I grew up in public housing, the son of immigrant parents, and I know the important role that immigrants play in the American economy. I saw it with my own eyes.
So when the national debate turns to immigration reform, I am personally motivated to advocate for commonsense reforms to bring our immigration system into the 21st Century.
Today, President Obama came to San Francisco to discuss the importance of passing comprehensive immigration reform this year. He couldn’t have picked a better City to make this case – we’ve always been a place that welcomes entrepreneurs and innovators, from the United States and abroad. Chinese call San Francisco “gum san” or Gold Mountain, a City of hope and dreams to manifest your own destiny. It’s true – our City has always welcomed all comers, and we’re stronger for it.
From the lessons I learned in my childhood to the stories I hear every day as Mayor of San Francisco, I believe deeply that America should welcome immigrants into the unique fabric that defines and differentiates our nation. San Francisco might be Gold Mountain, but it’s time America starts once again living up to its promise as a beacon of freedom and democracy.
The President has four key principles: we must strengthen the border, provide a path to earned citizenship, modernize the immigration system, and make sure everyone is playing by the same rules. Here in San Francisco, we share these goals. It’s time for Congress to act, and we cannot afford to wait any longer.
The latest statistics highlight the urgency of this. We know that approximately 11 million undocumented people are living here among us, working alongside us, sending their kids to school. Those who are undocumented are part of our society already, and they deserve the rights and protections to which all Americans are constitutionally entitled.
Of the undocumented population living in the country already, about one million people are Asian immigrants. Here in San Francisco, these Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Indian, Cambodian men and women are an integral part of our community, and they deserve our best efforts to fight for comprehensive immigration reform this year.
One of the key parts of the reform package is family-based visas. We need to clear the backlog and reunite families. America has always been a nation of immigrants, and to allow families to live together here, lawfully, honors that tradition and strengthens our nation.
The latest numbers from the Congressional Budget Office make the clear economic case for comprehensive immigration reform. The common-sense approach that the President wants and that the Senate approved over the summer will reduce the deficit by nearly $850 billion over the first 20 years, and it will grow the economy by $1.4 trillion over 20 years.
The path is clear: we need commonsense, comprehensive immigration reform, this year. America’s future place in the world depends upon it.
Edwin M. Lee is the Mayor of City & County of San Francisco