A picture of Representative Beto O'Rourke
Beto O.
Democrat TX 16

About Rep. Beto
  • Comprehensive Immigration Reform

    by Representative Beto O'Rourke

    Posted on 2013-09-18

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    O'ROURKE. Mr. Speaker, I am very honored to be here today to speak on the topic of immigration reform, immigration reform that is humane, that is rational, that is fiscally responsible, and to be doing so with the guidance and leadership of Congressman Cardenas, my friend from California, who despite his short tenure in Congress has really emerged as a leader on this very important issue--important to me, important to the community I represent in El Paso, Texas, important to our State, and important to our country. Frankly, just to extend it one more time, important to the world, because I think the world's eyes are on us today, they're on us as we decide how we are going to respond to this opportunity, this once in a 20- or 30-year opportunity to make meaningful, positive changes in our broken immigration system, because as Steny Hoyer said earlier, ``we are proudly a Nation of immigrants.'' I'm sure it is this way for the gentleman from California, but for me the moral and ethical reasons are the most compelling--to do the right thing for those people who are already in our communities, for the people who have so much to offer who have yet to come to our shores and will add to the economy, to the civic strength of our communities and make the places that we live in and the country that we call home a better place.

    I think of Edgar Falcon, a constituent of mine, a U.S. citizen, who is working. While he's working, he's also going to nursing school to improve his life, his ability to compete in the marketplace, his opportunity to contribute back to the community that we live in.

    To complete his life beyond his education and his work and everything that he has done in the community, he wants to marry the woman of his dreams, a woman named Maricruz, who currently lives in Durango, Mexico, who would love to be here with the man that she loves.

    But unfortunately, because of our current broken immigration system, she's unable to live here in the United States with the man that she loves. He's unable to bring her here because when she was a child, her sister, while they were crossing into the United States, falsely claimed citizenship for the both of them. Under our current broken immigration system, that has earned her a lifetime ban from reentry to the United States.

    So despite the fact that an American citizen, someone I represent, someone who pays taxes into our government, someone who is by all measures doing everything he can to make our community and our country a better place, he cannot be with the woman he loves because of what I think to be a very arbitrary and unhelpful law that is separating two people who deeply love each other.

    What we need to do is correct this through comprehensive immigration reform and through a measure that we'll be introducing this week, the American Families United Act, that will allow judges some level of discretion in cases like these where we have someone who poses no threat to our country, who can pay a fine, do some sort of penance for a mistake they made or a family member made on their behalf, and then if it makes sense for our community and our security is secured, they are able to join our community, the person that they want to marry, a U.S. citizen.

    I hope that we'll have others who will join us in cosponsoring this legislation that we'll introduce this week because there are literally thousands upon thousands of American families, families of U.S. citizens, who are affected negatively by this immigration law.

    As I said earlier, we want to do the right thing for the right reasons, for the moral imperative. Coming from El Paso, Texas, we really have been the Ellis Island for much of Latin America, including Mexico. The people who came through our ports of entry ended up in Los Angeles, they ended up in California, they went to Chicago, they went to New York, they went to all points east, west and north, and then many tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, chose to stay in El Paso.

    It is because of those immigrants, both legal and unauthorized immigrants I would argue, that El Paso today is the safest city in the United States. It was the safest city last year as well, it was the safest city the year before that. For the last 10 years, El Paso has been one of the top five safest cities in the United States.

    When we hear people, who I think out of ignorance, say that we need to secure the border before we move forward with comprehensive immigration reform, I tell them that today we are spending $18 billion on border security, more than we are spending on all other Federal law enforcement agencies combined, that we've built hundreds of miles of fencing, that net migration last year from Mexico was actually zero, that El Paso is the safest city, San Diego is the second-safest. The U.S. side of the U.S. border compared to the rest of the country is far safer. We do not have a border security problem today. The border has never been more secure or more safe.

    For all of those reasons, all of the moral ones and all of the commonsense ones that I just cited, we should do the right thing. Yet that is not enough for some people.

    I will conclude by saying this. It is in our moral interest as a country that wants to do the right thing. It makes all the common sense in the world to do the right thing. But if we look at our economic self-interest, today it is already proven that immigrants, including unauthorized immigrants, contribute far more to our economy, they contribute far more to our tax base, they contribute far more to job opportunities and quality of life than they take in benefits. That has, I think, been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.

    What we also know is that if some form of the current proposal for comprehensive immigration reform passes, the CBO has scored it such that within the first 10 years these new immigrants to our country who will be on a path to citizenship will be able to reduce our deficit by more than $150 billion. In the next 10 years, those same immigrants will reduce our deficit an additional $800 to $900 billion. They'll also be contributors into Social Security, one of the pillars of our social safety net, one that is unable to meet its obligations in the not too distant future. This is surely going to help us to shore up Social Security as well.

    So whether we look at the moral dynamic, whether we look at what makes common sense for our communities and our country, or whether we look at our economic self-interest, comprehensive immigration reform that is rational, that is humane, and that is fiscally responsible makes sense for this country.

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