I rarely use this blog as a platform to write about national policy issues, but I have always felt that immigration policy is one of the most direct ways the Federal Government influences life in our community.
Last week, President Obama announced a plan to grant temporary legal status to about 800,000 immigrants that are currently undocumented. Those affected will be immigrants who came to the United States before they turned 16. In most cases, these are undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States by their families. Many of these immigrants have not returned home since, and we can assume that some do not even speak the language of their country of origin. They are young people who call America their home, consider themselves American (even if they are not legal residents or citizens), and want to stay in this country, work, and build lives in America. These are people that simply want a chance to contribute in the same way that as their friends and neighbors who are citizens. President Obama has taken a strong step toward more sensible immigration policy by granting these young men and women temporary work status, and I applaud him for that.
For many years I have advocated for policies that assist the many immigrants that live in Cambridge, Somerville, and across Massachusetts. I have taken some unpopular positions in defense of undocumented immigrants and I have received my fair share of abuse for those positions, but this issue has never been about politics for me. It has always been about what is best for our community, and at the end of the day, doing what is right. There are thousands of young men and women in Massachusetts that could benefit from common-sense policies like in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrants, but time after time they find themselves among the population of people that is attacked first when times are tough or it is politically convenient to do so. I serve in a legislature where a number of my colleagues have tried to make life miserable for a small population of people because of their immigrant status. They forget that these people are our neighbors. They forget that we have a duty to do right by our neighbors and to lend them a helping hand without checking their immigration status first.
With that said, it is my hope that President Obama’s announcement last week will open up a renewed discussion about how America can achieve sensible, humane immigration policies. This will require us to create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who are already here (that is fair to those who emigrate legally), and make it easier for migrants to come to the United States legally in the first place. In my capacity as a state legislator, I will continue to advocate for the immigrants in our community, and to pursue state policies that treat them with fairness and dignity.
In discussing this issue, we must keep in mind that this country as we know it was built by immigrants. America is great because of the achievements of immigrants that came here over many generations, and there is no sensible reason why this generation of immigrants should not have the opportunity to prosper in America as well.