By Representative Charlie Rangel
America's immigration system is broken. Children are separated from their parents, husbands are separated from their wives, and businesses are suffering without efficient workers needed for economic stability. Immigrant families without a breadwinner are struggling to keep their heads above water. Our current archaic immigration policy is long-overdue for comprehensive reform that reflects our nation's core values.
Our great nation was founded by scores of hard-working men and women who came in search of freedom, prosperity, education and a better life for their families. From Walt Disney to Steve Jobs, children of immigrant parents have shaped the fabric of this great nation. To incorporate the innovative ideas, cultural offerings, entrepreneurship and talents that immigrants contribute to our communities, we need to work towards a viable solution that would provide a legal pathway to citizenship.
Since 2001 Democrats in Congress have tried to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. The DREAM Act would grant immigrant students who were brought here at a very early age the opportunity to become American citizens by completing two years of college or of military service in good standing after obtaining a GED or a high school diploma.
Immigrant families and related communities would become more economically stable if the DREAM Act were signed into law. Moreover America's economy, military, and global competitiveness would be strengthened. Over $329 billion would be added to the economy by 2030; 1.4 million new jobs would be created; and $10.2 billion in revenue would be added to the federal government.
The DREAM Act passed in the House in 2010, but unfortunately failed in the Senate due to Republican opposition. Republicans insist on approaching immigration reform "piece by piece," which would severely delay progress. Democrats call for a complete overhaul that offers a fair solution that reunites families, secures our borders, protects civil liberties, establishes a fair opportunity for citizenship, and reaffirms America as a nation of immigrants.
Last month, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus issued an outline to guide our nation through sensible immigration reform. The document, aptly titled, "ONE NATION: Principles on Immigration Reform and Our Commitment to the American Dream," is an embodiment of the Democratic commitment to ensuring equal opportunity for everyone in America.
As we work towards comprehensive immigration reform, my Colleagues and I are dedicated to addressing many difficulties that are currently faced by immigrant families. We recently sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asking for health coverage of individuals receiving relief through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which include undocumented pregnant women and children. Like everyone else, they should be covered under the Affordable Care Act. I also co-sponsored the Reuniting Families Act, which would revise the definition of "immediate relative" to mean a child, spouse, or parents of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
I have seen firsthand the positive contributions that immigrants have made in my own Congressional District in Upper Manhattan. We need a policy that is driven by what is in the best interest of this country while treating our immigrant community with respect. Our society is stronger when families are economically stable and have upward mobility. On Election night, America spoke loud and clear: everyone deserves a shot at the American Dream. Comprehensive immigration reform must be a legislative priority for both sides of the aisle.