Immigration policy reform seems to have stalled in Washington, DC, like so many other important national initiatives, mired in the dysfunctional House of Representatives. The stalemate in Congress these days is less about the substantive issues that are facing our nation than a power struggle between the parties, especially the power of the Tea Party, to shape our nation’s agenda. Immigration policy reform is certainly one of these substantive arenas.
Common sense immigration policy change aligns with so many of our country’s basic values and principles. America is a country of immigrants that has always prided itself on recognizing the value and importance of hard work and the belief that it should be rewarded with a decent life. We value the centrality of family as the backbone of our community and national life. Our long-standing emphasis on fairness has a lot to do with understanding that those who care for others and who work hard deserve to be accepted as valued and productive members of our society. These are the values that made Massachusetts great at its founding and which continue to make America a shining beacon of hope and opportunity around the world.
For many years now community, faith, and labor groups from across the country have joined forces to promote positive immigration policies with a roadmap to citizenship for 11 million people – including children, adults, families, and the elderly. These are aspiring Americans who are already well integrated into our country’s economic and social fabric, but who are without full rights and recognition, living in the shadows and in a constant state of fear and insecurity. More than five million American children have at least one parent who is undocumented. Every day thousands of people are deported, leaving children parentless and creating more poverty. It’s time to stop separating and breaking up these families.
We need immigration policy reform that is just and inclusive to all of the 11 million people who live, work, and worship in this country. These are workers, students, parents, and your neighbors who came to the United States looking for better opportunities.
Immigration policy reform is also important to Massachusetts in particular. 15% of all households in our state are made up of immigrant families, who comprise 14.4% of all our state’s population — almost a million people — according to a 2012 Immigrant Learning Center report. Immigrants fuel almost every dimension of our state’s economic development. They work hard: 71.1% of them are in the labor force, compared with 67.5% of other state residents. The immigrant population in Massachusetts is also much younger and rapidly becoming the fiscal backbone of our state’s future. As entrepreneurs, they are creating new businesses at a much higher rate than other residents.
On Saturday, October 5, in cities and towns all over the United States, people from all walks of life will come together to call for renewed attention to immigration reform in Washington. This National Day of Action for Dignity and Respect will bring together everyone who is committed to supporting those who live in the shadows, and the need for fair immigration policy change to bring them into the sunlight. It is an opportunity for everyone who believes that America is a place of fairness and opportunity to show their concern. We urge you to invite your friends and families to take part in one or two activities that are happening near you. Most importantly, call your elected officials in Washington, and tell them that in stalling on immigration reform, they are playing with people’s lives, and with America’s future. Tell them the time for such stalling is over and they must do the right thing for America and its people.
Boston will be one of 80 towns and cities all over America taking action this Saturday. As part of the New England Coalition for Keeping Families Together, which includes 22 immigrant, faith, community and labor organizations, we will begin our March for Dignity and Respect at Copley Square starting at 12 noon, and after circulating the downtown, will end on Boston Common. At the Common, immigrant families will give testimonies on the importance of passing immigration reform for preserving their families. Everyone who cares about these issues is invited to take part in the day’s events!
Natalicia Tracy is the executive director at The Brazilian Immigrant Center