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Public Statements

CBC Hour: Immigration Reform

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. HORSFORD. Mr. Speaker, first I'd like to thank my classmate and colleague and say I look forward to serving with him in this historic 113th Congress as we work together to make this a more perfect Union.

I also represent one of the more diverse districts in the United States Congress. My district is 25 percent Latino, 16 percent African American, 7 percent Asian American, 2 percent Native American. It is a district that reflects both the urban as well as the rural components and communities of our great State of Nevada.

In fact, Congressional District 4 reflects the State of Nevada, and Nevada increasingly reflects all of America. And so I believe that is why President Obama decided, of all places that he could visit, he visited Nevada last week to discuss the fierce urgency of now in adopting a comprehensive immigration reform by this Congress; the fact that Nevada reflects the changing demographics of our country, but it also reflects the broken system which is our immigration system.

And so, as I listened to the President, and as we honor today the 100th birthday of Rosa Parks, I reflect on these issues as a basic fundamental civil right, a human right that is guaranteed to us. So today does mark the 100th birthday of Rosa Parks, an icon in the struggle for justice, a woman who was known as the mother of the civil rights movement.

As an African American woman confronting prejudice and unequal treatment under the law, Mrs. Parks remarked that what pushed her to say ``no'' on that fateful day in Montgomery was the simple fact that her ``mistreatment was just not right,'' and she was ``tired of it.''

She said, and I quote:

I did not want to be mistreated; I did not want to be deprived of a seat that I had paid for. It was just time ..... There was opportunity for me to take a stand to express the way that I felt about being treated in that manner. I had not planned to get arrested. I had plenty to do without having to end up in jail. But when I had to face that decision, I didn't hesitate to do so because I felt that we had endured that too long. The more we gave in, the more we complied with that kind of treatment, the more oppressive it became.

It was not complicated. It was prejudice. It was unfair, and she was sick of it. She was tired of the constant drumbeat of injustice directing every minute of her day. She was tired of facing inequality in a country founded on principles of liberty and justice for all. Her act of civil disobedience sparked a social movement that changed our country forever, and she did it because ``it was just time.''

So today, we honor her courage and her bravery. We remember her legacy and draw lessons from her actions. We take up the cause of promoting more just, fair and humane policy for all, because that's what we owe Mrs. Parks and all our civil rights leaders.

It is our tribute to those larger-than-life pioneers. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ``Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.'' It is that creed of the civil rights movement that still motivates us today.

So today we take up the cause of joining arms with our immigrant brothers and sisters in that spirit. The time is now to lend a hand to those who confront injustice as a result of a broken immigration system. It is just time.

For many undocumented immigrants in our country, they are waiting to start their lives. They are waiting to start a business. They are waiting to reunite with their families, often for years on end.

And while they wait, children see their parents deported. Students get stuck in an educational purgatory and can't attend college and better their lives or get a job in the country that trained them. And mothers and fathers can't provide for their family or care for their loved ones without keeping them in the shadows.

So they can't wait any longer. We can't wait any longer. And as Rosa Parks said, It is just time.

From Africa to Europe to Asia, our dysfunctional immigration system is a disincentive to the best and the brightest worldwide from coming to our great country. We throw talent away. We tear families apart. We show disregard for those trying to live the American Dream.

For far too long, we have put off comprehensive immigration reform, but now we are taking up the opportunity to do something about it. And we cannot let this moment pass. It is in that spirit that we hold today's discussion.

We will not wait any longer. We have to continue strengthening our border, but we will act on comprehensive immigration reform without delay. We will crack down on employers, but we will make sure that there is a pathway to citizenship for those who are here at no fault of their own. And we will fulfill our heritage as a Nation of immigrants and a Nation of laws.

Justice, compassion, and equal protection are our common cause. We have an opportunity to embrace dynamism that immigrants bring to our country, and now is the time to do it.

As I said, this is a civil rights issue. In fact, it is the civil rights and human rights issue of our generation. Just like the civil rights issues of the sixties that were fought by African Americans, and the women's rights issues before that, this is a civil rights issue that must be advocated by all who believe in a sense of justice, opportunity and equality for every person.

And as we work together, we can move forward on immigration reform for the good of our country and for the good of all of us as human beings.

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Mr. HORSFORD. Mr. Speaker, again, I would like to thank the gentleman from New York for yielding and to expound on some of the points that the gentlelady from Texas made in regards to the tremendous progress that has been made on strengthening the border.

She touched on the doubling of the number of Border Patrol agents from 10,000 to 21,000 agents in just the past year. That's a doubling since 2004 of resources. And this is tremendous in that it actually is the largest per year enforcement of any other federal law enforcement combined. It's $17.6 billion worth of enforcement on our border. And so progress has been made. And the deportations signify that. Half of these deportations have been to individuals who committed crimes, illegal crimes, and were deported for that reason.

But let me also touch on another element, which the gentlelady also discussed. And that is immigration, and the history of immigration policy in our country has always focused on the family and keeping the family together and reuniting family members. And so we have to be careful when we talk about deportation, what that means for individuals, because this is a human rights issue.

In my district, in Congressional District 4, I met with a group of citizens on Sunday before the President came, and there was one family there who explained to me a situation where the mother had been deported and the children now are in foster care. They cannot be reunited with their family because of the status issues. And that is something that is having a human toll because we have a broken immigration system that must be fixed. That has always been a cornerstone of our immigration policy in this country, the focus on keeping our families together, not just on labor or economic issues, which should be at the forefront as well.

And so enforcement has been a big cornerstone, and should be a major cornerstone, of the policy going forward. But the pathway to citizenship is the cornerstone. And I believe the Congressional Black Caucus as a stakeholder in this discussion, working with our colleagues on the other side and in the other Chamber, must articulate why there cannot be a precondition, a litmus test on border security, in order to provide for a pathway to citizenship that so many individuals depend on.

Let me also discuss one other element of a comprehensive immigration reform that is necessary, and it's important to my district, in Congressional District 4, and that's the focus on enhancing travel and tourism.

The administration under President Obama is committed to increasing U.S. travel and tourism by facilitating legitimate travel while maintaining our Nation's security. Consistent with the President's executive order on travel and tourism, the President's proposal securely streamlines visa and foreign visitor processing. It also strengthens law enforcement cooperation while maintaining the program's robust counterterrorism and criminal information-sharing initiatives. It facilitates more efficient travel by allowing greater flexibility to designate countries for participation in the visa waiver program, which allows citizens of designated countries to visit the United States without obtaining a visa.

Finally, it permits the State Department to waive interview requirements for certain very low-risk visa applicants, permitting resources to be focused on higher risk applicants, and it creates a pilot for premium visa processing.

So these are all of the components that have to be part of the comprehensive immigration reform. These are the tenets which the Congressional Black Caucus, in working with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific Caucus, believes to be the cornerstones and the principles by which any comprehensive immigration bill should be passed.

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