In the wake of Tuesday's election, political analysts are busily predicting what the outcome means for Congress and the country. With Republicans now in the majority in the House of Representatives, many policies will probably change radically. What must not change, however, is work on immigration reform.
We are both of Japanese American descent - I was raised (and Scott's father was raised) in World War II-era internment camps for Japanese Americans. Thus we are keenly aware of the need for our society to be more inclusive.
We understand that during tough economic times, the natural reaction is to close the borders and look inward. Yet, the irony of anti-immigration sentiment, which fears a loss of jobs for Americans if more immigrant workers enter the United States, is that it is fiscally more prudent to legalize, insure, employ, reunite and educate our immigrants than to keep families apart.
Limiting immigration flows has proved to be economically unsound and harmful to American families. Lengthy waits waste precious government resources and can discourage potential applicants from using legal channels to join their families in the United States.
Yet our family-based immigration system has not been updated in 20 years. Nearly 6 million people are stuck in perpetual waiting, which is both unproductive and inexcusable. Five-year separations are quite common; so are 20-year estrangements from siblings and elderly parents.
Waits are so long that families receiving visas often find that their children have to reapply as adults and go to the back of the line. These administrative backlogs disproportionately affect Asians, Latinos and women.
The Reuniting Families Act, which I will reintroduce in the 112th Congress, allows all Americans to be reunited with their families. That includes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender permanent partners (adults who are in committed lifelong relationships and are financially interdependent).
The benefits of this policy cannot be overstated: American workers with their families by their side are happier, healthier and more able to succeed than those living apart from loved ones for years on end. By pooling resources, families can do together what they can't do alone - start family businesses, create American jobs and contribute more to this country's welfare.
The healthier the community, the more expendable income is available and the lower the burden on government social services. This correlation is well researched and well substantiated, but it is up to us to make it a reality.
This is a time when we must use every available resource to stimulate our economy and control government spending. That is why comprehensive immigration reform makes good sense.
It is time to reunite America. No family excluded.
Rep. Michael Honda, D-San Jose, is chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Scott Fujita, a member of the executive board of the National Football League Players Association, is a linebacker for the Cleveland Browns. This op-ed was first published in the San Francisco Chronicle on November 4, 2010.
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