GUTIERREZ: CONGRESSIONAL HISPANIC CAUCUS ASKS FOR "ONE SIMPLE THING" IN IMMIGRATION REFORM: FAIRNESS
"When my colleagues and I demanded fairness for immigrants
we used to be kind of like the unwanted party crasher…
All of a sudden we’re the belle of the ball."
(Washington, DC) -- Today, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) held a press conference in the U.S. Capitol to release their principles for immigration reform in the upcoming congressional session. The principles, "One Nation: Principles on Immigration Reform and Our Commitment to the American Dream (link)" were drafted to guide the Caucus' work and make their priorities clear.
Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) is the Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Below are his remarks at today's press conference as prepared for delivery:
Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez
Remarks As Prepared
Thank you Charlie [Gonzalez, outgoing CHC Chair] – and thank you for your leadership as our Caucus Chair.
Thank you to my good friend Senator Bob Menendez, and my thanks to the good people of New Jersey who were wise enough to overwhelmingly re-elect this key leader.
Ruben, [Hinojosa, incoming CHC Chair], I’m looking forward to working closely with you to advance immigration reform and the priorities of our community in the next Congress.
I brought a few documents with me, just as a reminder of how long the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and I have been working on comprehensive immigration reform.
Here is the comprehensive immigration reform bill I introduced in 2004, the first bicameral immigration reform bill with Senator Kennedy. And then the first bipartisan, bicameral bill in 2005 introduced with Jeff Flake, Jim Kolbe, John McCain and Senator Kennedy.
By 2007, Jeff Flake and I had a 700 page bill 80 co-sponsors. Then, in 2009 we had a bill weighing in at 650 pages, and with more than 100 co-sponsors.
I could bring along many other bills – from helping Dream Kids to protecting families -- but honestly, I can only carry so much at one time. My arms get tired.
And I think this stack alone makes my point.
For years and years, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has been fighting for immigrants to our nation. For years, I have asked for one simple thing – fairness.
Fairness for people who work hard, pay taxes and make America a better place to live for all of us.
And what was the result?
A Congress that refused to act. A Republican party who demonized immigrants instead of dealing in good faith.
Because of Congressional inaction -- good people, who are only asking for the chance to work hard, help their communities and keep their families together – have been forced to stay in the shadows and been forced to go around our legal system because they could find no way through it.
Well, you know – elections are very useful things.
Because election results can show the people who pointed fingers of blame at immigrants instead of pointing us toward a solution for immigrants the folly of their ways.
Democracy is wonderfully educational.
When my colleagues and I demanded fairness for immigrants we used to be kind of like the unwanted party crasher – the one who makes all of the other guests uncomfortable. We stood alone, in the corner.
All of a sudden we’re the belle of the ball.
Well, it’s time to dance.
You know why? Because what we’ve always been asking for on behalf of America’s immigrants is simple and fair and just. Comprehensive immigration reform is the right thing to do and it’s good for everyone.
We’re unveiling our nine principles today. My colleagues will walk us through them.
These fundamental principles haven’t changed much over time, but now is the time to make them reality.
I talked at length with Senator Menendez about these principles and circulated them over the past two weeks to all of my colleagues. What we’re unveiling today represents a consensus of the Caucus – a declaration of what is right for immigrants.
But here’s what every American should know. These principles don’t just help immigrants – they help all of us. I can sum them up in a just a sentence or two.
Let's have an immigration system that reflects our values and interests as a nation and that recognizes we are both a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. But let's create laws that work for us, get people in the system, don't let employers cheat to undercut their competition or America's native workers and which gives immigrants a simple deal: if you work hard and play by the rules, you can stay and join us.
Let me close by saying that my mentor, Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, used to tell me “You can’t use government to settle old scores.”
I’ve thought about that a lot.
Those of us who have led the fight for immigrants have a lot to be frustrated about. America’s immigrants have every right to feel anger about how they have been treated, ignored, mocked and lied about.
We need to set that anger aside.
The Congress that starts in January has an historic opportunity to help immigrants. We can – and should – make history in this session of Congress by passing comprehensive immigration reform. Not next session, not next time, not next term. Next isn’t good enough. Next will not be part of our vocabulary.
So I want to bring up my colleagues who will go over our principles, entitled One Nation: Principles on Immigration Reform and Our Commitment to the American Dream
[Reading of the "One Nation" Principles]
Let me be clear about this -- we want to work with Republicans to find common ground, help the American people, and help America’s immigrants.
But common ground is based on common decency, and common sense. These principles reflect that common decency. Protect families and keep them together. Make sure people can work and not be abused and mistreated in their workplace. Get people out of the shadows and into the system, paying taxes and playing by the rules. And keep our border safe and secure for everyone.
That has to be our common ground. These principles are common sense, common decency.
It’s a time of uncommon opportunity. A time when 12 million people – good people who are just as American as you and me except for a piece of paper – are ready for our help. They need our help. They deserve our help.
Together, we can make history.
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