Compassionate and Comprehensive Immigration Reform
We have been, are, and will always be a nation of immigrants. Running to be elected as the first Latino Member of Congress from Massachusetts, and being the current President of the Hispanic National Bar Association for New England, protection of our immigrant community is personal to me. In addition, as a Jew, I am imbued with the historical memory of the immigrant experience that the Jewish community went through not too long ago when the United States closed its borders to Jews fleeing the Holocaust and the terror of Nazi Germany, only to be sent back to Europe by the United States, where many of them ended up being murdered by the Nazis.
The social, cultural, civic, scientific, and technological contributions of our immigrant neighbors have made our society, Commonwealth, and nation more vibrant, stronger and spurred our collective growth. According to the Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA), immigrants comprise of 20% of the Massachusetts workforce and play a major part in every sector, comprising 52% of our medical and life scientists, 71% of our housekeeping employees, 44% of our chefs and cooks, 14% of our nursing, and 40% of our health aides. In addition, Massachusetts is home to over 65,000 immigrant entrepreneurs, 7,300 of whom are undocumented; they employ 169,000 people and generate over a $27.6 billion in annual sales. Further, 58% of Fortune 500 companies in Massachusetts were founded by immigrants. These are the teachers, public servants, scientists, medical professionals, entrepreneurs and valued community members who fuel our economy and enhance our cultural vitality.
But our immigration system is severely broken, particularly for undocumented immigrants. What kind of message are we sending if we are locking people up simply for seeking refuge or asylum? We need comprehensive and compassionate immigration reform that removes barriers to integration, eases transition, and expands opportunities for our immigrant neighbors. Many of our immigrant neighbors feel unwelcome, alone, and live in constant fear of being separated from their loved ones and livelihoods, and being deported to their country of origin. They feel intimidated, harassed and attacked by this Administration who uses them as scapegoats and a target for anger and hatred by the Far Right. Lies and hatred by white nationalists and the Far Right has led to a false perception of undocumented immigrants. Documented and undocumented immigrants have significantly lower rates of incarceration than native born Americans, and are more likely to be entrepreneurs and small business owners, yet they remain the targets of racist, xenophobic and false attacks that label them criminals.
Our immigrant community is also often exploited by companies for cheap labor without protections, and then lack recourse if they are the victims of crimes. While President Trump has exacerbated the immigrant crisis with his reckless and immoral policies like criminalizing unauthorized border crossing and the “Muslim Ban”, and through his demagoguery and bigotry, our broken immigration system has existed long before he took office.
We need an immigration system that affirms our American values of justice, equal opportunity, family unification, and human dignity. Fixing our immigration system is a moral, ethical, and economic imperative. We need an immigration system and a society that allows EVERYone to thrive, no matter where they came from, how they got here, what they look like, and what language they speak. Creating an inclusive society that EVERYone can participate in, regardless of immigration status, will only strengthen our social, economic and civic life. Our immigration system and by extension our society, should not merely attempt to protect and support our immigrants, but rather seize every opportunity to uplift and celebrate immigrants, while expanding their access to opportunities. We are all interconnected, and we are in this together.
No one in our country should live in fear of being intimidated, harassed, detained for going to school, reporting a crime to police, or for their loved ones disappearing at the hands of ICE with no way of knowing what happened. No child should ever be separated from their parents and kept in cages. No young adult should ever be deported back to a different country when the United States has been the only home they’ve ever known.
As your next Member of Congress, I will always stand up and speak out to support and protect our immigrant community.
Fixing our Immigration Laws
Our undocumented immigrant community contains so much potential and growth that will benefit all Americans, socially, civically, culturally, and economically. According to MIRA, in Massachusetts, 4% of our workforce is undocumented. Nationwide, undocumented immigrants pay an average of $80,000 more in taxes in their lifetime than they receive in services. With a pathway to citizenship, states and localities would receive potentially billions of dollars more in tax returns, and undocumented immigrants would create more small businesses and provide potentially millions of jobs to native born Americans.
A recent change to our immigration laws criminalized unauthorized border crossings. This change has resulted in the separation of children from their parents and the creation of large-scale detention centers, which has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars. Because of this change, criminal court dockets are clogged taking attention away from serious non-immigration criminal matters, and the lives of undocumented immigrants and the staff working at overcrowded detention facilities are in danger, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As your next Member of Congress, I will fight to:
- Create a pathway to citizenship for ALL 12+ million undocumented immigrants, allowing these undocumented immigrants to come out from the shadows and enter our workforce and be welcomed as equal members of our society.
- Provide permanent status for the recipients of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) (approximately 12,000 in Massachusetts) and immigrant youth known as DREAMers to give certainty and stability to hundreds of thousands of immigrants.
- Repeal Section 1325 of the US Code and decriminalize crossing the border, ending forced family separations, decreasing the docket in federal criminal courts so the courts can spend more time on non-immigration crimes, decreasing the number of detention centers and saving Americans billions of wasted dollars.
- Stop all zero-tolerance immigration policies at the borders for migrants.
- Remove and destigmatize the label and image that an undocumented immigrant is a criminal.
- Ensure that those seeking asylum or refugee status are not treated as criminals.
- Use an evidence-based approach to determine what strategies and investment the United States should make at the border to combat drug smugglers, human traffickers and those who are a threat to our national security.
- Prosecute drug smugglers, human traffickers, violent gang members, those who have committed significant crimes and those who are a threat to our national security and who often exploit the most vulnerable in our immigrant community.
