Vital safety net programs that protect immigrant women and children should not be stripped during the Senate's consideration of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said Monday.
Some lawmakers are seeking to deny or significantly delay protections currently in the bipartisan legislation that would help individuals who will apply for Registered Provisional Immigrant status, but Leahy said such protections are crucial to the legislation and to encourage legal immigration.
"While some may want to look like they are being even tougher on the undocumented population, we all need to consider how further punitive measures may deter people from coming out of the shadows," Leahy cautioned. "When kids and pregnant women are put at risk by an urge to punish millions of people who are trying to make a better life for their families, we do not live up to our American values and we do not make this a safer country."
Leahy also cited leading conservatives who told the Judiciary Committee in testimony that immigrants contribute far more to the nation's safety net programs than they receive and would also help reduce the federal deficit. He reiterated that the bill pending before the Senate includes a tough but fair path to citizenship.
"Too often, immigrants have been unfairly blamed and demonized as a drain on our resources," Leahy added. "The facts prove the opposite. We are a nation of immigrants and we should fight to maintain our tradition of protecting the vulnerable and allowing the American dream to be a reality for all in this country."