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CBC Hour: Immigration Reform

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. LEE of California. Mr. Speaker, let me thank all of my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus for highlighting the importance of immigration reform for our community and our country.

Recognizing immigration reform as a key civil rights issue, the CBC continues to be at the forefront of this important topic.

As someone who represents a district with rich cultural diversity, I have witnessed firsthand the need for comprehensive immigration reform.

I have seen families separated by a backlogged visa system, students denied the opportunity to contribute to the country that gave them the tools to succeed and innovate, and LGBT couples unfairly singled out and denied the opportunity to live together within the borders of this country.

Mr. Speaker we need immigration reform because our system is broken. We need it for family unity, for accountability, for fairness and equality, and for the good of our country and economy.

Most importantly we need to create a roadmap to citizenship for the men, women, children, and students living in our country.

These individuals, Americans in every sense of the word but on paper, are just the latest generation of immigrants to contribute to the cultural diversity and vitality of our Nation.

They are hardworking, they are dedicated, and they came here in search of better lives for themselves and their families; their lives are modern-day tales of the American dream and that echo the experiences of the parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents of each one of us.

And now we are at the brink of reforming this broken system and creating one that reflects our values of hard work, family unity, and equity.

Immigration reform will change things for the better, including in those communities that aren't usually at the forefront of this debate: immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean.

And while these immigrant communities aren't typically acknowledged, they have made tremendous contributions to getting us where we are today.

Take for example Shirley Chisholm, my dear friend and mentor, whose father was born in British Guiana and mother in Barbados.

She became the first African American woman elected to Congress and was one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus. She was also the person who inspired me to take part in the political process when I was just a young college student.

And there are others, like Colin Powell, who was born to Jamaican parents and rose to the ranks of four-star General and Secretary of State.

And Harry Belafonte, the ``King of Calypso,'' was also born to Jamaican parents.

And Maureen Bunyan, a well-known news anchor and founder of the National Association of Black Journalists and the International Women's Media Foundation, who was born in Aruba. And the list goes on and on.

I am also proud to say that my own district is home to a growing community of immigrants and their families from places like Ethiopia, Eritrea, and the Caribbean.

They are active contributors to the East Bay region, as well as to a vibrant immigrant community that highlights their distinct cultural backgrounds while emphasizing a strong sense of local unity.

With a new immigration system, members of these communities will finally be able to unite with close family members, many after years and even decades of separation, same-sex bi-national couples will be able to express their love and obtain status equal to that of their neighbors without being separated by a border wall, and we will have an immigration system that people will go through rather than go around.

We also need to make sure that the new system protects and assists workers by increasing the enforcement of workplace standards and antidiscrimination laws.

It must also include more robust programs for job training, including adult education opportunities and programs for low-wage workers.

Lastly, it must make it easier for individuals to compete for jobs and provide resources to take the workers where the jobs are.

I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to make this new system a realization and to better the lives of the immigrant groups in my district and throughout the country.

Thank you again to my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus for continuing this discussion and working toward a bipartisan solution.


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