NEW YORK— "I hope to focus a lot of next year’s agenda on comprehensive immigration reform. We need to make sure that all of our communities have a voice in Washington." With those words, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand addressed the state’s ethnic media Wednesday, Oct. 20, and reiterated her commitment to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill that treats immigrants fairly and gives them a path to earned citizenship.
Calling the issue an "urgent crisis," Sen. Gillibrand added that there is definitely a need for the country’s broken immigration system to be repaired. "We need to fight for comprehensive immigration reform. The most urgent issue we have right now is the issue of how we create a federal system that can address the need of our immigrant communities across New York," she said.
The junior senator also responded on why she changed her stance on the issue of immigration, particularly since she was perceived as anti-immigrant when she was still in Congress. "I represented a very rural, upstate New York district and now I represent the whole state, which has about four million immigrant families. My constituency has changed and my responsibilities have changed," she explained.
GovernorDavid Patersonappointed Gillibrand in January 2009 to fill the US Senate seat vacated byHillary Rodham Clinton, who assumed the office ofUnited States Secretary of Statein theObama administration. She is the second woman to serve as a US Senator from New York. "It is our moral imperative, we need to have a family reunification policy in this country that accommodates our families. We need to make sure that parents with children, brothers and sisters are with each other. That is who we are as a nation," Gillibrand said.
In May 2009, Sen. Gillibrand joined Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Charles Schumer (D-NY)and introduced legislation to re-emphasize family unity in the US immigration system.The Reuniting Families Actwould help legal immigrants reunite with their families and end decade-long waiting times for legal immigrant visas. If approved, the bill would, among others allow widows and widowers to immigrate despite death of a petitioner. It also recognizes the sacrifices that certain World War II Filipino veterans made for this country by exempting their children from the numerical caps on visas and reducing their children’s wait times for an immigrant visa in order to rejoin them.
Stopping home raids
"One of the first things my constituents asked me when I became a senator was if I can stop the home raids. I looked into the issue and I now agree that enforcing home raids is not the appropriate way. We need the federal government to take responsibility on these issues," Gillibrand said. She added that she wrote a letter to (Secretary of Homeland Security) Janet Napolitano saying she wanted all raids stopped until "we had comprehensive immigration reform."
Still on the issue of immigration, the senator said that it is "urgent for the US to pass the DREAM Act." "It is a very significant priority that needs to be addressed. It should be one of the highest priorities," she said. "Every student deserves the opportunity to achieve his or her God given potential," Gillibrand added in a recent interview."Current law is unfairly punishing thousands of young people who have spent nearly their entire lives in this country. America is the only home many of them know, yet they are being denied the opportunity to achieve their full potential. This legislation says that if they work hard and play by the rules, then they will have the opportunity to get a good education and earn their way to legal status."
The DREAM Act would make college more affordable for immigrant students and their families by repealing outdated regulations that effectively deny in-state tuition and other higher education benefits to immigrant students and puts students 16 years old or younger on a path for citizenship upon acceptance to higher education or high school graduation. If passed, the DREAM Act, which stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, would put undocumented students on the path to legalization in the US through the path of academic or military education. It isestimated that the DREAM Act would benefit around 800,000 students in the U.S. who were brought here by their parents before the age of 16.
Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) tried attaching the DREAM Act to the Defense Department’s annual spending authorization bill so he could hold a floor vote in the precious few legislative days remaining before Congress breaks next month. The Republicans filibustered and the Senate—without a single Republican vote—voted 56-43 failing to reach the necessary 60 votes in order to advance the defense bill that also included the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" amendment. (Momar G. Visaya/AJPress)
( Published October 21, 2010 in Asian Journal Las Vegas p. A1 )
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