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Jared P.
Democrat CO 2

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  • Progressive Caucus Message

    by Representative Jared Polis

    Posted on 2013-02-14

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    POLIS. I thank the gentleman from Minnesota.



    Mr. Speaker, it's common sense to most Americans. We have upwards of 10, 12, 14 million people here illegally in this country. Many of them are members of our communities, many of their kids are Americans, go to school with their fellow Americans or on the football team or cheerleaders, are productive in every way. And yet every day our government through its current policies tears families apart; absolute heartbreaking tragedies where a mother is torn from her American daughter, placed in detention, frequently kicked out of this country at a cost to taxpayers of tens of thousands of dollars, all over a broken taillight.

    {time} 1700 Now it's important to educate people about the difference. We do have a group of people that are in detention that are called criminal aliens. These are people who are here illegally and committed crimes. It could be robbery. Maybe they're in a gang or dealing drugs. There's no disagreement among liberals and conservatives and people of all ilks that, of course, there needs to be detentions where appropriate and where there are criminal penalties in place and, of course, there should be expulsions from the country in that regard. In fact, many of us argue that by sweeping up many of the people whose only violation is a civil violation, who otherwise have been following our laws, in that sweep we are actually limiting our enforcement ability to go after real criminals who are causing harm in our community.

    That happens in two ways. One, through the limited law enforcement resources. When we divert those resources to taking mothers away from daughters, fathers away from sons who are productive members of society, when we divert the resources to that, it means they're going off of some other beat. It means they're going off of keeping our streets safe. It means they're going away from looking at white collar crime and other areas that need to be investigated in these fiscally restrained times with limited budgets.

    The second reason is it builds an atmosphere of distrust in our immigrant communities. How much unreported crime occurs because, in many cases, the victims of those crimes could be spouses that are abused, it could be people that are robbed or ripped off by unscrupulous scam artists and are frequently afraid to report that crime because they are afraid that the very same agency that they're supposed to trust to report that crime to could in fact be in league with another government agency that wants to deport them. And that's the problem with 287(g) and some of the other information-sharing protocols.

    For community policing to work, it's critical to have the trust and support of the community. And by the way, if these criminals go unprosecuted in our community and unpenalized for taking advantage of somebody, and that is not being reported, their next victim very well could be an American. Their next victim very well could be your family. It could be my family. And that's why we all have an interest in community policing, in law enforcement, as well as public health, to make sure that people are inoculated and treated early for diseases, regardless of their status.

    Now the solution is not to have this large population here illegally. Whenever we're talking about this enforcement, it's tough. There's no right answer. The right answer is comprehensive immigration reform. Let's find a way where the people that we need here to have critical jobs in our economy, that have families, that are in our community, that have kids that are American and going to school and doing well every day, have a way and paperwork to show that they can be here.

    Now that doesn't mean in comprehensive immigration reform that anybody gets citizenship. And I want to be clear about this, because frequently this false specter of somehow granting citizenship to 11 million people is raised. Comprehensive immigration reform in any version doesn't give citizenship to anybody. Not one person, not a thousand people, not a million people. Zero people. In fact, under all the versions that are being talked about of comprehensive immigration reform, anybody who's here illegally would have to get right with the law and would go to the back of the line with regard to applying for citizenship some day, if they're eligible. To be eligible, they'll have to follow the laws of our country for many years. They'll have to learn English. They'll have to take a test.

    Yes, some day it's possible that some immigrants will become citizens. It's also possible and likely that many will choose never to. They might work here for a number of years and return to another country. And that's fine. But it's critical that there is at least the ability to get right with the law. It's very frustrating when people say, Why don't they get in line today? Because it's a nonexistent line. Comprehensive immigration reform will create the line that people will then get into and create an immigration system that is in touch with reality in this country, in touch with a pro-growth agenda, in touch with an agenda that will make our country prosperous, that will conform our treatment of our neighbors to our values as Americans, the same values that extended a welcome to my ancestors and yours when they came to these shores and helped their, in my case, grandchildren and great grandchildren serve in this great body.

    So, too, we need to assure that our values are represented in our immigration system. And whether one is on the left or the right, it is clear that today's disaster of an immigration system is not reflective of our value as Americans--our value as Americans not to tear families apart, our values as Americans to ensure that if you work hard and you play by the rules, you can get ahead in this country. You can succeed in this country. The value of encouraging civic participation is absolutely critical.

    So this is a unique opportunity, a unique moment. It's a bipartisan approach, as it has to be. This is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. Immigration reform is an American issue, as it always has been a Nation of immigrants, a Nation of laws. And we can conform those two together so that we can fulfill our destiny in a way that honors the rule of law and honors the role of immigrants in creating our great country.

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