June 17, 2013
“One year ago this week, when President Obama signed a directive suspending deportation of upstanding young people… who were brought to this country as children.”
“Thanks to President Obama’s courageous action, Blanca and hundreds of thousands of upstanding young men and women like her can rest easier knowing they are no longer in danger of being deported… And they can get the nine numbers that unlock a successful future – a social security number.”
Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding the importance of bipartisan immigration reform. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
For 16 years, Blanca Gamez thought she was an average American girl. But when Blanca turned 16, one by one her friends learned to drive. Blanca’s parents sat her down and explained an important truth: Blanca couldn’t get her driver’s license because she is an undocumented immigrant.
Blanca’s parents brought her from Mexico to the United States when she was a tiny baby – just 7 months old. Because they came without the proper paperwork, Blanca was missing something important. “You need nine numbers,” Blanca’s parents told her – referring to the social security number that opens doors American citizens take for granted.
I had an opportunity to meet Blanca when I was in Las Vegas recently. She is a young woman with everything going for her. She’s smart. She’s driven. And she loves this country with a passion that is truly moving. In fact, Blanca doesn’t even remember the country where she was born. To her, home means Nevada. Unfortunately, without a social security number, Blanca faced challenges her American-born peers didn’t.
But all that changed one year ago this week, when President Obama signed a directive suspending deportation of upstanding young people like Blanca who were brought to this country as children. Almost 300,000 DREAMers – undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children – have already taken advantage of this opportunity.
Thanks to President Obama’s courageous action, Blanca and hundreds of thousands of upstanding young men and women like her can rest easier knowing they are no longer in danger of being deported. They can now work and drive legally. And they can get the nine numbers that unlock a successful future – a social security number.
But Blanca’s future – and the future of 800,000 young DREAMers – will remain uncertain until Congress passes common-sense immigration reform. President Obama’s directive is only a temporary solution. The Republican majority in the House of Representatives has taken aim at the DREAMers, voting recently to resume deportation of promising young people like Blanca.
And the directive doesn’t address the 10 million people living in this country without the proper documentation who don’t qualify for deferred action. Many of these individuals are the parents or siblings of DREAMers like Blanca. The bipartisan legislation before the Senate is the opportunity they have been waiting for.
This bill offers a pathway to earned citizenship that begins by going to the back of the line, paying taxes and fines, learning English and getting right with the law.
This measure will be good for national security. It will be good for our economy. And it will be good for millions of immigrant families.
The bill isn’t perfect. But it takes important steps to reform our broken legal immigration system and strengthen border security.
I know many of my colleagues have ideas about how to improve this bill. I hope we will be able to process additional amendments soon, so that we can give those ideas the debate and the votes they deserve. We have five amendments pending. We could vote on four of them right away. My colleagues should be aware, unless we begin voting on amendments soon, we will need to work through the weekend in order to finish this bill before July 4.
Recognizing that this is a nation founded by immigrants, I hope Senators will consider every amendment to this bill with compassion. Like generations before them, Blanca’s parents and millions of other undocumented immigrants came here seeking a better life.
The author C.S. Lewis said, “You are never too old… to dream a new dream.” It is time for Congress to help 11 million dreamers – young and old – get right with the law and unlock their potential.