June 26, 2013
“Millions of mixed-status families worry every day that a loved one – a parent, spouse or sibling – will be torn away from them.”
“It’s crucial that Congress pass bipartisan immigration reform legislation that protects and preserves families right away. I am happy that the United States Senate will pass such a bill this week.”
“I hope our colleagues in the House of Representatives will follow the Senate’s lead, and work to pass bipartisan reform that both Democrats and Republicans can support.”
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:
It was 6 a.m. when immigration officials came to take Maria Espinosa’s husband Jorge away. Maria walked out the front door to hand her husband his lunch money, and watched as he was loaded into a truck and carted to an immigration detention center.
Jorge wasn’t a criminal. He works hard. He pays his taxes. And he’s a good father and husband. But Jorge is in the country without the proper immigration paperwork. So he spent almost a month in a detention center.
Maria, who is also an undocumented immigrant and was also set to be deported, was able to remain at home with her teenage daughter, who is a U.S. citizen.
Maria and Jorge were eventually able to secure a stay of deportation. But they live with the fear that they will be torn away from their family and deported to a country they haven’t seen in 25 years.
Maria and Jorge have made their home in Las Vegas for a quarter of a century – almost as long as they’ve been married. In Nevada, Maria and Jorge have a large and vibrant family. They have two daughters and a son. And now they have an eight-month-old grandson as well. They have loving friends and a tight-knit community.
In Mexico, the country where they were born, Maria and Jorge know no one except a single elderly relative.
But because Maria and Jorge are undocumented immigrants, they live with the fear every minute of every day that they will have to leave the country they love – the United States of America. Maria lives with the fear that she will have to say goodbye to her children and her grandson.
This is what Maria said yesterday: “When you lose your mother or your father, you are an orphan. When you lose your husband, you are a widow. What do they call it when you lose a child – when you are separated from a child? There is no name for that.”
Maria and Jorge’s family members are all lawfully present in the United States. Maria and Jorge’s youngest daughter, a freshman in college, was born here. So was their grandson. And a directive issued last year by President Obama allowed their two oldest children, both of whom are married to U.S. citizens, to obtain their legal residency.
The President’s directive suspended deportation of 800,000 DREAMers – young people brought to America illegally when they were children. But millions of family members of these young DREAMers don’t yet qualify for legal status or an earned pathway to citizenship. Millions of mixed-status families worry every day that a loved one – a parent, spouse or sibling – will be torn away from them.
That’s why it’s crucial that Congress pass bipartisan immigration reform legislation that protects and preserves families right away. I am happy that the United States Senate will pass such a bill this week. A permanent, common-sense solution to our dysfunctional system is in sight.
I hope our colleagues in the House of Representatives will follow the Senate’s lead, and work to pass bipartisan reform that both Democrats and Republicans can support. Because whether we serve in the House or the Senate, whether we hail from red states or blue states, we should all be able to agree the current system is broken. And we should all be able to agree that Congressional action is necessary.
I have seen firsthand the devastation caused by our broken system. But each time I have the opportunity to speak with Nevadans about the urgent need for action on immigration I am reminded that this issue is personal. It’s personal to me, just as it is personal to Maria and Jorge. And it’s personal to 11 million other undocumented immigrants and tens of millions of their U.S. citizen relatives whose eyes are turned toward Washington and whose hearts are filled with hope.