America Needs Comprehensive Immigration Reform
America deserves a commonsense immigration process, one that includes a roadmap for new Americans who aspire to be citizens. Everyone agrees that the current patchwork of policies and programs is badly broken, mismanaged, and tears families apart. Those who want to become citizens face a maze of regulations and bureaucratic hurdles that often offer no line in which they can wait to become fully participating Americans. For aspiring citizens, the essential rights of citizenship should be attainable by passing a test about our country’s history and system of government, paying an appropriate fee, and pledging allegiance to our country.
People move their families here to provide a better life for their children, and they want to be fully contributing members of their communities in this country. It is hard to move – to pack up everything and go to a new place takes courage – but you do it in order to provide for your family. Our grandparents and great-grandparents did it. They came here to pursue the American dream, and we should honor that proud heritage as we try to create an immigration process that works.
I supported the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, which the Senate passed with a strong bipartisan vote in the 109th Congress. Unfortunately, the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives refused to work with the Senate to reconcile the differences in our two bills, so we were unable to enact reform that year. In the 110th Congress, I supported the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007. I was very disappointed when opponents of this bill blocked it from coming up for a vote.
In April 2010, I joined with several of my colleagues to offer a new framework for a comprehensive immigration reform bill, the Real Enforcement with Practical Answers for Immigration Reform (REPAIR) Proposal. This proposal reflects the bipartisan work that had previously taken place on this issue, and was intended to serve as an invitation to our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to work together to fix our broken immigration system. While I am disappointed that my Republican colleagues did not accept this invitation, I know that immigration reform cannot pass the Senate without bipartisan support. The American people are counting on Democrats and Republicans to work together in the next Congress toward practical solutions.
By doing nothing, our country is left with the same problems that have plagued our broken immigration system for years. I remain committed to comprehensive immigration reform and hope that we are able to enact it soon.
The Dream Act
I do not believe it is fair to punish children, many of whom were brought to the United States as very young children and think of themselves as Americans, for the choices made by their parents. I also do not believe it makes sense to prevent these children, many of whom have been highly successful students, from going to college so they can more valuably contribute to our society and our economy.
On October 24, 2007, I brought the DREAM Act up for a vote on the Senate floor. Unfortunately, opponents blocked the Senate from considering the measure by a vote of 52-44, short of the 60 votes necessary to proceed. On December 18, 2010, I brought the DREAM Act back to the Senate floor, but once again, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle blocked the Senate from considering the measure by a vote of 55-41. Only three Republicans stood up to the pressure from their leadership and voted in favor of the bill. Their courage is exemplary, and I wish more of their colleagues would have followed them.
On June 15, 2012, President Obama announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would suspend the deportation of upstanding young people brought here illegally as children, provided they attend college or serve in the military and meet other key requirements. Thanks to President Obama, over a million DREAMers who have done well in school and stayed out of trouble will benefit from this policy, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and will be provided the opportunity to more fully contribute to their communities and to work toward realizing their dreams without fear. President Obama’s directive to suspend deportation of the DREAMers was the result of a year-long review, and will be applied on a case-by-case basis. This policy frees up law enforcement resources to focus on individuals who threaten public safety and national security, while removing the specter of deportation for these young men and women who are assets to our country. I congratulate President Obama for this courageous decision – a decision that benefits both the DREAMers and our nation as a whole.
Unfortunately, President Obama’s directive is not a permanent solution. The burden is now on Congress to protect the DREAMers and create a functional immigration process once and for all.
Please visit the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s web page for more information on the President’s Deferred Action initiative.
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