"We are a nation enriched by immigrants, and Americans know that our strength has always been built on the fundamental idea that America is a place where many become one," says AFT President Weingarten
Washington—Statement of AFT President Randi Weingarten on the Senate's passage of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744).
"When the history books are written, this week will go down as one of our nation's biggest, with our government taking huge steps both forward and backward on equality and opportunity. And one of those huge forward steps is what the Senate did today.
"We are a nation enriched by immigrants, and Americans know that our strength has always been built on the fundamental idea that America is a place where many become one. The Senate today passed legislation that respects our values and history as a nation and will help bring 11 million aspiring Americans, students and families out of the shadows and provide them with a meaningful path toward citizenship. We applaud the senators who worked tirelessly to craft this legislation and ensure its final passage.
"We see the consequences of our broken immigration system every day in our schools—the look in children's eyes when they fear what will happen to their parents or, even worse, fear for themselves if they go to school at all. The draconian, hurtful anti-immigrant laws in Alabama and elsewhere showed that pain and fear so clearly.
"While far from perfect, the immigration bill passed by the Senate will help ensure that students who have worked hard and followed the rules are given the opportunity to attend college, that we protect workers from exploitation and hold employers and recruiters accountable, that our flawed visa system is improved, and that we end the separation of families. It is both morally right and economically smart; the Congressional Budget Office estimates that this bill will reduce the deficit by nearly $160 million in the next 10 years and nearly $700 billion in the decade following. We urge the House to follow the Senate's lead and pass this historic bill.
"Moving forward, we would like to see the DREAM Act extended to children who are too young to have graduated from high school or completed a GED. Our youngest children should not be forced to wait more than a decade before being eligible for citizenship. And we must strengthen enforcement policies to address racial profiling. We are also disappointed that the bill does not give U.S. citizens, visa-contingent workers and lawful permanent residents the ability to seek visas on the basis of a permanent relationship with a same-sex partner. Failure to allow families to remain together hinders assimilation into American life and creates additional pressure for unauthorized immigration.
"Like many Americans, my grandparents were not born in the United States. They sacrificed much to get to their beloved adopted homeland, and they worked hard once here. Other immigrants deserve the same chance. Our work to ensure dignity, respect and justice for all who call our nation home is far from complete, but this legislation represents a major leap toward realizing that dream."