This Monday, I joined a diverse group of community and religious leaders at the National Press Club to talk about commonsense reform of our broken immigration system. As I stood on the stage, I saw the changing face of the American electorate. I was joined by Mee Moua (President and Executive Director, Asian American Justice Center), Sister Simone Campbell (Executive Director of NETWORK), Chung-Wha Hong (Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition), Héctor J. Figueroa, (President, 32BJ SEIU) and a young DREAMer, Verónica Saravía, who aspires to become a psychologist and a nurse.
Together, we sent President Obama and Congressional leaders a clear message: now is the time to fix our broken immigration system.
On Tuesday, President Obama affirmed that he heard us loud and clear. He knows that we will no longer stand for a defective and outdated immigration system. He knows that we can no longer make immigrants political scapegoats. He knows that we will can no longer force families to be divided.
I was there in Las Vegas when the President gave us his blueprint for immigration reform. Surrounded by SEIU members and our allies, we all cheered the President's leadership and witnessed a momentous shift in the debate.
While the efforts of the White House and the bipartisan group of Senators are promising, I know that the devil is in the details. We will not accept immigration reform that does not include:
- A roadmap to citizenship so that immigrants who work hard and aspire to become citizens are not relegated to second class status
- Building the strength and unity of working people
- A plan to reduce the backlog of immigration cases
- Prioritizing families, guarantees the same rights, obligations and basic fairness for all workers, no matter where they come from
- Keeping businesses competitive
- Ensuring internal and border law enforcement that focuses on preventing drug cartels and criminals from entering the U.S.
We will not accept a piecemeal plan that does not include these priorities. Public opinion is overwhelmingly on the side of commonsense reform, and President Obama is taking the reins by making it clear that immigration reform is a top priority. I, along with the activists who stood beside me on Monday will do everything we can to let lawmakers know that our nation deserves commonsense, accountable reform now - reform that builds our economy and is true to our heritage as a prosperous nation built by immigrants.
I have another message for lawmakers: we will march, rally, pray and knock on your doors on Capitol Hill until there is legislation that includes a path to citizenship. To the lawmakers who wish to stand in the way of fairness and justice, I will reiterate my point once more: the time for commonsense immigration reform is now.