk everything to reach our shores share our faith in the American Dream.
Our nation’s badly broken immigration system has come into stark focus in recent years. Young Dreamers who stepped out of the shadows in the only country they have ever known have been told they no longer had a place here. Proven, effective, efficient border security measures have been sidelined for political purposes. Businesses seeking to hire new talent and grow have been blocked. Underfunded immigration courts and overworked legal aid attorneys have resulted in a systemic backlog that has deferred justice indefinitely. Refugees seeking safe haven on our shores have been turned away based on race and religion. And most horrifically — families seeking legal asylum at our border have had their children torn from their arms.
Some of these problems long preceded President Trump’s Administration. Many have been entrenched and exacerbated by his dangerous policies. But all require Congress to come together and pass the comprehensive immigration reform that our country demands.
In 2013, the United States Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill with the support of advocates, law enforcement and local governments. However, Republican Leadership in the House blocked reform, as they have continued to do every year since. It’s long past-due for Congress to re-ignite these efforts. A fair, just and humane immigration system must be built on these pillars: a pathway to citizenship, ironclad protections for Dreamers and TPS beneficiaries, compassion for refugees and asylum seekers, deep reform of our immigration enforcement agencies, equitable access to work visas, and strategic investments in legal assistance, humanitarian aid and effective, efficient security along our border.
In the face of continued GOP resistance to comprehensive reform we have tried to stem the damage of our broken system. I’m a proud co-sponsor of the DREAM Act, which would extend protections for children raised in this country, and a vocal supporter of defending Temporary Protected Status for legal residents from Haiti to Honduras to Sudan. I’ve visited migrant children in detention facilities across the country and demanded the Trump Administration be held accountable for its disgraceful family separation policy.
Few families would be here today had this country not opened its golden doors many generations ago; mine among them. This is the legacy that makes America what it is. We deserve an immigration system worthy of that history, one that is smart, strong, compassionate and fair.