Time for Obama to go big on immigration

I am deeply disappointed at the events that took place on the House floor last Friday night.

Instead of passing legislation to provide funding to solve the humanitarian crisis at our border, the House of Representatives passed the H.R. 5272 bill. This bill would prohibit extensions of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program, a program that offers eligible individuals temporary residential status to pursue an education and job. The passage of H.R. 5272 would ultimately subject these aspiring Americans to deportation even though for many, America is all they have ever known.

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The House also passed the H.R. 5230 bill, which would send children to their original countries without hearings and will speed up their deportation.  These bills, which are being used to send a message, are a waste of the taxpayer’s money. Congress needs to look for solutions instead of pointing fingers.

"That means while they're out on vacation, I'm going to have to make some tough choices to meet the challenge, with or without Congress," the president stated at a press conference last week. Obama needs to take action and use his executive power to address the problems that Congress cannot seem to solve.

What can the president do with his executive powers on immigration? Four key steps are needed:  prioritize hearings on deportation, expand DACA, continue the practice of weekly mandatory check-ins with state immigration officials, and increase the amount of free legal services available to refugees.

Congress’s hateful bills only reinforce the fact that the US has a broken immigration system that needs attention; this is not the way to fix it! There are over 57,000 refugee children being sent back to the dangerous countries they escaped for fear of their lives. America should not turn their back to refugees and certainly not to children, as young as 3 years old.

From an economic lens, these children could be part of the future taxpaying immigrants that pay $140 billion a year in federal, state, and local taxes and will contribute $500 billion toward our social security system over the next 20 years.

Put more simply, however, we are better than this! These are people who aspire to become Americans, who believe in the American Dream. It is a shame that it takes thousands of dollars and several years to process paperwork in order to become a legal U.S. resident.  

It wasn’t always this way.  70 years ago, an immigrant coming from Ellis Island could become a citizen in a process that took as little as three hours. If these children wait through the broken avenues to legally live in the U.S., they will be dead. This is the pinnacle moment where we need to define ourselves as a country. We need to stand behind our principles, which separate us from the rest of the world, and live up to the American values inscribed in the Statue of Liberty:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Rocha is the president of Solidarity Strategies and the Center for National Policy Fellow for the American Workforce. He worked as Dick Gephardt’s and John Edwards’ National Labor Director during the 2004/2008 presidential election cycles, and currently serves on the executive boards of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Labor Council of Latin American Advancement.

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