Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding President Obama’s announcement that the Obama Administration would suspend deportation of young people who were brought to America illegally as children. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Astrid Silva is an average 24-year-old.
The Las Vegas resident is fascinated with Nevada history – from the mysteries of Area 51 to the days when the mob ran casinos.
Astrid is active in her community and in local politics.
And one day she would like to come to Washington, D.C., to see the Declaration of Independence.
Astrid recently completed her Associates degree at the College of Southern Nevada. And she dreams of completing her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
But there’s one thing standing in Astrid’s way: she’s not an American citizen.
Twenty years ago this week – when Astrid was just four years old – her parents brought her to the United States.
She doesn’t even remember Mexico, the country where she was born. She speaks perfect English. She was an honor student in high school.
And she’s never called anyplace but Nevada her home.
So of course I thought of this brave young woman when President Obama announced Friday that he would suspend deportation of young people, like Astrid, who were brought to this country illegally when they were only children.
Astrid has been looking over her shoulder – afraid of deportation – ever since she stepped out of the shadows to push Congress to pass the DREAM Act.
The DREAM Act would create a pathway to citizenship for upstanding young people who were brought to the country through no fault of their own, and want to attend college or serve this nation in the Armed Forces.
The DREAM Act isn’t amnesty. Rather, it rewards responsibility with opportunity.
Astrid’s handwritten letters convinced me years ago of the importance of this issue. Unfortunately, Republican opposition has stalled this legislation.
But thanks to President Obama, Astrid and 800,000 other young people who are American in all but paperwork no longer need to live in fear of deportation.
President Obama’s directive to suspend deportation of the DREAMers comes after a yearlong review.
It will be applied on a case-by-case basis.
It frees up law enforcement resources to focus on people who actually threaten public safety and national security.
And it removes the specter of deportation that has hovered over deserving young men and women.
I congratulate President Obama for this courageous decision – a decision that benefits both the DREAMers and our nation as a whole.
Like Astrid, these young people share our language. They share our culture. And they share our love for America – the only country they know.
They are talented, patriotic men and women who want to defend our nation in the military, get a college education, work hard and contribute to their communities and this country.
And when they pledge allegiance, it’s to the United States of America.
Unfortunately, President Obama’s directive is temporary. The onus is now on Congress to protect the DREAMers and fix our broken immigration system once and for all.
Comprehensive immigration reform should be tough, fair and practical. It should:
- Continue efforts to secure our borders;
- Hold unscrupulous employers accountable;
- Reform our nation’s legal immigration system;
- And require 11 million undocumented people to register with the government, pay taxes and fines, learn English and get in the back of the line.
Some Republicans have suggested a solution to the DREAMer’s terrible dilemma should have come from Congress, not the President.
But it’s Republican opposition that has prevented Congress from acting.
In fact, Senate Republicans blocked the DREAM Act twice.
And many Republicans who once said they favor a long-term fix for America’s broken immigration system are now abandoning efforts to find common ground.
The President has taken decisive action in offering this directive. But he can only do so much by himself.
For Astrid’s sake – and for the sake of every American – it is time Congress became part of the solution.
I hope my Republican colleagues will finally join Democrats to find a bipartisan way to mend this nation’s flawed immigration system – instead of just complaining that the system is broken.