It’s Time for the House to Act on Immigration Reform
The future of immigration reform hangs on whether or not the House can pass legislation in the next couple of months. The Senate passed its bill nearly a year ago. A number of representatives have been working behind the scenes, drafting different immigration bills, but now the House must turn that negotiating and drafting into legislating and acting. The coming weeks are critical, but offer an important opportunity for advocates to help advance reform.
Immigration reform, particularly establishing a path to legalization and citizenship, will have an enormous impact on our ability to end hunger. There are an estimated 11-12 million people living in this country without documentation. Legal status is one of several factors contributing to poverty and hunger among undocumented immigrants.
Exploitation in the workforce is prevalent among undocumented immigrants. When employers fail to pay wages or violate employment laws, fear of deportation prevents undocumented immigrants from taking action. Today, undocumented immigrants are failing to reach their full earning potential, paying less in taxes, and contributing less to the economy than they would be if not for their legal status. Legalization and citizenship could increase immigrants’ earnings by 13 percent or more. But the House must act and pass legislation.
A path to legalization would enable millions of undocumented immigrants to move out of poverty by providing legal protections that will raise the wages of immigrants, creating better employment opportunities and providing access to better education.
Undocumented immigrants are more likely to work than the general population, but are also more likely to live in poverty. In fact, one-third of undocumented immigrants live in poverty, and within some unauthorized immigrant communities, more than half of the population is at risk of hunger. The problem is particularly pronounced among children — one-third of U.S.-born children of undocumented parents live in poverty. Immigration reform will significantly reduce hunger and poverty in the United States.
Time is running out. If Congress fails to reform our immigration system this year, it could be years before we get another chance. The Senate passed S. 744 last June, but no bill can become law unless both chambers pass legislation. The House needs to act before the August recess. The next two months are critical! Email your representative and urge him or her to pass immigration reform with a path to legalization and citizenship, and to do so without delay.
Immigration reform is part of the exodus from hunger for which we advocate and pray. The book of Leviticus tells us to “treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” We must act quickly and compassionately to make immigration reform a reality.
Photos: Scenes from an immigration reform rally in Washington, D.C., in 201o. (Flickr user Anushka Sampedro)
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