America’s diversity and immigrant roots are among our most important assets, yet the Trump Administration is targeting and instilling panic in the very communities that have helped build this country. Enough.
The time has come for Congress to get its act together and finally pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Like many of my fellow Americans, I am a proud descendant of immigrants. My ancestors came to this country in the late 1800s from Portugal and Brazil to seek a better life for themselves and their families, and they got to work right away. My grandfather, Fernando de Freitas Loureiro, was a carpenter and member of the carpenters union, as well as President of the Portuguese American Civic League and Portuguese American Center. My grandmother worked in the Lowell mills. My mother’s great-grandfather, John de Sousa, was an active member of Lowell’s Portuguese community as well as a founding member of St. Anthony’s Parish.
We often speak of the courage our immigrant ancestors showed in leaving behind everything they knew in order to pursue a better life in America. I see the same daring, the same courage, and the same commitment to the American Dream in the immigrants coming to our shores today, yet our immigration laws have not been updated since the 1950s. It’s time for us to pass comprehensive, commonsense policies that better reflect the needs of today’s society and economy. Immigrants play an important role in the United States, contributing at all levels across all industries, and are filling crucial employment gaps.
According to The Harvard Business Review, immigrants make up 15% of our workforce, and account for nearly a quarter of all entrepreneurs in this country. In 2015 alone, they added over $70 billion in revenue to the US economy. Combined, undocumented and documented immigrants contribute over $110 billion dollars annually in state and local taxes, according to the American Immigration Council. Immigrants are incredibly valuable to the overall health of our economy, not to mention contributing to our shared values around hard work, family and community.
As a mother, I think not only about the impacts to our economy, but to our families. No child should live with the constant anxiety of being torn away from the only country she or he has ever known, or the worry that parents or guardians might be sent away from them.
Below are some of the measures I will fight for in Congress:
Bipartisan Reform for DACA/DREAMers
I believe it is time that Congress pass bipartisan immigration legislation.
It’s time for members of Congress to step across the aisle and work with their colleagues, regardless of party affiliation. I applaud efforts to do so, in such pieces of bipartisan legislation as the Gang of Eight Deal, the more recent Uniting and Securing America Act of 2018, and the various iterations of the DREAM Act. These bills are all very similar in their content, and all lay the necessary groundwork for comprehensive reform, including creating pathways to citizenship and seeking to address the root causes of undocumented immigration.
Many DACA recipients and DREAMers were brought to the United States by their parents at very young ages, and have spent almost their entire lives within our borders. To send these people back to their countries of origin would be akin to dropping them in almost any foreign land where they are unfamiliar with the language or customs. These people were brought here through no fault of their own; America is their home, and we must defend our neighbors, not deport them to other countries.
I believe America is the land of opportunity, and that we must welcome those who seek to take advantage of what our country has to offer.
“Chain migration” is a term used by hate groups in order to disguise a racist agenda as an economic one. If we truly intend to support immigrants in our country, we must use supportive language. To that end, the United States has little to fear from family migration. Current family immigration laws, largely enacted by civil rights measures in the 1960’s, allow for a legal immigrant of another country to bring their spouse, children, and other family members to the United States. Family reunification has always been a major goal of U.S. immigration policy. If left unchecked, this system could certainly lead to some of the population issues raised by “chain migration” fearmongers. There are, however, strict measures imposed on family migration – including waiting periods between when an immigrant gains citizenship and when their next family member can join them in the U.S. In many cases that waiting period can be years long per family member. As it stands now, the family visa system in America is severely backlogged – the current applications under review in 2018 for sibling migration from China were originally filed in 2004. In all, the time it takes to create the supposed immigrant “chains” in America can last decades.
Family immigration laws are important because family unity is important. The United States has some of the best institutions of higher learning in the world, and our economy has plenty to offer qualified individuals. Without allowing for regulated family migration we risk alienating those who seek to build lives for their families in the United States; families like mine. Given that immigrants account for a quarter of the entrepreneurs in this country, we should seek to unite them with their families in America. Otherwise, countries with more open immigration laws might attract those students and entrepreneurs, and our economy misses out on the growth they might provide.
My policy priorities:
Pass comprehensive immigration reform that provides a legal path to citizenship.
The House and Senate have spent the better part of twenty years attempting to address the undocumented immigrant population in our country. In that time, many of those undocumented persons have fully integrated themselves to everyday American society. These are our family, friends, and neighbors who have been able to carve out a place for themselves here. Congress should not be in the business of writing legislation that separates families, nor should their action send people to foreign nations when America is the only home they have ever known. Instead, let’s use the example set by past bipartisan reform attempts and set a standard for citizenship. If that standard is met by an undocumented person, they are granted lawful permanent resident (LPR) status, also known as a “Green Card”.
Reduce the immigration backlog and reduce delays in court.
Some of the most significant bureaucratic delays to dealing with immigration in the U.S. are due to the lack of a proper legal infrastructure – there simply are not enough lawyers and judges available to deal with the amount of cases inundating the system. I will push for an increase in the number of Immigration Court judges and Board of Immigration Appeals Attorneys, so that we can expedite the judicial processes.To that end, we must modernize our case management procedures and create electronic filing systems to improve the efficiency of processing such immigrant court cases. In the recent Jennings v. Rodriguez decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the government can indefinitely detain immigrants while deciding their fate. To me, this decision is a flagrant violation of the Sixth and Eighth Amendments and a violation of the natural rights of every individual in custody for immigration cases. Congress must act to right this wrong.
