|Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding the importance of bipartisan immigration reform. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
For 15 years, James Courtney fought for this country as a member of the United States Army. But for most of those fifteen years, James’s wife Sharon was at home in Las Vegas fighting deportation.
Sharon has lived in American since she was 15 years old. She speaks fluent English. She has three sons with James, her husband of 13 years. And she has supported James through three tours in Iraq, a traumatic brain injury and a medical retirement due to wounds sustained in the line of duty. But because she is in the United States without the proper paperwork, Sharon has lived with the fear that she would be deported to Mexico and her family would be torn apart.
Service members and veterans of the United States military – and the family members who support them – deserve better than a life of worry and fear.
In March James and Sharon came to Washington along with hundreds of other immigration reform supporters to share their experience. This is what James said: “I did what my country asked me to do. Now I’m asking my country to keep us together for the sake of humanity and freedom.”
When I heard James and Sharon’s story, I knew I had to do something to help. Not only is Sharon a beloved mother and wife, she is also caretaker to her disabled husband. Her family needs her.
Last month, James and Sharon learned that immigration officials have deferred Sharon’s deportation, and she is no longer in immediate danger of being separated from her family. Sharon will be allowed to stay here to care for her husband and three sons, who are 16, 11 and eight years old.
But while I was happy to help James and Sharon, it’s unfortunate that they needed my help in the first place.
When our service members are fighting overseas, they should be focused on the difficult and dangerous job in front of them – not worried about their family members back home. And no veteran of the United States military should have to fight to keep his wife, caretaker and mother of his children by his side.
James and Sharon’s story is compelling. But there are millions of stories just like it – stories of mothers and fathers terrified of being torn away from their U.S. citizen children, stories of young men and women fearful of being deported from the only country they’ve ever called home and stories of families forced to live in the shadows despite coming to America in search of a brighter future.
There are 11 million reasons to pass common-sense immigration reform that mends our broken system – 11 million stories of heartbreak and suffering that should motivate Congress to act.
The bipartisan proposal before the Senate takes important steps to strengthen border security. It also makes crucial improvements to our broken legal immigration system, so families like James and Sharon’s are never subject to this kind of anguish again. And while this legislation isn’t an instant fix for immigrant families, it does provide a pathway to earned citizenship that begins when people go to the back of the line, paying taxes and fines and learning English.
Passing meaningful immigration reform will be good for national security. It will be good for the economy. And it will be good for James and Sharon Courtney, and millions of families like theirs.
James is a veteran who sacrificed his time and his health to keep this nation safe from harm. The least we can do to thank him for his service is to keep his family safe and together.