Cortez Masto Floor Speech in Support of Protecting Family-Based Immigration
“I rise today to call on my colleagues and President Trump to abandon the use of the offensive and misleading term “chain migration.” It paints a picture that does not reflect reality.”
“There are numerous steps families must take to legally immigrate to the United States. It is a long and arduous process that leaves husbands, wives, parents, brothers and sisters waiting for decades.”
“It makes no sense to me that we are fighting today to protect these kids to keep them in this country and then take their parents and rip them out of their homes and send them back to a country that they do not want to go to, that they do not call home, and where their safety is called into question. I don't understand that as a family value or an American value.”
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) delivered remarks on the floor of the United States Senate today in defense of families in Nevada and the importance of protecting family-based immigration to the United States. Below are her remarks:
I rise today to call on my colleagues and President Trump to abandon the use of the offensive and misleading term “chain migration.” It paints a picture that does not reflect reality. Immigrants cannot sponsor their entire families to come here. Our system of family-based immigration allows American citizens and green card holders to petition for some of their immediate family members to join them in the United States.
There are numerous steps families must take to legally immigrate to the United States. It is a long and arduous process that leaves husbands, wives, parents, brothers and sisters waiting for decades. This system is so broken and slow that many people die before they ever have the chance to be reunited with their loved ones again.
So this image of immigrants coming in endless chains across our border couldn’t be further from the truth. For instance, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is currently processing visa applications for the siblings of U.S. citizens from 1994, twenty four years ago.
This backlog is painful for many American families. Fely, an immigrant from the Philippines, arrived in the United States with her husband and her youngest son back in 1989. Her father was a veteran who served in WWII, earned his citizenship, and petitioned to have Fely join him in the U.S. In the almost three decades since then, Fely has worked tirelessly to reunite with her other children.
Now 80 years old, she is still waiting and hoping that three of her children will make it through the backlog to join her at home. Her story shows us that sponsoring even your closest family members is a lengthy and difficult process.
Tragically, Fely’s struggle is not uncommon. Thousands of Filipino veterans, all across this country, are in the same situation. As the daughter and granddaughter of veterans, I know first-hand that when someone answers the call of duty, family members make sacrifices, too.
I support Senator Hirono’s Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act—a bill that would expedite the visa process for Filipino World War II veterans’ immediate relatives. We should honor the sacrifices that veterans and their families make by passing this bill, not by forcing them to wait in perpetual limbo.
Our immigration system reflects our national commitment to the strength and importance of the family unit. Families are support systems—they pull each other up when someone is in need and pool together their resources. Strong families build strong communities.
Take Karl’s family. Karl is a 20 year-old Filipino-American community organizer born and raised in North Las Vegas. Karl’s whole family is committed to community service. Karl’s brother volunteers at an organization that serves the homeless while attending high school.
Karl’s mother teaches special education in North Las Vegas to low-income children. Karl’s dad is a mechanic and a military veteran, having served this country in multiple branches of the armed services.
None of them would be here if not for our family-based legal immigration system. My Republican colleagues claim to be champions of strong nuclear families and family values.
Yet here we are today considering a measure that would tear apart families like Karl’s. That would leave parents without children, sisters without brothers, husbands without wives.
Why does the party of family values think that’s acceptable? The problem is that the party of Donald Trump is not the party of family values. Donald Trump doesn’t care about families.
He wants to be able to pick and choose which families get to come in, and which have to stay out.
The White House immigration plan we are considering would cut legal immigration by up to 44%. That is half a million more immigrants who would be banned, each year. This is one of the largest xenophobic-driven cuts to legal immigration since the 1920s. It would affect nearly 22 million people over the next five decades.
What’s going on here? What are they so afraid of?
I recently sat down with immigrant workers in the Senate and Pentagon who are about to lose their protections from deportation. One of them told me that she left El Salvador after seeing her husband brutally murdered in front of her and her son’s eyes. She has been working for the federal government for the past two decades serving the very men and women who are preparing to vote to send her back to the country she fled.
I also spoke with a Dreamer who works right here in the Senate cafeteria. She is the sole provider for her three American citizen children. These are the people Donald Trump wants to throw out of their homes. They are not asking for special treatment. Or handouts. Or giveaways. They just want to be allowed to stay and work hard and provide for their families. They don’t want to have to go back to a place where they will have to live, every day, in fear for their lives and for their children’s lives.
Donald Trump will tell you that immigrants are taking our jobs. This is a myth. It’s a lie that has been spread about every immigrant group in American history. And it has been repeatedly debunked by economic research.
According to the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council, a typical immigrant family will pay an estimated $80,000 more in taxes than they receive in public benefits over their lifetime. Immigrant families bring long-term economic benefits to our country by starting businesses, purchasing property, and supporting the education and achievement of their children.
Research shows that immigrants drive growth. They generate new patents at twice the rate of native-born Americans. In 2014, they earned $1.3 trillion and contributed $105 billion in state and local taxes, and nearly $224 billion in federal taxes. Immigrants are 30% more likely to start a business in the United States than non-immigrants, and 18% of small business owners in the United States are immigrants. And they create jobs!
Jobs are not the problem here. The problem is the color of immigrants’ skin.
We have a President, who has wondered—out loud—why we can’t have more whites come to this country. President Trump denies being a racist. For a non-racist, he has done a shockingly good job of cultivating support among white supremacists.
This is not about the color of people’s skin. This is about strong nuclear families and family values. I am proud of who I am, where I came from, and I am a descendant of immigrants. I also learned and believe in strong family values, and we lead with those values.
Our immigration system should reflect our national commitment to the strength and the importance of that family unit and those family values. It makes no sense to me that we are fighting today to protect these kids to keep them in this country and then take their parents and rip them out of the homes and send them back to a country that they do not want to go to, that they do not call home, and where their safety is called into question. I don't understand that as a family value or an American value.
So I ask my colleagues when we are talking about these immigration system and protecting dreamers, let's implement commonsense immigration reforms. Let's make sure that when we're protecting Dreamers, we're also protecting their family unit and those family values.
This is not about pitting parents against their kids or having kids decide whether they should stay here or if their parents should go. No child should have to go to school concerned that when they come home their parents may not be there.
I don't know about you, but I went through the public school system in the State of Nevada, and I was always, always comforted with the thought that when I walked through that door my mother and father would be there. Any other way to treat these children and their families, to me, is inhumane. Those are not the values we stand for as Americans and they are not values we lead with when we're talking about commonsense reforms to our immigration system.
So I ask my colleagues, please, as we go through this debate, remember who we are talking about. There are faces, there are families, there are people behind the very decisions that we make this week.
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