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Seizing the Opportunity to Pass Commonsense Immigration Reform

Three words sum up the President’s message at the State of the Union last night: opportunity, action, and optimism.  In this year of action, the President made clear he will seek out as many opportunities as possible to work with Congress in a bipartisan way. President Obama reiterated his firm commitment to work with Congressional leaders to pass commonsense immigration reform in 2014: 

“If we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement – and fix our broken immigration system.  Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted.  I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same.  Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades.  And for good reason: when people come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent, and contribute to our culture – they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone.  So let’s get immigration reform done this year.”

The President remains focused on passing meaningful, comprehensive legislation that is consistent with his principles, including reforms that create a path to earned citizenship, continue to strengthen border security, hold employers accountable, and modernize the nation’s legal immigration system. 

The President remains focused on passing meaningful, comprehensive legislation that is consistent with his principles, including reforms that create a path to earned citizenship, continue to strengthen border security, hold employers accountable, and modernize thLast night, we were reminded once again that America has always been and continues to be a proud nation of immigrants. The President told the story of Estiven Rodriguez, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who moved to New York City at the age of nine. Despite speaking no English when he arrived in the United States, Estiven excelled in school with the support of great teachers and just found out he’s going to college this fall. The core idea that our country is founded on is this: If you work hard and play by the rules, you should have the opportunity to succeed.  Your ability to get ahead should be based on your hard work and ambition and who you want to be, not just the raw circumstance of who you are where you are born. Estiven’s story represents this core tenet of the American dream. 

Immigrant stories were also lifted up by the The First Lady, who invited Cristian Avila and Carlos Arredondo, both immigrants, to the State of the Union as her guests. Their American stories are a reminder of the impact immigrants make in our communities. 

  • Cristian Avila was brought to the U.S. as a young child more than a dozen years ago in search of a better future. As an undocumented student in Arizona, Cristian received deferred action from deportation as part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) process. In 2013, Cristian joined civil rights leader Eliseo Medina and became a core faster with the Fast for Families, fasting for 22 days to raise awareness about the families separated by our broken immigration laws. 
  • Carlos Arredondo is a naturalized citizen who became an American hero in the aftermath of the tragic Boston Marathon bombing. Carlos became famous for helping Jeff Bauman, a victim of the attack, find immediate medical attention. Carlos’s selflessness saved Jeff’s life that day, and reminded us of the heroism displayed by countless immigrants who have made this country their home. His son served in Iraq where he was fatally shot. As a father, Carlos made the ultimate sacrifice for his country, and today, raises awareness on the costs of war and peace in our nation. 

Immigrants like Cristian and Carlos serve our communities every day, and today, national leaders like San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee have joined in a national effort to urge Congress to act and pass immigration reform. Mayor Lee was also a guest of the First Lady last night. Mayor Lee is the son of Chinese immigrants, and became the first Asian American elected as San Francisco Mayor. Mayor Lee reminds us that we all have immigrant narratives, and can trace our own American story back to a relative who was simply searching for greater opportunity and a better future in the United States. He has been a vocal advocate for immigration reform, highlighting the economic importance of immigrants and the challenges they face under the current system. 

In San Francisco, 35 percent of business owners are immigrants – and its economy is among the fastest growing in the country.  That’s just in one city.  Imagine how much our national economy would benefit if we passed immigration reform? The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that our economy would grow by nearly $1.4 trillion over the next two decades and thousands of new jobs would be created.

The President stands ready to work with a broad coalition of stakeholders to fix our broken system. He will work with all parties in Congress to achieve the ultimate goal of reform so that we can bring our immigration system into the 21st century. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, business, labor, and faith and law enforcement leaders all agree that we cannot afford to wait any longer. Cristian, Carlos, Estevin, Mayor Lee, and many more depend on it.  Now is the time to pass commonsense immigration reform.