With the Republican Party chastened by last November's election results, this is supposedly the year that comprehensive immigration reform finally gets through Congress and signed into law. As is the case with gun violence reform legislation, however, ideology and inertia are conspiring to hinder what is needed in America. Continual pressure must be applied, as it was in Boston on Saturday.
About 800 immigrants, reform activists, workers group representatives and elected officials rallied in support of the "Power Up for Citizenship" initiative that immigrant rights advocates are launching across the country. The initiative calls for creation of a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants in the country, improving the immigration system and preventing businesses from exploiting immigrant labor.
Logistically, millions of illegal immigrants can't and won't be deported, but a path to citizenship will bring them out of the shadows and enable them to contribute fully to society -- by paying taxes for starters. Broader immigration reform would make it easier for immigrants in high-skill fields like medicine and technology to come here and stay here. Because of the laborious process of obtaining a green card, many are trapped in jobs by employers who pay them low wages, secure in the knowledge that if they protest they risk being sent back to their native land. These workers should be able to change jobs without being held hostage by fears they will lose their place in line for green cards or extended work visas.
Congressmen hoping to drag out immigration reform by insisting that the southern border be secure before any measures are passed are willfully ignoring the reality that the Obama administration has dramatically cut down on the number of border crossings after eight leaky years under President George W. Bush. This is a false argument that should gain no traction.
Massachusetts has the largest immigrant population in New England, and that population is well-represented in Berkshire County. They are contributing to the county, state and nation, and with comprehensive immigration reform, more people from Mexico, China, India and Central and South America will do the same.