A few weeks ago, one of the tea party's "ideological heroes," Rep. Paul Ryan, said Congress should pass immigration reform. Back in 2001, Utah's own Sen. Orrin Hatch attempted to tackle immigration issues by proposing the DREAM Act, a bill that would provide citizenship to U.S. high school graduates with "good moral character."
Now, despite widespread political collaboration and a desperate need for immigration reform, there is a vocal minority hoping to delay or kill this year's immigration reform efforts. This is wrong. Killing or delaying immigration reform is not just an impractical step economically, it is the wrong way forward from a moral perspective.
Since the settlement of our country by mass immigration many groups have struggled to obtain rights that other groups already had. We've witnessed this perpetual struggle for equality and civil rights for women, minorities, labor, youth and LGBT people. Now we must turn our attention to another class of people striving for equality: the undocumented.
Our immigration system is broken and has created yet another subclass of people in this chapter of our nation's history. Today's immigrants are no different than previous generations seeking opportunity and a better life for their families. Creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented individuals does not hinder anyone's freedom, deny anyone's opportunities or threaten anyone's security. Immigration reform is about the lives of those who we have forced to live in the shadows.
Our economy relies on immigrants. Agriculture, manufacturing, service and even technology sectors rely on immigrants. Many small business owners are immigrants. Reforming immigration would bring some stability to the uncertainties in our economy by retaining world-class talent, building our communities and continuing to lead the world as the land of opportunity. All of this makes America stronger and more competitive in our global economy.
Economic arguments aside, we must evaluate immigration reform in human terms. As mentioned earlier, Hatch was once a proponent of the DREAM Act. Now he and many in Congress are pressured from the most irrational and unhinged among us who focus on fear rather than facts. This not only derails progress toward reasonable solutions, it also blinds us to the moral implications of our collective inaction.
American history has been the story of immigrants and the ongoing struggle for civil rights. It is truly a great story of making a more perfect union. We must continue in that tradition and toward the enlightened notion of our founders that we are all created equal.
Now is the time to consider the human cost to our inaction, not ignore the many who struggle in the shadows. Now is our time to keep families united, not let our politics drive us apart.
Now is the time for comprehensive immigration reform that includes the principals of the DREAM Act and stand firmly together on the right side of history.
Melodía Gutiérrez is a community activist and Latino Outreach director for the Utah State Democratic Party