EDINBURG, November 28 - The incoming chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus says it is “downright shameful” that talented students who want to make their careers in the STEM fields can never become U.S. citizens.
U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa said he knows firsthand the contributions immigrants have made and continue to make to help the United States prosper. His district, anchored on the Texas-Mexico border, has a high number of undocumented immigrants.
The Mercedes Democrat sees many of the students who cannot become U.S. citizens each year at HESTEC, the conference he launched at UT-Pan American to encourage students to take careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
“I see so many hard working immigrants who long to become U.S. citizens because they love this country. When I think of the talented students who want to make their careers in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics but who are told they and their families can never become U.S. citizens, it is downright shameful,” Hinojosa said.
“We are a better country and a stronger country because of immigrants. Immigrants are our past and they are our future. The time is now, and it is long overdue, for Congress to work together to create comprehensive immigration reform in the United States of America.”
Hinojosa made his comments on the day the CHC delivered a nine-point document titled ‘One Nation: Principles on Immigration Reform and Our Commitment to the American Dream.’ He said he would work with the leaders of other House Caucuses to ensure the passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
"Now more than ever we must ensure the passage of comprehensive immigration reform," Hinojosa said. "I believe by working in conjunction with other House Caucuses, such as the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus along with some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, we can do what is right.”
Joining Hinojosa at a news conference at the Capitol Visitors Center, House Radio and TV Gallery, Studio A, was the outgoing chairman of the CHC, Congressman Charles Gonzalez, D-San Antonio, Texas, along with U.S. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, and Congressman Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois.
The CHC issued a statement to accompany their nine-point document:
“Today, we declare our commitment to the American people to work tirelessly toward common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform that serves America’s interests, promotes fairness and the rule of law and contributes effectively and meaningfully to our economic well-being and recovery.
“America has always been a nation of immigrants. In order to preserve our history, national identity and culture we must create a modern, 21st century legal immigration system that reflects our legacy.”
The nine-point document, ‘One Nation: Principles on Immigration Reform and Our Commitment to the American Dream,’ is as follows:
1. Requires the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to register with the federal government, submit to fingerprinting and a criminal background check, learn English and American civics, and pay taxes to contribute fully and legally to our economy and earn a path to permanent residency and eventual citizenship;
2. Protects the unity and sanctity of the family, including the families of bi-national, same-sex couples, by reducing the family backlogs and keeping spouses, parents, and children together;
3. Attracts the best and the brightest investors, innovators, and skilled professionals, including those in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) studies, to help strengthen our economy, create jobs, and build a brighter future for all Americans;
4. Builds on the extraordinary success of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and incorporates DREAMers—those who were brought to the U.S. at a young age and are Americans but for a piece of paper—into the mainstream of life in the United States through a path to citizenship so that America benefits from their scholastic achievements, military service and pursuit of their dreams;
5. Includes a balanced, workable solution for the agriculture industry that ensures agricultural workers have a route to citizenship and employers have the workers and American agriculture continues to lead in our global economy;
6. Ends the exploitation of U.S. and immigrant workers by providing sufficient, safe, and legal avenues for foreign workers to fill legitimate gaps in our workforce, with full labor rights, protection from discrimination, and a reasonable path to permanency that lifts up wages and working conditions for both native and foreign-born workers and their families;
7. Ensures smart and reasonable enforcement that protects our borders and fosters commerce by targeting serious criminals and real threats at our northern and southern borders and promotes the safe and legitimate movement of people and goods at our ports of entry and which are essential to our economy;
8. Establishes a workable employment verification system that prevents unlawful employment and rewards employers and employees who play by the rules, while protecting Americans’ right to work and their privacy; and
9. Renews our commitment to citizenship, to ensure all workers pay their fair share of taxes, fully integrate into our way of life and bear the same responsibilities as all Americans and reaffirms our shared belief that the Citizenship Clause of the Constitution is a fundamental freedom that must be preserved.
“Our immigration laws ought to reflect both our interests and our values as Americans and we believe these principles are consistent with our nation’s commitment to fairness and equality,” Gonzalez said.
“We commit to adhering to the above principles as we negotiate on behalf of all Americans in good faith with both parties and all stakeholders in the immigration reform debate. We acknowledge that the time to reform the system is long past due. We ask all sides to set aside the vitriol and gamesmanship that is often a part of this debate and that blocks our ability to truly solve the problem. The American people deserve nothing less.”
Meanwhile, the United We Dream group has rejected the “ACHIEVE Act” proposed Tuesday by U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona. Both senators are retiring from the Senate. Their bill is a Republican response to the DREAM Act favored by Democrat.
“This proposal from some in the Republican Party - the same party that killed the Dream Act in 2010, pushed ‘self-deportation,’ and supported inhumane policies that divide our families and our communities - is a cynical political gesture,” said Lorella Praeli, director of advocacy and policy at United We Dream. “This proposal falls well short of the policy changes which further American values of fairness and community and which DREAMers and the majority of Americans support.”
Praeli said DREAMers and their supporters “have more power than ever,” having won the deferred action policy that was “backed by the resounding electoral impact” of Latino, Asian, and immigrant voters at the ballot box on Nov. 6.
“We can’t take seriously legislation that does nothing to provide a roadmap to citizenship. We won’t stop fighting until we win citizenship for every single new American. We need Senators Hutchison and Kyl, and the rest of their party, to come to the table and sit down with Democrats to come up with a real solution. We won’t stop until we’ve won citizenship for DREAMers and the other new Americans who deserve to be a part of this country they call home.”