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Op-ed: Fixing broken immigration policy is our bipartisan dream

Published February 18, 2017 3:00 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

President Donald Trump's recent executive actions on immigration policy are showing us that we need permanent and comprehensive immigration reform, now more than ever. Coming from different party delegations, it is not often we cross the aisle and agree on an issue, but on this we can agree. It is imperative we support the bipartisan legislation that addresses one component of our immigration problem.

We are specifically concerned about the uncertain future of DREAMers, the recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The BRIDGE Act is a bipartisan legislation that was reintroduced to Congress at the beginning of 2017 and would grant DACA-eligible individuals a temporary work permit and deportation relief for three years after the bill becomes law.

Through DACA, about 800,000 young immigrants who came to this country illegally as children — many of whom being too young to even remember their country of origin — were given the opportunity to go to school, work and live without the threat of deportation. To qualify for DACA, they had to register and pass extensive background checks. They pose no safety risk. Most of them are studying or working and paying taxes. Some of them are nurses, teachers, entrepreneurs, and some have even served in our military. It would be a huge loss to our economy and our communities should these hard-working young adults have to suffer.

Trump has signaled that he will keep DACA in place for now, but his recent actions that escalate interior enforcement by removing priorities for deportation are a wake-up call. The action is a blanket travel ban that goes too far. The new orders dramatically expand the definition of criminality so that essentially every undocumented immigrant is now considered a criminal and will be subject to immediate arrest and deportation.

Reforming our immigration policy would do more than just keep families intact, it would help create millions of jobs and allow for the best and brightest to stay in our country to spur innovation, thus keeping the U.S. competitive on a global scale.

For more than 30 years, Congress has not made a major update to our immigration system. Bipartisan support for immigration reform is strong and continues to grow. The majority of American voters — both Democratic and Republican — support fixing our outdated immigration system so that it works better for our economy and our communities.

As a state, we have a good reason for coming together across the aisle to champion this issue. A fair and humane immigration policy is something we have always believed in. Trump and our new Congress have an opportunity to use legislative action as the appropriate tool to find a permanent solution to this country's broken and outdated immigration policy.

Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, and Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, are Utah State senators.






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