Comprehensive immigration reform is essential if we are to achieve the robust, sustainable growth necessary to secure our long-term economic future. Just one example: at manufacturing plants throughout my district, employers are having a hard time finding the skilled workers they need. As our workforce ages, retirements are expanding the need for qualified, highly skilled workers. Smart immigration policy will help American companies strategically address these challenges.
To better understand the issues around immigration, I gathered input from community and business leaders at an immigration roundtable discussion I organized last year. One participant of particular note was what many call a “DREAMer.” Estefania Garcia shared her story of coming to the U.S. when she was 7 years old, growing up here, going to school here, graduating from college here and now building a career helping others here. Her story did not leave a dry eye in the room.
I was so touched by Estefania’s experiences that I invited her as my guest to the President’s State of the Union Address. Her success and her impact in the community personify the strong case for comprehensive reform.
When considering that case, it is perhaps most important to remember that her story is not at all unique. At colleges and universities across the country, gifted, ambitious students face the real fear that after graduation, they’ll have to leave this country and apply their skills, achieve their dreams, somewhere else.
These young DREAMers are only some of the faces of immigration reform. But their stories underscore the urgent need to fix our broken system. This is why four of my Illinois colleagues joined me to invite advocates for immigration reform to the State of the Union—to emphasize the need.
Rarely do we face an issue with such significance for the social and economic fabric of our society. Yet, comprehensive immigration reform poses just such significance. Comprehensive reform is good for our economy, for our communities and for individuals across the country.
In fact, our current system is so broken that fixing it will actually save money. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates $175 billion in savings from the Senate’s bipartisan comprehensive reform package.
Simply put: comprehensive immigration reform is a win-win proposition. We’ll be able to attract the world’s most gifted STEM minds to our schools, train them and then encourage them to stay here and help us achieve 21st Century success. Our economy will be injected with the talent and skills it needs to thrive. And 11 million people will pay taxes and become fully engaged in our democracy for the first time.
We can do well by doing right.
So let me close with one more story. Last year, I attended a naturalization ceremony and watched 53 people from 19 different countries take the Oath of Citizenship and say the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time as Americans. That powerful moment affected everyone in attendance that day—family, friends, neighbors, even strangers.
Experiencing the incredible feeling of hope and achievement at that ceremony and understanding the indisputable economic benefits of real improvements to our system, I had no doubt whatsoever about the absolute need for comprehensive immigration reform legislation. I call on all of my colleagues to join me in this effort.