|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:Roxanna’s life began as an immigration success story. Her parents came from Cuba in the 1950’s. And they raised their daughter to appreciate the freedoms and opportunities available to her because she was born in the United States.Roxanna wrote to me last month. This is what she said: “I am proud to say that this country has always been my home.”But when Roxanna met her husband Genaro, she saw a different side of the American immigration system.
Genaro came to the United States 15 years ago without the proper paperwork. He left Mexico for the same reasons Roxanna’s parents left Cuba – to build a better life. At first he worked long hours doing odd jobs for a few dollars a day. Then he moved to Nevada, got a job doing construction and met Roxanna.
They married in 2003, and soon petitioned to have Genaro’s undocumented status adjusted. And although they initially received a letter from immigration officials that gave them hope, Genaro and Roxanna have lived in limbo for the last 10 years.
Because he is undocumented, Genaro worries every day that he will be deported. And he has nightmares every night that he will be separated from the love of his life – his American wife.
This is what Roxanna wrote to me last month: “We pay our taxes… We have never caused any harm to anyone or been in trouble with the law. We don’t stand on corners asking for money. We work very hard to make ends meet… We have friends and family here that we love and [who] love us. Yet [we] still feel like [we’re] not wanted here.”
Genaro is one of 11 million people living in America without the proper documentation. Many of those 11 million are the parents, siblings or spouses of U.S. citizens. Some of them overstayed their visas. Some crossed the border illegally. Others were brought here by their parents when they were only children.
But regardless of how they got here or why they lack the proper documents, these 11 million people play a crucial part in our economy and a vital role in our communities. And they need a pathway to get right with the law.
The common-sense, bipartisan reform proposal before the Senate will help them do that. It will reduce illegal immigration by strengthening our borders, fixing our broken legal immigration system and cracking down on unscrupulous employers who provide an incentive to come here illegally. And this measure provides a route to earned citizenship for the 11 million people who are already here.
That process won’t be easy. Undocumented people will have to go to the back of the line, pay taxes and fines and learn English.
But this legislation will also recognize that the alternative to earned citizenship – deporting 11 million people or forcing them to stay in the shadows – is neither practical nor humane. Finding, detaining and deporting every unauthorized immigrant in the country would cost more each year than the entire budget for the Department of Homeland Security. And not only is mass deportation impractical – not to mention cruel – it is the wrong approach for our economy.
Immigration reform that includes a roadmap to citizenship will boost our national economy by $832 billion over the next decade. And the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says it will reduce the deficit by almost $1 trillion over the next 20 years.
Helping 8 million immigrants who are already working get right with the law will mean billions in new tax revenue each year. It will mean every U.S. resident pays his or her fair share. That’s one reason an overwhelming majority of Americans, including an overwhelming majority of Nevadans, support this reform proposal.
But immigration reform isn’t just an economic issue. It is a moral issue. This bipartisan proposal will allow immigrants to stay with the ones they love – with their U.S. citizen children, siblings and spouses. It will allow Genaro to stay with his American wife.
This is Roxanna’s plea: “I pray that you would open your hearts to the millions like me… All we ask is a chance [at] a pathway to citizenship and the peace of mind to live our lives as meaningful citizens of this great country.” I urge all Senators to keep her wish, her prayer – a prayer and a wish she shares with 11 million human beings – in your minds and in your hearts.