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The Need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior and an immigrant herself, addresses newly naturalized Americans in a ceremony at the Refugee Women’s Alliance in Seattle, Washington.

Ed. note: This is crossposted from See the original post here.

Yesterday, on Women’s Equality Day, I had the privilege of addressing some of the newest members of our American family at a naturalization ceremony. Held at the Refugee Women’s Alliance in Seattle, Washington, the ceremony welcomed 20 women and men who have all earned the precious right to call this country home.

It was a special and personal ceremony for me because I, too, am an immigrant. As a young girl, I emigrated from England to Seattle with my family. My parents found their new home welcoming – where people from all backgrounds had an opportunity to thrive. What began as a two year adventure turned into a lifetime of pride in the U.S. and an opportunity to give back through their work – something that lives on in their children and grandchildren.

American citizenship gives us so much, but it also asks much. During yesterday’s ceremony, I challenged the women and men I met to make the most of their citizenship, to make their voices heard and to take an active role in their communities. We all have a responsibility to ensure that America reflects the values and ideals of freedom and opportunity that we cherish. 

These individuals, who have just realized their own American dreams, serve as a reminder of how many more men and women are still reaching for theirs. Today in this country, we still have approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants and 8 million undocumented workers. This shadow economy not only stifles these individuals from reaching their full potential, it stops us as a country from reaching ours.

Now is the time for us to pass comprehensive immigration reform.  

A report issued this month by the White House shows how a range of economic research estimates that providing a pathway to earned citizenship would boost U.S. GDP by $1.4 trillion over 10 years, would generate $184 billion in additional state and federal tax revenue, and add close to 2 million jobs to our economy.

Immigrant women, like those I met yesterday, make up 40% of all immigrant business owners in the U.S. and 20% of all female U.S. business owners as of 2010. The estimated 5.4 million undocumented women can never hope to enrich our economy in this same way unless we fix our broken immigration system and provide them with a path to earned citizenship. 

I’m proud to have been able to realize a part of my family’s American dream and honored to stand up on behalf of President Obama this week and be among the first to welcome our new fellow citizens.