By Gene Davis, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Colorado immigration rights groups demanded Tuesday that U.S. lawmakers immediately pass an immigration reform bill that would reunite families, enact the DREAM Act and protect undocumented laborers.
Tuesday’s rallies coincided with an event being held by U.S. Rep Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill. During the rally that was held on the lawn of the United States Capitol, Gutierrez outlined a series of core principles that he says should be a part of a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the House of Representatives. His core beliefs include addressing the concerns expressed by local protesters Tuesday.
“We simply cannot wait any longer for a bill that keeps our families together, protects our workers and allows a pathway to legalization for those who have earned it,” he said. “It is time we had a workable plan making its way through Congress that recognizes the vast contributions of immigrants to this country and that honors the American Dream. I am preparing such a plan.”
Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, threw her support behind Gutierrez Tuesday. She echoed other activists in saying that the current immigration system is broken and must be fixed immediately.
Anti-illegal immigration activist Tom Tancredo, however, blasted Gutierrez’s principles and his forthcoming immigration reform bill. The former congressman said there is already a pathway to citizenship for people born outside the United States, and that lawmakers shouldn’t reward people who broke the law by illegally immigrating to the country.
“It’s a stupid thing to push for the legalization of illegal aliens when you have a 10 percent unemployment rate,” he said.
Self-described daughter/mother/student/worker Yatzin Islas immigrated to the country illegally with her family when she was seven years old. Four years ago, her dad was shot in the leg. Because her dad was undocumented and couldn’t get health care, the thousands of dollars in medical debt that resulted from the shooting caused the family to fall behind on their mortgage and lose their house.
“My story is one of many that shows that the broken immigration system in this country is pulling people apart,” she said. “Growing up, I’ve realized how difficult life is without a Social Security number.”
Gutierrez said Tuesday that his reform bill will strengthen the DREAM Act. The initiative would grant in-state tuition to the children of undocumented residents and provide a pathway for select students to achieve citizenship. Although the bill was introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on March 26, 2009, it has yet to be heard on the floor of either chamber.
Tancredo told the Denver Daily News earlier this year that the bill should be renamed the NIGHTMARE Act because it would increase the amount of people who come to the United States illegally.
“If that’s the purpose of it, then it should be a success,” he said. “But for everyone else who considers more illegal immigration in the country as a bad thing, then this isn’t a good idea.”
Meanwhile, supporters of the DREAM Act say the initiative would be just and have far-reaching positive effects.
“Immigrants brought here as children should not be punished with fines or other means,” said Gutierrez. “Rather, they should be fully integrated into our society as the Americans they truly are — and as quickly as possible.”
Gutierrez didn’t give an exact date for when he plans to introduce an immigration reform package, only saying that it would be in the near future.
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters