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Why Immigration Reform Matters

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. 

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The issue is about Illegal Aliens, not immigrants.

the issues

It certainly would help to know what these "reforms" are which everyone is "supporting". People do use the English language very artistically depending on which side they want you to support. "Immigrants" can be "illegal" or "legal", and I agree that the legality qualifier should be used more often if "immigrant" is used. I found this Gallup Poll from June 19, 2013, which may be of assistance:

Re: Common Sense

First, I thank the Secretary and Commerce for this forum and the opportunity to contribute.

There appears a dynamic which works one way seen from one direction and a different way from another, to wit: "we are a nation of immigrants" to excuse the influx of an active segment of our society who may or may not have settled legally, likely knowing of their status. At the same time, we ignore the immigrants, children of immigrants, and their children (of whom I am one) who complied with Law in order to reside and make their lives in this superlative Nation we, they, and anyone else has built. We polarize the issue using selective views of the whole picture to suit our side of the debate.

It is true, from the time of the first settlers, that this is stolen land and all should respect their tenuous claim to sovereignty (save the Native Americans who were displaced by our own immigrant government). The claim of "ours first" is also porous in the case of Mexico, as much Spanish European as Natives in its composition, but a de facto racist, one-sided claim of superiority or at least greater entitlement based upon a half-set foundation. Indeed, while we prosecute those of some races for hate crimes, an educator in Texas can issue a concept that would condone walking over that race (if not commit outright genocide) and be heralded as a hero by groups representing his own race, and go on with it unhindered in the master-race agenda.

Why the double standard in the melting pot?

And as long as we tolerate the new "Separate but Equal" of perks to some groups- generally based in their immigrant situation- and handicaps to others, we are forever going to be on a pendulum of hysterisis in giving to one side while taking from the other, and back and forth.

The immigrant power struggle of the past had a solid basis in national identity and race (such as areas of people from one country or other, as in New York and Chicago for common examples); now the struggle is between those who were the benefactors of the earlier conflict who say "OK now, enough of that" and the new ones who say "But you said for everyone, so we'll take that option until WE have power, and it'll be all for our race/origin and nothing outside of our race/origin". (The race issue is used as a point as much by the immigrants who seek equality on the surface without regard to race, then use it as a catalyst in conflict toward their own ends.)

The problem lies at the fact that America has no natural culture, race, or set of values unilaterally. I love going to foreign lands wherein the people are mostly of one race, one culture and one value: at least they know who they are enough to not fight each other all the time. If I went to a post office in China or Nigeria and pulled down the flag to hoist my own above while putting that one upside down below it, what should I expect? We stomped into a land kept to itself to force our hand into Asia in 1852 (and 1854 with more force yet), and took offense at retribution nearly a hundred years later when someone now slapped us back? Really, logically, what should we expect?

We did set this dynamic up long ago, but we now penalize those who have been here, built and benefitted, and deteriorate our own thread of a solid course and commitment.

And to top it, we continue to presume to go to other countries (such as Vietnam, now that it can provide a basis of cheap production- and a market- for our interests, whose leader we turned our back on when it was the US, not the Soviet Union, whom he turned to as a beacon of freedom for his own people- please read Archimedes Patti, OSS) and lecture them on fairness and openness when it has done what to us?

The pre- World War Two group America First may have had an idea, at least in keeping America strong for America: America can be composed of whomever it wants, but how can it survive at vehement odds within over idealogy as to that composition?

We should choose as a Nation to first espouse some of the integrity that we claim to love. We were settled by explorers in a spirit of expansionist greed, then broke off for self-determination, then wanted to keep it our way while new expansionists are allowed to take as they want out of both their greed, need, and our will to be fair to everyone under the tenets of our foundation in nationhood.

We are applying bandages to a deeper problem, the fact that America was built by taking and maybe cannot afford much more of it practically, whatever anyone says about ideal.

In example, in light of all that business started by immigrants, how many are hiring people from without their own race or community? How many of the "legals" are going to Home Depot to hire the undocumented as well?

And at the focus, how many who- and whose families- have paid their dues under the system which the earlier immigrants established...
are now out of work and income thanks to the tide that's cutting its own path into the fabric (as we like to use that one) of our society's commerce and Law?

What we're up against is that, no matter hoe it started, there are people here who stand to lose while we talk about opening it to others to gain. I'm one of those "legals" from "legal" immigrants just a century ago. I haven't worked in over a year, when I'd be happy to have a simple income for honest work, while there are schemes of training for those who haven't even bothered to learn the language which my grandparents did who are being lobbied for and given advantages because they are so valid in the big picture, and much of this support from the taxes and contribution to commerce which my families made earlier.

I'll be well happy when we can all get along by reason instead of "I want so gimme" which is sadly the mold from which our cookie has been cut.

I commend those who stand for equality; at the same time, I'm fasting too, not because it's a publicity stunt, but because the work I can do, as any in the US, is being parcelled out to this vibrant and dynamic class of the immigrant who just wants a decent life-

no matter what it costs anyone else.

We're a fine nation to care as we do for other peoples and interests, even those who would subvert American interest in American society, but I have yet to see those immigrant interests return the favor. I see some immigrants hire other race, for example, but can name one which seems to hire only its own in this melting pot of fairness and equality.

Once you figure out the disparity in cultural values, you'll have a cohesive society. Until then, you'll likely just go on at tug-of-war until the underdogs are on top, and I have yet to see them, after the perks and special consideration (e.g. specific legal representation, social organizations, training, lobbying), returning the favor to the society which brought them forward and upward.

If you want one America, try viewing it as one America, not Americans to be walked on while we support SIG after SIG of immigrants based upon their being immigrants. We started that way and owe it to ourselves to set it straight if we want any respect at all.

Thank You, and Have a Great Year-