A picture of Representative Steny H. Hoyer
Steny H.
Democrat MD 5

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  • Comprehensive Immigration Reform

    by Representative Steny H. Hoyer

    Posted on 2013-09-18

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    HOYER. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

    He is absolutely correct, of course. The Maryland flag, which I think is one of the more distinctive State flags, has four quadrants, two of which represent the Baltimore family to which the Royal charter was given, as the gentleman observed, and two represent the Crossland family, which was the wife of Lord Baltimore. So I appreciate the gentleman referring to that. And of course all of us live in States that were started by immigrants.

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to join my friend, Representative Cardenas, and other distinguished Members who are here tonight to pay tribute to the immigrant heritage of our country.

    ``From her beacon hand glows worldwide welcome,'' wrote the poet Emma Lazarus. She went on with her poem to say: ``Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp,'' cries she with silent lips. ``Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores. Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tossed, to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.'' That iconic image we see so often is a symbol of America's welcome to those who would participate in making it better. But the poet was wrong. It was not the wretched refuse of the teeming shores that came to America. It was some of the most risk-taking, courageous, entrepreneurial people. It took courage to leave their land, to leave their language, and to come to America. But because they had ambition and vision and hope, they came. And they helped to build the greatest Nation the world has ever seen. Those words engraved on the Statue of Liberty are a creed of which our Nation must always keep faith.

    For Americans, citizenship means more than belonging to a place. It represents a sacred bond not only between those who carry it, but a sacred duty to make sure others can earn it who share our devotion to liberty and justice for all. Yes, those immigrants, they believed that declaration intoning pursuit of happiness. What a wonderful concept that ``we hold these truths to be self-evident.'' Pursuit of happiness is one of those values that we hold forth to all the world.

    You know, we hear a lot of talk, Mr. Speaker, on this floor and in our national discourse about what makes America exceptional, about what makes us unique and special among the nations of the world. The answer, I believe, is that we have brought together the best of all the nations of the world. Those who come seeking shelter on our shores do so because they want to work hard to succeed. They're willing to take the risk of leaving all that they know just for a chance to make it in America. That is why the Congress must pursue, Mr. Speaker, comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship.

    Mr. Speaker, 40 percent of all the Nobel Prize winners in America were born on foreign shores. They came here, contributed here, excelled here, and made our country better. Those who have come here to build a strong America--and those who were brought here as children and have known no other home--deserve a chance to keep contributing to this country through their hard work and their service to our communities.

    Mr. Speaker, I am the son of an immigrant, an immigrant from Denmark. Serving with me in this Chamber are the sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, great-grandsons and great-granddaughters, and yes, even more generations before. Grandsons of immigrants from Mexico, from Italy, from China, from Africa, from Eastern Europe, from the Caribbean, from Asia--indeed, from every land in this world.

    In marking Citizenship Day, which was yesterday, it is up to us to make sure that our exceptional American idea of citizenship continues to manifest itself as an extended hand to all who love freedom, are committed to justice, and wish to build a strong America for all its people. Comprehensive immigration reform will enable us, as it has in the past, to keep that hand extended and bring into our society and economy those who believe in the power of the American Dream.

    Mr. Speaker, let us work together, not as Democrats and Republicans, but as fellow immigrants. First, second, third, fourth, fifth, however many generations, we are the children of immigrants. Let us work together to fix our immigration system and ensure that the lamp beside the golden door continues to shine its light to enrich our Nation and continue to offer hope and inspiration for all the world.

    I want to thank my colleague, Tony Cardenas, from California. He is a new Member, but an extraordinarily experienced Member. He knows about immigration firsthand. I want to thank him for taking this Special Order because it is important for America to keep that lamp lifted. And to do so, Mr. Speaker, we need, as Mr. Cardenas has said, to pass a comprehensive immigration bill. And, Mr. Speaker, we ought to pass it this year.

    I thank the gentleman for taking the time. I thank the gentleman for yielding me the time.

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