Guest blog post by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker
This week, I visited the “Fast for Families” tent on the National Mall with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to show our support for passing commonsense immigration reform. I was humbled by the courageous men and women we spoke with, who are making a personal sacrifice to end the human suffering they have witnessed as a result of our current immigration system.
The “Fast for Families” was launched by faith, immigrant rights and labor leaders on November 12 and has been ongoing since. The dedicated leaders who have gathered to fast on the National Mall have been driven by their individual experiences, but they are united in their commitment to seeing Congress pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Those I met with included Rudy Lopez, who had already completed 21 days of his fast. I spoke with the son of Iranian immigrants, the daughter of migrant workers, and an undocumented immigrant from Mexico City who was on the fifth day of her fast. They each had a different story, but they all expressed their desire to live in a country that remains the source of hope and opportunity for people all over the world.
The fact is, the vibrant fabric of this nation has always been made up of immigrants. My great grandfather came to the United States in the 1800s from Czarist Russia, dirt poor, at the age of 10. He taught himself English, worked several jobs, earned his law degree at night, and opened a law practice at the age of 30 in 1902. His story is the story of countless immigrants to this country, who come to America seeking a better life and better opportunities. In doing so, they have contributed to our success as a nation.
In 2011, immigrants started 28 percent of all new businesses in the United States, though they only accounted for 13 percent of the U.S. population. And, more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or children of immigrants.
The President and the Senate’s bipartisan proposal builds a smart, effective immigration system that continues efforts to secure our borders and makes sure that every business and every worker plays by the same set of rules. Estimates are that the Senate-passed immigration reform bill can grow the economy by $1.4 trillion over the next two decades and reduce the deficit by nearly $850 billion. Commonsense reform will also attract the best minds to America by providing visas to foreign entrepreneurs looking to start businesses here. As well, it will provide our nation’s best and brightest foreign students with an opportunity to pursue an education and stay in this country after graduation. Immigration reform will also reunite families in a timely and humane manner.
I have traveled all over the country since I was sworn in as Secretary of Commerce nearly 6 months ago, and I have heard tremendous support for passing immigration reform. The business community understands the numerous ways in which immigrants to this country not only benefit our economy but enrich our nation. The passionate example set by the fasters – who are so dedicated to making their voices heard – is one we can all emulate. Their courage and commitment is shining a light on what is morally right for this country and the values we, as Americans, represent.