By Veronica Perez
One week after co-sponsoring the bipartisan Immigration Innovation Act of 2013, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal was at Hartford’s Center for Latino Progress calling for comprehensive immigration reform that includes pathways to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented individuals who might qualify.
“Now is our moment for comprehensive immigration reform,” said Blumenthal. His proposed legislation would allow millions of people “to come forward out of the shadows to go through backgrounds and security checks … who earn their citizenship and qualify for it in a way that will provide certainty to them.”
Juan Hernandez, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ Hartford area leader, was among the speakers. He said the SEIU represents 3500 members “that are in that shadow in CT and we want to get out of that shadow. We pay taxes and we do everything that everyone in this country does and we want to get out of that shadow. This initiative will make sure that we win this fight on a path to citizenship.”
A touching story was told by a Chilean woman identified only as Sonia. The married mother of three came to the U.S. 10 years ago. Her oldest son had leave after three years because there were no educational opportunities for him. Her other son is being deported in the next few weeks, in spite of being a National Honor Society member and a top student, because it has been difficult for him to stay here.
Her last child, a daughter, has fared better because of the Center for Latino Progress. “Her journey is just beginning,” Sonia said, adding, “For us the undocumented it is twice as hard to earn things in this country. And we come here looking for a better opportunity for our children.”
“People who have the skills and graduate from our schools and should be allowed to stay here,” Blumenthal said. “No one is more important than the young people who have been brought here as young children and who need the certainty and security of that pathway to citizenship as they go through the education or the military and earn that citizenship in that way.” Blumenthal has been an outspoken advocate for the DREAM Act, which would provide qualifying undocumented youth a pathway to citizenship after completing a college degree or two years of military service.
He sounds optimistic that immigration reform could happen this year because “we can bring together a powerful coalition of the business community, the civil rights community, and the immigrants advocate community to make sure that we get this job done.”
One benefit of reform, the senator said, would be to cut down on human trafficking across our country’s borders. “The pathway to citizenship will involve safeguards and provide protection the borders against illegal immigrants and against employers, people who exploit and hire undocumented workers,” he added.
Jennifer Thampan, an attorney and associate director of immigration services for the International Institute of Connecticut, said the proposed legislation would aid people who have worked in the United States, paid taxes, and contributed to society could stay here. “This will bring the best and brightest here and make sure they can stay here,” she added.
Yanil Theron, executive director of the Center for Latino Progress, said many Latinos come to this country in search of a better life. She said this reform is vital because of what it has to offer. “For years we have seen the damage that our failed immigration system has brought on our families our communities and our country,” Theron added.