Congress is stuck. Our immigration laws are outdated and are no match for the challenges we face.
The San Diego Union Tribune
BY MIKE LEVIN OCT. 19, 2023 4:29 PM PT
Levin, a Democrat, is the representative from California’s 49th Congressional District, which includes parts of northwest San Diego County. He lives in San Juan Capistrano.
You wouldn’t know it from my last name, but I’m the grandson of Mexican immigrants on my mom’s side and a proud member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
My mom’s parents, Rosendo Bringas and Amalia Castaños, both came to the United States from Mexico at a young age in the 1910s. They didn’t have much money, a formal education or English fluency. What they did have was an incredible work ethic and the desire to make a better life in America for themselves and their children. While neither Rosendo nor Amalia graduated from high school, they started successful jukebox rental and real estate businesses. All five of their daughters, including my mom, graduated from college. And now their youngest grandson is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. I only wish they had been alive to see me sworn in.
I like to think that a story like this is still possible in America — that young immigrants without means can still build a better life here, and that the America of today is still as welcoming as it was when my grandparents arrived a century ago.
But as I speak to my constituents, local nonprofit and government leaders, and my colleagues in Congress, it is clear that we are at severe risk of losing our way and America’s welcoming spirit. Our immigration system is badly broken, and it has been that way for many years. To blame one presidential administration or one policy is oversimplifying a complex problem.
Even worse, I have seen far too many who prefer the politics of a broken system as opposed to finding real bipartisan solutions. Because of this, the last comprehensive bipartisan immigration legislation signed into law was under President Ronald Reagan in 1986. In short, Congress is stuck. Our immigration laws are outdated and are no match for the challenges we face.
We need to restart thoughtful discussions between Democrats and Republicans, and explore policies that can pass a deeply divided House and earn at least 60 votes to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.
The good news is that a new bipartisan effort is gaining momentum in Congress. I am proud to support the Dignity for Immigrants while Guarding our Nation to Ignite and Deliver the American Dream (DIGNIDAD) Act of 2023 (H.R. 3599) — commonly referred to as the Dignity Act — the first bipartisan comprehensive immigration legislation introduced in the House in several years.
This legislation, introduced by Reps. María Elvira Salazar, R-Florida, and Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, is a serious effort to forge a bipartisan path forward on immigration. It consists of four core principles: providing a solution for undocumented immigrants living in America; comprehensively addressing border security challenges; strengthening our workforce and economy; and ensuring the United States remains competitive in the future.
While this bill is not perfect, it is a strong starting point for discussions in Congress and with important stakeholders. For example, I take very seriously the concerns regarding the agricultural farm workforce provisions raised by groups like the United Farm Workers. We must work with them and other organizations to improve the bill. But these concerns must not stop our momentum. As Vanessa Cárdenas,executive director of immigration reform group America’s Voice, said, “Before we can craft solutions, lawmakers must come to the
table and Reps. Salazar and Escobar and their colleagues are at least opening the dialogue and setting the table.”
The American people are ready for such solutions. In a recent poll, 82 percent of registered voters, including 80 percent of Republicans, said they agree that “As the U.S. works to restore order at the border, it is important that Republicans and Democrats work together to pass immigration reforms that address labor shortages and inflation, and protect people already here and contributing.”
I implore my colleagues and stakeholders to stop the blame-shifting and name-calling. I hope they will work with us towards bipartisan solutions rather than casting aspersions. While we may disagree on some policy details, we must all share a basic commitment to human dignity.
In sum, I continue to believe that on comprehensive immigration reform or any other issue, we can still do big things when we work together. That’s the way to keep the American dream and welcoming spirit alive.