Yesterday I was arrested for "blocking passage" of a little used street along with seven other members of Congress and 200 others who want House Republican leadership to stop delaying a vote on comprehensive immigration legislation. About 20,000 immigrants and their supporters were at the Capitol as part of an enthusiastic demonstration in favor of a vote in the Congress.
I was in good company. My colleagues John Lewis, the hero of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and Luis Gutierrez, the leader of today's immigration reform movement and I were handcuffed and (politely and professionally) put in police wagons and taken to the station where we were read our Miranda rights, waited for processing, were photographed, (my number was actually 007), fingerprinted, fined $50 and released several hours later.
Last June, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill with a strong bi-partisan vote of 68 to 32. It includes beefed-up border protections, interior enforcements, visa reforms, and a pathway to citizenship for those who meet the qualifications.
Now 174 House members have signed onto a bill that is specifically designed to receive bipartisan support by incorporating provisions that have already received Senate or House approval from both Republicans and Democrats. Passage in the House means we could go to a Conference Committee and hammer out the details together.
As someone who represents one of the most diverse districts in Illinois with a large immigrant populations representing countries in every corner of the globe, I have seen firsthand the consequences of our broken immigration system -- families tragically separated, workers unfairly and dangerously exploited, young people denied opportunities to serve their country, and the stress of living with the constant fear of deportation. Immigration reform is for those thousands of people in my district and the millions of people across the country who want nothing more than to work hard, provide for their families, and reach for the American Dream.
But immigration reform is important not just for the 11 million people living in the shadows without documentation. It would significantly boost our overall economy. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, enactment of the bipartisan Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform bill would reduce the deficit by $850 billion, and would increase economic growth by an estimated 3.3 percent in 2023.
As I sat in the police station and looked around at all the people who were expressing their commitment to changing a hopelessly broken law through their civil disobedience, I was proud to join them. As a first generation American myself, I know that comprehensive immigration reform is good for our country. I know it will reduce our deficit, grow out economy, reaffirm our values, advance our ideals, and honor our history as a nation of immigrants. It's time for a vote.