From the start of his campaign in 2015, President Trump made vilifying immigrants and demonizing refugees a pillar of his platform. His rhetoric defied everything America prides itself on: being a beacon of light for refugees and a land of opportunity for all. Unfortunately, we learned very quickly that this wasn’t just rhetoric. The wall, the Muslim ban, family separation, and the reversal of protections for Dreamers and TPS recipients signaled that America was losing its identity. What was hardest to watch for me was the panic this incited in thousands of families.
I met with people from all walks of life who told me stories of loved ones who were now fearful of their future. I met students like Richard, a freshman at Tufts University, who was brought to the U.S. from South Korea by his parents when he was two years old. His parents endured countless hardships so that Richard could have a better life and a brighter future. At one point, they were homeless, living in a car to give their son a chance at the American Dream. Richard worked hard in school, was admitted to Tufts, and identifies as 100% American. He told me he wants to work in Congress one day so that he can “make a difference in America because this is the place I call home.”
I met with Mario told me he “knows what it’s like to live like a shadow in a room full of light.” Mario worked through high school and saved up to put himself through college. He aspires to work in renewable energy and give back to the country that has given him so much.
I spoke with Marla, who grew up fearing that the next knock on her door would tear her family away and knew that applying for college could expose her status.
Last Tuesday, on June 5th, with these stories filling my head and heart, I proudly voted for H.R. 6, the Dream and Promise Act. With this legislation, the House Democrats finally brought resolution to the 2.5 million Dreamers and TPS recipients who were thrown into chaos by offering them a pathway to citizenship.
Dreamers and TPS recipients are Americans in every way except on paper. Dreamers were brought to the United States as children. They didn’t ask to be brought here, and they definitely did not ask to be thrust in the middle of a heated immigration debate stoked for the purpose of political gain. The 800,000 Dreamers in the United State serve in our military, teach in our schools, and in my district alone, according to research conducted by the University of Southern California, contribute over $88 million in federal taxes, over $44 million in state taxes, and provide over $350 million of purchasing power.
TPS holders, including the 4,000 people in my district, are also invaluable parts of the communities they have come to call home. After fleeing from their homes due to armed conflict or devastated by natural disasters, TPS residents were given a chance at forging a future in the United States and have significantly contributed to the country that has given them stability and security. TPS holders have contributed $35.2 billion in GDP to the United States, paying state and federal taxes for decades for benefits that they are ineligible to receive because of their immigration status.
A nation that prides itself on its big-heartedness cannot turn its back on our neighborhoods and community members. What Richard, Mario, Marla, and millions of immigrants have in common is clear: a remarkable spirit that exemplifies the best of what America is and ought to be. It’s easy to say that the U.S. is a nation of immigrants and values them, but putting those words into action requires supporting legislation that uplifts immigrants and puts them on a pathway to citizenship.
House Democrats have acted to protect what America is supposed to stand for: equality, opportunity, and inclusion. We stood up against the President’s relentless assault on the humanity of immigrants by passing the Dream and Promise Act. It was an incredible experience to witness the bill pass and watch my colleagues, many of them immigrants themselves, erupt into cheers. Millions of families across the country felt heard, knowing that there would come a day when they would no longer have to live in fear of every knock on their door.
As I looked around at the inspirational scene, I thought about Richard, Mario, Marla and the hundreds of immigrant families who have shared their stories of hope, community, anxiety, and fear with me. For decades, the United States has existed as a beacon of freedom. Inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, who stands tall at the entrance of New York Harbor on Ellis Island, a port through which millions of immigrants were given a chance at the American Dream. We are a nation that “lifts its lamp beside the golden door” to the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” We are a nation that knows diversity is a strength. We are a nation that knows TPS holders and Dreamers deserve a fair shot at success. They deserve a chance to chase the dream.