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A Nation of Immigrants

As this nation of immigrants marks the 235th anniversary of independence on July Fourth, it’s time to remember the bedrock principles of equality and liberty that have allowed America to become the most ethnically diverse and multicultural country in the world today.

It is in this context that one of the pressing issues of today, immigration reform, must be viewed and addressed by lawmakers — the better to fix, once and for all, America’s admittedly broken immigration policy.

Most administrations have tried to forge comprehensive immigration solutions but got bogged down in large part due to the inability of legislators to see beyond party and “ideological” positions. President George W. Bush pushed hard for broad-based reforms and came pretty close until his own party mates in the Senate scuttled the efforts with their refusal to compromise.

Recently, President Barack Obama reiterated his appeal to Congress to come up with legislation to address the plight of 11 million undocumented immigrants. In a speech in El Paso, Texas, the President succinctly stressed that immigrants bring innovation and contribute to the economy. He said undocumented workers live in the shadows and have become prey for unscrupulous employers who take advantage of them. Moreover, the current system does not work even for those seeking to enter the U.S. legally — something that Filipinos know only too well. Existing visa policies keep families separated, often for years or even decades, because of the quota system.

Contrary to the fallacy peddled by ultra-conservatives and the uninformed, most undocumented immigrants are a blessing, not a burden on the United States. They pay taxes and contribute to the Social Security system without commensurate benefits, and they take menial and low-paying jobs American would not touch.

The time to fix the broken system is now.

Indeed, America has come a long way — from the 2.5 million in the 13 states who cheered the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 to 311.7 million people in 50 states who will be celebrating this great milestone with prayers, parades, pageantry and picnics. (JM)

 

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