Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding immigration reform. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
For most of her life Anna Ledesma has been afraid. She was a model student at Centennial High School in Las Vegas -- an artist and a member of Key Club. As one of the top academics at her large high school, she received the Millennium Scholarship to study nursing at the College of Southern Nevada. Now she's studying hard for her nursing exams. But 23-year-old Anna has lived for a long time with the constant fear that she will be deported.
Anna is an undocumented immigrant. She was born in the Philippines and brought here by her parents when she was 7 years old. She was in the second grade.
This is what Anna told the Las Vegas Sun newspaper: "I would tell myself that they're not going to deport me because I'm a nursing student and I'm working really hard and I want to make a difference in my community [But] all the time, constantly in the back of my head, I think about being deported and having to start over."
Thanks to a directive issued last year by President Obama, Anna and 800,000 other young people like her -- young people who are American in all but paperwork -- won't be deported. President Obama's directive suspended deportation of DREAMers -- students brought to America illegally when they were children.
These young people share our language. They share our culture. And they share our love for America -- which in most cases is the only country they have ever known. Like Anna, the DREAMers are talented, patriotic young men and women who want to defend our nation in the military, get a college education, and work hard to contribute to their communities and this country.
Still, the Republican majority in the House of Representatives sent a chilling message last week when it voted to roll back President Obama's directive. Republicans voted to resume deportation of upstanding young people just like Anna who were brought to this country illegally through no fault of their own.
That's why it's vital that Congress act at long last to fix this nation's broken immigration system. President Obama's directive is temporary -- and squarely in the crosshairs of the Tea Party-driven Republican right wing. The directive is also no remedy for more than 10 million others -- many of whom are the parents or siblings of DREAMers -- who are living here without the proper paperwork.
But a permanent, common-sense solution to our dysfunctional system is in sight.
This bipartisan legislation is the solution our economy needs. It is the solution immigrant families need. And it is the solution Anna needs.
This bill isn't perfect. That's the nature of legislating -- compromise is necessary and inevitable. But this measure takes important steps to reform our broken legal immigration system, strengthen border security and hold unscrupulous employers accountable.
Over the next three weeks Senators will propose many ideas to make this legislation better. But those changes must preserve the heart of the bill -- a pathway to earned citizenship that begins by going to the back of the line, paying taxes and fines, learning English and getting right with the law.
Whether we're Democrats or Republicans, whether we're from red states or blue states, we can all agree the current system is broken. We can all agree on the need for action. This bipartisan legislation is our best chance in many years to mend the broken system.
The Senate is about to engage in this important debate -- a debate about the kind of country that we are and must continue to be. This nation was founded on the promise that success should not be an accident of birth, but rather the just reward for hard work and determination. It's no wonder so many people from so many nations wish to share in that promise.
The United States of America has always welcomed immigrants, and that will never change.
For those like Anna, the words of a Jewish proverb are appropriate: dreams do not die. And therefore it is up to us to help fulfill those dreams and fix our broken immigration system.