The vote in support of immigration reform in the Senate Judiciary Committee is the first sign of hope for the 11 million people in the United States who are living in the shadows.
The Enriching Utah Coalition thanks Sen. Orrin Hatch in particular for engaging in the debate and recognizing the needs of both businesses and families. He has shown leadership while others have simply dug their heels in the sand.
Our coalition is made up of non-profit, private and faith-based leaders and organizations interested in changing the dialogue and policies that impact not just immigrants and refugees, but all of us. Our efforts are guided by a vision for a diverse and culturally rich community, and a uniform immigration system that respects human rights and human dignity.
We are thrilled to see Congress working toward a solution to what all agree is a broken system that has brought much heartbreak to our community, and we look forward to continued thoughtful Senate debate on the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act.
As passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, the bill would provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S., with some exceptions. Immigrants who have lived here continuously up to Dec. 31, 2011, would be eligible for registered provisional immigrant status. To gain RPI status, the immigrant would have to pay a $1,000 fine, plus an application fee and back taxes. After 10 years of RPI status, the immigrant could apply for lawful permanent resident status, and finally, three years later, for citizenship.
We hope that all members of our congressional delegation will be allies to the many families, children and individuals whose hopes for a dignified future lie in the legalization provisions of this long-awaited bill.
Without these provisions, real Utahns continue to be harmed. Without legalization, Angelica, an ambitious, 21-year-old student from Salt Lake City, must continue to view with uncertainty the prospects of finding a job after her upcoming graduation. Claudia, a devoted mother and also from Salt Lake City, will continue to live in fear of being separated from her children.
The current legislation brings hope. Enrique, from Sandy, says, "We are hard workers and just want to better our lives and the lives of our children … we believe in this country." And he dreams that one day Congress will help bring relief and stability to his beloved family.
We urge all members of the delegation to please remember the determination of these individuals as they search for common ground on immigration reform. We understand that reform is an intricate issue with no easy or simple solution. However, reform should not ignore the people whose strife and hard work have helped preserve the American Dream.
We ask our congressmen to please stand with the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, Communities United, the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake, Holy Cross Ministries of Utah, the Salt Lake County Mayor's Office of Diversity Affairs, the Salt Lake Dream Team, the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Salt Lake, Canyons School District, Utah Women's Lobby trustee Brandy Farmer, University of Utah professor Theresa Martinez, and Mark Alvarez, attorney and host of the radio show "Sin Rodeos," in support of a prosperous future for all of Utah's diverse populace.
We look forward to seeing our delegation become leaders in establishing a new decade of hope for 11 million individuals who have enriched our communities but are denied the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
Diana Paredes is executive director of the Enriching Utah Coalition.