Supporting the Immigrant Community
Many in our immigrant community are working on the frontlines and are essential to our community and economy. They are our healthcare workers, our grocery store and pharmacy clerks, our cleaning crew, our agricultural workers, our construction workers, our childcare providers, and much more. They are inextricably linked to the well-being of our community. In order for our immigrant community to thrive and best contribute to our society, we must remove barriers to integration and expand their access to high-quality, affordable healthcare, education and affordable and efficient transportation, and other opportunities. We must oppose all federal government action that intimidates, harasses and attacks our immigrant communities. No one should have to live in fear of being deported for seeking the full support and protection of our medical, judicial, and education systems and our police. We must strive for the full respect of EVERYone’s civil rights and due process.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of jobs go unfilled in Massachusetts and millions around the country because people do not possess the skills and training required for the jobs. However, many in our immigrant community do possess the necessary skills and training, but do not have the language proficiency required. Without drivers licenses and a lack of access to efficient and affordable public transportation, many undocumented immigrants lack the ability to fill quality jobs that they are otherwise qualified for. Undocumented immigrants also lack access to healthcare coverage in the marketplace, endangering themselves and those around them and costing the system and our economy significant additional money. Especially under COVID-19, we now know that if even one person gets sick, we all are in danger. Preventing undocumented immigrants from accessing healthcare is a danger to us all.
As your next Member of Congress, I will fight to:
- Support DACA recipients to ensure they continue to receive all of their protections, including getting a driver’s license, pursuing an education at in-state tuition prices, starting a career and transitioning into better paying jobs, and fully participating in our community.
- Eliminate the Public Charge rule, allowing immigrants who are seeking legal permanent residency to access vital social services like healthcare, Medicaid, food stamps and housing assistance, without fear of retribution and being found inadmissible for an adjustment of their immigration status.
- Invest heavily in providing a sufficient amount of free language classes for English learners in order to help them gain employment at high-quality jobs for which they have the required skills and training.
- Enable all qualified US residents to apply for their state’s standard driver’s license, regardless of their immigration status. This is a public safety, education, medical and economic issue.
- Extend in-state tuition and state financial aid to all qualified high school graduates, regardless of immigration status.
- Provide accessible Adult Education classes for all adults, regardless of immigration status, to get the certifications, training and skills they need to fill high-quality jobs.
- Ensure all qualified US residents, regardless of their immigration status, including DACA and TPS recipients, have access to unemployment assistance and benefits.
- Ensure all qualified US residents, regardless of their immigration status, have access to high-quality, affordable healthcare, including Paid Family & Medical Leave, Medicare, and Medicaid.
- Provide free testing and treatment of COVID-19, regardless of immigration status.
- Amend the CARES Act to allow for stimulus payments to include those who do not have Social Security numbers and/or have Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers to file taxes.
- Incentivize state governments and local public health agencies to help break down language barriers under COVID-19 and provide more linguistically and culturally appropriate messaging and outreach that educates and acknowledges immigrants’ concerns and fears around accessing care and benefits.
- Encourage and incentivize states to pass legislation similar to the Massachusetts Safe Communities Act, to help restore community trust in public institutions and protecting due process for all.
- Bar law enforcement and court personnel from asking people about their status unless required by law. Immigrants fear deportation and separation of their families and therefore, are reluctant to call 911 or the police, which makes them more vulnerable to domestic abuse, wage theft and other crimes.
- Require that the police obtain an immigrant’s written consent that explains their right to decline an interview or have their own attorney present before Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) can question someone in their custody.
- Bar police, court officers and jail officials from notifying ICE that someone is about to be released from state and local custody, unless the person’s sentence being released was ending.
Ending ICE’s Campaign of Terror
ICE has continued its xenophobic attacks on our immigrant community, intentionally intimidating, threatening, harassing and striking fear into our immigrant communities, preventing them from safely accessing vital medical care, educational institutions, and support from the police and our courts, There is no credible need for ICE agents to invade schools, ambush people at hospitals or courts, or racially profile Latinos randomly to check their status. Undocumented immigrants are not criminals. The Latino community in particular has lived in fear for far too long. This needs to end.
ICE needs to be immediately and completely overhauled, streamlined and restructured, with new systems, procedures and policies that end the current destructive culture of its enforcement officers. This overhaul must include new certifications, accountability standards, implicit and explicit bias training, cultural competency and diversity training, and hiring practices.
Given the strongly anti-immigrant orientation of ICE leadership and its rank and file members, an overhaul of ICE is unfortunately, likely impossible and impractical. Any likely overhaul would need to start with ICE’s top leadership. If such an overhaul is impossible or impractical, then ICE must be abolished, and its narrowly tailored focus and responsibility be transitioned to another immigration or federal agency. That tailored mission should involve only investigating and preventing drug and human traffickers, violent gang members, and threats to national security, and arresting and removing those immigrants associated with those actions and those who have committed significant crimes.
Protecting the Rights of Undocumented Immigrants to be Counted in the Census
I will fight to reverse the Administration’s decree that undocumented immigrants will be excluded from the Census Apportionment count.
We tell them their JOBS ARE ESSENTIAL, and under the same breathe, we also tell them their LIVES ARE NOT ESSENTIAL.
One of the underlying reasons for racism in our country is the undercounting of our communities of color during the Census. President Trump fully understands this. The data collected by the Census is supposed to ensure equal representation in Congress and in state and local legislatures and equal access to over $800 billion in annual federal funds.
President Trump is not the final authority on the Census, Congress is. Both the US Constitution and federal law are clear that every person residing in the US, regardless of immigration status, must be counted as part of the Census. The Constitution specifies that “persons” residing in the states should be counted and the 14th Amendment further requires the counting of the “whole number of persons in each state.” Prevent has also been set. Since 1790 and our first US Census, all American residents, citizens and non-citizens, regardless of immigration status, have been included in the Census count and the apportionment of our Congressional seats”
The intimidation, harassment and infliction of fear against our undocumented immigrant community must stop. It is immoral, unethical, un-American, and in regard to the Census, illegal.