Immigration reform: Renewing the promise of America

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That is why for many years, I have called for comprehensive immigration reform. And now it appears the moment has ripened and a myriad of voices, liberal and conservative are also adding their voice to this reform call. But there are other voices that would, mainly for political reasons, silence these voices and seek to maintain the status quo, or even push for the antediluvian notion of “self-deportation.”

This quaint idea has no basis in reality and should yield to common-sense immigration reform which, as President Obama has laid-out, includes: strengthened borders, dissuading companies from hiring undocumented workers with punitive reinforcement, holding undocumented immigrants accountable in order to earn their citizenship; this means requiring undocumented workers to pay their taxes and a penalty, move to the back of the line, pass background checks. I will admit I still haven’t figured out why we would compel an immigrant to learn English, as opposed to encouraging — suffice-it-to-say the vicissitudes of life in America present more than enough incentives to learn English. Lastly, as the president said, the system must be  updated for families, workers, and employers.

Immigrants come for the same reason families have always come to America: to be free of fear and hunger, to better their economic opportunities, to begin their world anew, and to give their children an opportunity for a better life.  Like previous waves of immigrants, they too will wage all and risk all to reach the sidewalks of cities such as my home of Houston. Or Los Angeles. Or Phoenix. Or Chicago. Or Atlanta. Or Denver. Or Detroit.

And if they make it to the Promised Land of America, no job will be beneath them. They will cook our food, clean our houses, cut our grass, and care for our kids. They will be cheated by some and exploited by others. They work in sunlight but live in twilight, between the shadows; not fully welcome as new Americans but wanted as low-wage workers. Somewhere near the borders tonight, a family will cross over into the New World, willed by the enduring power of the American Dream. 

They robustly pursue opportunity.


Jackson Lee is a member of the House Judiciary and Homeland Security committees.

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