Seventeen years ago, I graduated law school and became an immigration attorney. It didn’t take long for me to realize that our immigration system needed serious fixes after the passage of the “Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.” For the past decade it feels like we have been discussing immigration reform, the need for protection of Dreamers, the important contributions of immigrants, and so many other issues, ad nauseum. I’m certain my friends are a little tired of me constantly sharing stories about the need for reforms, but it is tremendously important to me and to our country. On almost a daily basis I see how our immigration laws hinder business owners from hiring and retaining critical employees, how families are broken apart and how immigrants seeking refuge and safety struggle to navigate this confusing and unforgiving system. As time has worn on, I have realized that my voice matters, since many that I serve are unable to use theirs openly.
And here we are again. The Senate is set to debate on what may become the immigration reform that many have sought for the past several years. But this debate could be very different.
This is potentially the first truly meaningful discussion and debate on immigration reform on Capitol Hill since spring of 2013, and the Senate is going to have at it. No one really knows what this is going to look like.
We got some hints a couple nights ago with the Senate Republicans’ launch of the Secure and Succeed Act, which is essentially the president’s restrictionist wish list wrapped up in a bow with some shiny Dreamer protection attached to distract the eye. (Newsflash, not distracted. The majority of Dreamers themselves are against this sort of horse-trading that endangers their loved ones and others for a vague commitment to themselves.)
Well, that’s a nonstarter of a package, but as the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly has said about this old-school legislative debate procedure they are implementing, whomever gets to 60 wins.
Ok, that’s true in the Senate. But, as we saw in 2013, that’s only one piece of the puzzle. There could be a robust debate and something meaningful could be passed, something that will save the Dreamers and not eviscerate our nation’s proud history of re-unifying families and being that shining city on a hill. The Senate could vote on, finally, an exit from the hellish limbo that Dreamers have been subjected for so much of their lives, solidifying their futures and increase our shared prosperity.
That would be an immensely important step.
Sadly, I’ll remind you that in 2013, House leadership dropped the ball when the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill. And while I fervently hope they wouldn’t do the same with a narrow, targeted Dreamer-focused bill that more than 80% of the American public supports (including a majority of Republican voters), I can’t guarantee it in this current political climate. And that worries me.
But first, we have to get Senate buy-in. And that’s where I’m going to be turning to friends and family on Facebook and Twitter and anywhere else I can reach them. We all need to take action and let our voices be heard, that #AILAStandsWithImmigrants. When you see a bad amendment getting lifted up, call, tweet and email your Senators to urge them to shoot it down. Tell them why immigrants are our country’s strength, not a weakness. Write a letter to the editor or an op-ed. Share your own immigrant story or the story of one currently facing deportation. Post on social media. Educate yourself on the facts when it comes to immigration and the current system. Get other people to take action as well. Now is not the time to sit quietly, we must once again speak up.
I’ve chosen this work, and for as long as I’ve been an immigration attorney, there have been things I really wanted to change about our immigration laws, there are misconceptions and inaccuracies I’ve tried to debunk, and there have been debates and discussions galore. Our voices matter and the Senate needs to know that we care. That we’re watching. We need to steer them in the right direction and then we can turn to the next challenge: the House.
To call your Senator, dial (202) 224-3121 to get the Senate Switchboard and ask to speak to your Senator’s office by name.