Capitol Report – 2013: The time for meaningful immigration reform
By State Representative, Leon D. Young
America currently faces a myriad of hot-button political issues. Immigration reform is one of those thorny policy areas that need to be addressed immediately, in a comprehensive and compassionate way.
The president has promised to make immigration reform a top priority of his second term. But, as we have seen time and time again during this administration, there’s many a twist between the cup and the lip – and delivering a coherent national policy on immigration reform will be a difficult undertaking to say the least.
Making the rounds before the national media in Washington (D.C.), Antonio Villaraigosa, the 41st and current mayor of Los Angeles, is championing the cause for immigration reform. In a speech delivered before the National Press Club recently, Mayor Villaraigosa put forth a compelling case for making a pathway to full citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants.
In his prepared text (entitled, “Immigration Reform: The Time is Now”), the mayor began his remarks by making reference to one specific day in March of 2006, when over one million undocumented immigrants marched on Los Angeles City Hall. From his perspective, these individuals were willing to step out of the shadows of second-class citizenship, for at least one day, in order to deliver a simple message – “This is our home now.”
Like Mayor Villaraigosa, I, too, take exception (and offense!) to calling this demographic of our population “illegal.” True enough, they may have come here illegally, but they also came for a better life and most have contributed much to this nation.
As Mayor Villaraigosa makes the argument, a comprehensive immigration policy is the moral and economic imperative of our time. When the head of a household becomes a citizen, family income rises almost 14 percent on average. For the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. that would generate over $1.5 trillion in the next decade. And for the federal government that would mean $4.5 billion in new tax revenue over the next three years alone.
This week the nation will once again play homage to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s extraordinary struggle for human equality, by observing his birthday. If Dr. king were alive today, I’m sure he would be an unwavering proponent for comprehensive immigration reform that provides an unimpeded pathway to full citizenship. Moreover, I fervently believe that Dr. King and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa would have been inseparable allies in this immigration quest and close personal friends, as well.
In closing, I would like to quote the eloquent words of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa directly:
There are few more fundamental questions [in terms of immigration policy] that we face than who we welcome to our shores, how we secure our borders, what we do to include the millions of undocumented men and women who work hard and do the hardest work and how we keep them safely together with their 5 million citizen children and nearly 2 million Dreamers who know no other country but this one. These questions go straight to the heart of who we are as a people.
Let’s make 2013 the year when we welcome 11 million people out of the shadows, by extending a clear pathway to full citizenship.