Inside the beltway, immigration is the single most issue that has captured the bipartisan support of a deadlocked Congress. While the budget and gun control seem to be replete with heated politics, immigration has been a welcoming and civil debate.
Just this week, legislation has been introduced and the news cycle is filled with lead Democrats and Republicans from the 'Gang of 8' projecting progress to the American people. Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary committee, has vowed to give the public and all Senators an opportunity to be heard. But Senator Sessions (R-Ala) and Senator Cornyn (R-Tex) are making an effort to impede its progress.
Senator Sessions has no place bringing this failed approach into a productive discussion regarding the future of 11 million undocumented immigrants.
- V. Palafox, J.L. Zelaya
Immigration reform has deep roots in our lives. We came from different countries, Honduras and Mexico, but we unquestionably consider Texas and Alabama our home. Whether it was facing gang violence or poverty, we both traveled to live a better life for our families and to enhance the character of our adopted country. And we have been given the chance to contribute to this country by working and paying taxes now that we have deferred action under the Department of Homeland Security’s new immigration policy.
But Alabama has learned firsthand what an extremist immigration law can bring, and it is still learning. HB56, Alabama anti-immigrant law, has chased out much of its undocumented population to the peril of its own farming industry as fruit rotted on the vine.
An analysis from the University of Alabama states that HB 56 could ultimately cost Alabama as much as $11 billion in economic output, as much as $264.5 million in tax revenue, and as many as 70,000 to 140,000 jobs.
Senator Sessions supported HB56. Now that Congress is taking up immigration, Senator Sessions has no place bringing this failed approach into a productive discussion regarding the future of 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Similarly, immigration will be one of many issues which voters consider in Texas during the 2014 elections. If Tea Party Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex) continues with his harsh rhetoric on immigration, will Senator Cornyn's association with him help or hurt in an election? Either way, it won’t help stem the state’s turning political tide as Texas becomes more Latino while Senator Cornyn simultaneously ignores the sentiment of its Latino constituency that is calling for humane immigration reform. And Alabama is not far behind now with the fastest growing Latino populations in the country.
The “Gang of 8’s” work on immigration is not only the first visible sign that Congress can work together but also a sign a majority of the Republican Party has learned to listen to a diverse constituency. While harsh immigration rhetoric may fire up some in the Republican base, a record number of Americans are supportive of fixing our outdated immigration system and provide a path to citizenship of undocumented immigrants, including DREAMers like us. Many of these American citizens are our family and friends.
Our siblings, no matter what the other issues are, will come out to vote against a politician if they feel he or she is trying to break our families apart and asking them to fit the bill for more immigration enforcement. Indeed, immigration enforcement is currently the most expensive federal law enforcement agency, spending more to controversially crack down on farmers and construction workers than the FBI does to track terrorists. As those who represent our home states, Senator Sessions and Senator Cornyn should be on reforming immigration not burdening our neighbors.
While we move forward in politics, we cannot forget that the prosperity of Texas, Alabama and the future of the country depends on a unified people, not a divided society. Immigration reform will provide the bridges. Opposition to the immigration legislation will only exacerbate the heated politics that has cause Americans to lose faith in Congress. Republicans and Democrats from both parties get this. The input of Senators Sessions and Cornyn is important, but such access is not a license to halt the will of the American people.
Victor Palafox is co-founder of the Alabama immigrant Youth Leadership Initiative.
Jose Luis Zelaya is a graduate school student at Texas A&M and a DREAM advocate.