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NBC Latino Opinion: Pass a pathway to citizenship, not KIDs Act

Jul 26, 2013
Press Release
originally published at

Opinion: Pass a pathway to citizenship, not KIDs Act

Responding to the overwhelming responsibility we have to address the pressing issues of the nation, House Republicans are offering a new example of the same problem. They offer a piecemeal approach to the huge systemic problem our nation faces with our immigration policy. We are forced to question whether they are serious about making the critical changes we need.  Rather than attempt to repair their reputation as a party inclusive of Latino and immigrant communities in America, they are obstructing the best chance for comprehensive immigration reform we’ve seen in more than a generation.

Congressional Republicans helped kill the DREAM Act in 2010, dashing the hopes of students who came to this country as children and who aspire to higher education or military service. Killing DREAM solidified their GOP spiral into out-of-the-mainstream views. Now they want to play politics with the lives of these students and their families as part of an attempt to appear serious and compassionate about immigration reform.

We know that the only thing standing between President Obama’s desk and a real path to citizenship that will bring economic growth is House Republican leadership.  So far, they have refused to bring up comprehensive immigration reform for a vote. They also voted to defund deferred action, the hugely popular and successful administrative program to stop deportation of young people who’ve grown up in the United States.  They are pushing the so-called SAFE Act, which would lead to massive criminalization, discrimination, and racial profiling of our communities. Now, they plan to offer a weaker version of the DREAM Act as a consolation prize, expecting us to cheer them on.

DREAMers have made themselves heard. They won’t leave their parents behind and they won’t stand for any legislation that would condemn them or the rest of our community to a life in permanent second-class status.  That’s not the America we learned about in our civics and history classrooms.  Those aren’t the ideals we learned to live by or that we pledge allegiance to.

As a toddler in Peru, a car pinned Lorella against a wall and her right leg was amputated.  Her parents brought her to the U.S. for medical treatment and a chance at living a full and normal life, where her history wouldn’t stand in the way of her dreams.   Her parents sacrificed everything for her. That story is just one of millions; Lorella’s family is just like families all over the U.S., from Connecticut to Florida to Oklahoma to California and Utah.

They are not just stories, but they are also the driving force behind people who will help boost our nation. Forget that immigration reform with a clear path to citizenship is the right thing to do; DREAMers and their families will also grow the American economy.   Immigrants who earn their citizenship through Congressional legislation will add hundreds of billions of dollars to our future prosperity, creating millions of jobs for Americans.

Here are the facts according to the non-partisan CBO: enacting immigration reform similar to what was passed in the Senate will increase real GDP relative to current law projections by 3.3% in 2023 and 5.4% in 2033,  translating to $700 billion by 2023 and  $1.4 trillion by 2033. Furthermore, such legislation would reduce the federal budget deficit by nearly $850 billion over 20 years.  US debt falls by 3 percentage points as a share of the economy by 2023, compared to current law. This will trigger more spending on goods and services throughout the economy and generate $181 billion in increased economic growth by 2030. Passing legislation with a pathway to citizenship will generate hugely important economic benefits for our nation.

Millions of parents put their own dreams on hold to put their kids first, coming to a new country and starting their lives over for a chance at the American dream for their children.  Any legislative proposal must honor that sacrifice and the blood, sweat, and tears of our parents and their work for their children.

2013 is the year for immigration reform with a real roadmap to citizenship for the entire community—all 11 million hardworking Americans-in-waiting, not just the privileged few.  The work of DREAMers’ parents—cleaning houses and hotels, constructing and maintaining buildings and roads, caring for children and the elderly—is just as valuable to the America we all call home as the college degrees and career goals that form the hopes and aspirations of DREAMers.

We must honor that work, and the people who do it, people who simply want to live the American Dream. The time is now for real immigration reform that creates a path to citizenship for our families and communities.

Lorella Praelli is the United We Dream Managing Director and Rep. Tony Cardenas is a Democrat representing the 29th Congressional District in California.