The Immigration Reform Battle

Written by

U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia
U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia

Congressman Joe Garcia was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2012. He is a dedicated public servant who has called South Florida home for his entire life. With scholarships and money he had saved from cutting grass with his grandfather on weekends, Congressman Garcia put himself through Miami Dade College and later the University of Miami where he completed his undergraduate studies.

After graduating UM Law School, Gov. Lawton Chiles appointed Congressman Garcia to the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC), the state agency regulating utilities. Serving under both Democratic and Republican governors, he helped usher in the single largest energy rate cut in Florida’s history—meaning lower electricity bills for Florida’s families through the 1990’s. Congressman Garcia left the PSC in 2000 and was named Executive Director of the Cuban American National Foundation where he became one of the country’s leading advocates for human rights in Cuba and Latin America.

In 2009, President Obama appointed Garcia to serve as a director in the Department of Energy where he focused on lowering energy costs for America’s families and greater access to renewable sources of energy.

Congressman Garcia has served on the board of the Spanish American League Against Discrimination and Regis House, a drug addiction prevention center for inner-city youth in Miami. He is a board member and past president of the Cuban American National Foundation. He also previously served as director of the New Democratic Network Hispanic Strategy Center and chairman of the Democratic Party of Miami-Dade County.

Congressman Garcia and his family live in South Florida. He has one daughter, Gabriela (15).

Democracy was founded on the principle that every voice should have a vote. As the end of this year draws near, those voices calling for a vote on immigration reform have never been louder. The calls are heard across cultures, across communities, across the country.

Immigration advocacy groups are united throughout the nation, irrespective of cultural differences, because this is not a Hispanic issue, this is not a Democratic issue, this is a national issue.

Our immigration history is long and storied – a record of millions of people who have contributed to the vast and great landscape of this nation. It is a time capsule filled with perseverance, passion, and promise for new life in a new land. However, as we reflect upon the tragedies and triumphs our ancestors endured to help mold the path we find before us, we have yet to come to a resolution that will ensure a just, fair, equitable society for our generation, and those that lie ahead.

And with this long history of immigration behind us, comprehensive immigration reform is finally within our grasp. On October 2nd, I introduced H.R. 15 – a bill aimed at tackling our archaic immigration policies that have largely been unchanged for nearly three decades. This newly proposed legislation is a modification of the bipartisan Senate-passed bill and seeks to secure our borders, improve the legal immigration system, and provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

While not perfect, we cannot allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.  This bill represents the best of all possible worlds. We can no longer afford to sit and wait, as we have for years, to entertain the notion of a piecemeal approach. That would only serve as another way to kick the can further down the road, essentially repeating the mistakes of the past.

With three House Republicans signed on as co-sponsors, colleagues on both sides of the aisle have begun to recognize the dire need for this long awaited legislation. Many Republicans, once weary of the plan, are beginning to realize this is not some partisan scheme, but instead a critical necessity that has garnered increasing support by an overwhelming majority of voters in Republican-led swing districts.

As estimates predict, implementing comprehensive immigration reform legislation is not only qualifable, but quantifiable. In addition to being a moral imperative, this common sense solution simply makes economic sense. For example, reforming our immigration system would expand entrepreneurship and keep the best and brightest in the United States, significantly contributing to our prosperity in myriad ways. Conversely, should we fail to come to a solution, the Center for American Progress estimates that we stand to lose a cumulative boost to American workers’ earnings by $470 billion over the next decade. And that is only the beginning of the economic consequences we stand to suffer should we continue on this path of inaction.

Unfortunately however, too few Republicans, realize the negative implications of failing to bring this matter to the floor for a vote. Despite the polling numbers to back it, Republican leadership chose not to bring up immigration reform this legislative session. As we embark on the second half of 113th Congress, time is increasingly of the essence. That said, what’s critical to note here is that all we need is 15 minutes, 15 minutes to vote, 15 minutes to make a lifetime of difference, not only for the 11 million people hopeful of a stable life in a country to which they have contributed so much, but for the U.S. as a whole.

Immigration reform is a national priority, and any delay is an impediment to our economic growth. For too long, we have tried doing nothing, only to see the problem get worse. We have tried half measures and last minute recourses, only to see people fall through the cracks into a system that is both inefficient and illogical. Reform is long overdue. While eleven million individuals are counting on us to act, so too is an entire nation. Let us do the right thing and finally let the voices of a nation founded and built by immigrants, be heard.

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