Secure our nation’s borders – without a wall.
Secure borders on the southern and northern edges of the country are necessary to ensure our safety from drug and human trafficking, violence, and terrorism. I am committed to doing all that is necessary to keep us safe. An ineffective, overpriced border wall, however, is not something I support. Despite tough talk from the current administration, it does not seem that Mexico will actually fund such a project. The proposed border wall would actually pull funding from the pockets of American taxpayers, at estimated costs anywhere between $20 billion and $70 billion just to construct. There are smarter, more efficient ways to secure our southern border that take advantage of the natural landscape and don’t do harm to the environment. With that goal in mind, the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection must utilize all effective technologies to better understand the natural regions of our southern border and use that information to our advantage. CBP and DHS must also increase its coordination with local and state law enforcement agencies to ensure that efforts at curtailing illegal activity around the border are systematic and proactive.
Create proactive foreign policies that address the root causes of illegal immigration.
We often overlook the very reason why illegal immigration, especially along the southern border, is happening in the first place – there is a serious lack of economic opportunity and government stability in Central America. The best way to curtail the overwhelming number of immigrants attempting to leave their homes in pursuit of the American Dream is to do everything we can to develop these countries to the point where people are no longer clamoring to leave. The Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle, for example, seeks to address economic opportunity and development in the ‘Northern Triangle’ countries – Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. The Northern Triangle had lost 9% of its total population to immigration by the time their international report was first published in 2014. Without enough human capital, these countries cannot possibly progress and develop at appropriate rates. Moreover, countries destabilized by mass immigration are more likely to fall under the rule of authoritarian leaders, whose rule of law encourages citizens to leave in search of something better. I would seek to support such measures as the PAPNT towards the goals of international development and regional stabilization.
Giving Everybody A Chance at the American Dream
It is important that we recognize what the effects of deportation of undocumented workers would have on the U.S. economy. Of the nearly 800,000 DREAMers, 90% are employed and pay taxes. By removing them from the country, our GDP loses out on an estimated $433 billion over the next decade – not to mention the astronomical costs associated with detaining and deporting so many people.
It is also worth noting that the immigration policies from the current administration do more than attack undocumented immigrants; federal departments have also acted to restrict documented migrant workers. In 2017, the Department of Homeland Security rescinded temporary protected status from Nicaraguan workers. In January 2018, DHS announced they were revoking the same protections from 45,000 Haitian workers and, a week later, announced they were taking the same actions against 200,000 workers from El Salvador. These are individuals who have been screened and deemed able to work in the United States, and many have been living and working within our communities since the Temporary Protected Status program was enacted by President Bush in 1990.
Gaining and maintaining legal residential status for immigrants in the United States grows more perilous every day. There have been reports nationwide of individuals rounded up by customs agents on their way to or from scheduled check-ins with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). These mandatory meetings are meant to keep tabs on those otherwise undocumented persons in our states, and yet they are now used by ICE to target those very same people, whether or not they have violated the terms of their agreement with this country.
We simply cannot tolerate this type of political subterfuge; our governmental practices must be transparent and open to the public. We must maintain the integrity of our institutions, and ensure that we keep the promises we have made to those who work every day to make America a better place to live.
My policy priorities:
Fight the Muslim Ban
One of the saddest days in our country’s history was on January 27th, 2017, when President Trump signed Executive Order 13769. This blatantly racist, unconstitutional law discriminates against those travelling to the US from predominantly Muslim countries. Thankfully, the courts have ruled in favor of justice and blocked most of the provisions in this law. EO-13769 still sits in the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, though, yet to reach a final decision. We must push the judicial system to reach a ruling that defies putting a blanket ban on any immigrant population based on color, race, or creed.
Encourage international study and employment
American colleges and universities are among the very best higher education institutions in the world. The chance to study at one of these prestigious institutions is a privilege, and should be granted to as many people as possible, including international students. By opening our institutions to international students we are able to share American values and spread democracy, while at the same time gaining a wider and more nuanced perspective about the developing world. Pushing legislation that makes it harder for international students to attend American colleges and universities also makes it harder for American students to attend those same institutions. By creating avenues for international students to study here, we are then able to ensure that colleges and universities have revenue streams to then provide aid for other prospective students who might need financial assistance.
For centuries, those who have left their ancestral lands in search of something better have settled here, in the land of the free. I believe that all who come here in search of that freedom should be afforded the chance to attain it. We must embrace our American ideals and open our arms to those looking to make a home here. Let us not forget that we, too, were once new to this land.
In Congress, I will protect the rights of those seeking to make America their home. I will support a comprehensive DREAM Act, I will fight to defend the sanctuary cities that are under attack by this administration, and I will work to ensure that the root causes of mass illegal immigration are addressed in our foreign policy.
I will never support building a border wall, I will not vote for any Muslim or other blanket ban, and I will never aid the deportation of productive immigrant members of our American societies. Such policies are antithetical to the goals of American democracy, and of any government of, by, and for the people.
Immigration is the story of America. We cannot understate how immigrant culture has been woven into the fabric of our nation; their history is our own. It is our duty to accept and protect those who strengthen our communities. We cannot risk sending our neighbors and friends to countries that are unprepared to accept them, where they are strangers, where their children do not know the language or customs. It seems to me that regardless of the arguments, either ethical or economical, the decision is clear: we stand with our neighbors; we stand with our communities. We are all home.
 Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs: U.S. Senate Report: Wall Costs Could Soar Toward $70 Billion