This week, the House Judiciary Committee held an Immigration Subcommittee hearing to pave the way for a more restrictive version of the DREAM Act, called the KIDS Act--a yet-to-be-introduced legislative proposal to provide citizenship to some immigrants who came to the United States as children. While the House Republicans' change in tone and inch forward on policy is a significant development, there is still a troubling lack of seriousness from the GOP on immigration. While we have yet to see legislative text of the KIDS Act, reports suggest many Republicans are only prepared to provide a path to citizenship for some immigrant youth but not for our parents. Meanwhile, earlier this week, Congressman Steve King, R-Iowa, outrageously accused the vast majority of DREAMers of being drug smugglers while Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, so far refuses to give immigration reform with a clear path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants a vote.
As Republicans offer proposals that would only provide a path to citizenship for young immigrants, United We Dream -- the largest immigrant youth network in the country -- is speaking out to reject attempts to divide DREAMers and their parents. Our nation, and our families, need comprehensive immigration reform, not measures that leave our families behind, stuck in permanent second-class status. We cannot accept a partial solution that would leave our parents vulnerable to deportation and tear even more families apart.
At the House hearing this week, many Republicans showed a marked change in tone towards DREAMers. As former immigration hardliner and Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said about undocumented youth in his opening remarks, "We all view children as a special protected class." But every single Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, save Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., voted to deport DREAMers just last month, when the House passed an amendment sponsored by noted anti-immigrant Rep. King to de-fund President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.
The KIDS Act and the newly supportive rhetoric from Republicans is simply not enough, especially in this new environment after the resounding impact of the Latino and immigrant community vote at the ballot box in 2012 and with the first real chance for comprehensive immigration reform in years.
As United We Dream Coordinating Committee Member and hearing witness Rosa Velazquez explained, new rhetoric and cosmetic half-measures just won't cut it: "Such a solution would tell DREAMers like me that our hard-working parents are good enough to pick your crops, babysit your children, landscape your yard, and at the same time never treated as equal members of this society."
Our parents sacrificed so much for us to have a bright future here in the U.S. We wouldn't be here without them and we won't leave them behind. The House should advance reforms that address not only the DREAMers' status, but also provide a path to citizenship -- not permanent second-class status -- for our parents.
When it comes to immigration reform, much is at stake for both the Republican Party and the immigrant community. For Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and his caucus, they can either succumb to the Steve King wing of the caucus or they can stand up to (it) and help share credit for passing reform with a real roadmap to citizenship for DREAMers and our families.
As the immigration debate continues to unfold in the House, New Mexicans are looking for their representatives to lead on immigration. Will Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., go the way of the Steve King caucus or will he commit to making citizenship a reality for millions of aspiring Americans?
New Mexico and the rest of the country know that House Republicans are all that stand in the way of real immigration reform being sent to the President's desk. It's time they stop with the games, get serious and let history happen.
Republicans have a choice before them: deliver a real solution on immigration, start to rebuild their political brand and have a shot at the 2016 presidential election; or step further and further away from mainstream America and the Latino and immigrant communities with cosmetic proposals that fall far short of our demands.
The KIDS Act is by no means the real reform our country so desperately needs. Republicans should be held accountable until they produce a bipartisan solution that actually addresses the fact that we have 11 million hard-working, contributing Americans without papers who just want a shot at earning the rights and responsibilities associated with citizenship.
United We Dream is the first and largest immigrant youth-led network in the nation with 51 affiliate organizations in 25 states that organize and advocate for the dignity and fair treatment of immigrant youth and families, regardless of immigration status.