12/15/2009 11:25 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Gutierrez Challenges the Harmful Status Quo

Today, Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) introduced the "Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity (CIR ASAP) Act of 2009." Congressman Gutierrez has been joined by members of the faith community, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Black Caucus, Asian Pacific American Caucus, and Progressive Caucus. This legislation marks a path for the nation to tackle the nation's broken immigration system.

We at NCLR commend Congressman Gutierrez for his leadership, for advancing immigration solutions, and for being the first to provide a platform that will allow the American government and the American people to begin this critical conversation. Fixing the immigration system will not only help end the exploitation and demonization of immigrant families and anyone perceived to be immigrant, but it will also level the playing field for American workers, lift wages and increase tax revenues.

The immigration system is broken, and this has led to tragedy throughout the U.S. in the form of hate crimes culminating in murders in New York and Pennsylvania, the separation of families, and the restriction of access to education for young people commonly known as "DREAM youth." We are thankful that a champion like Congressman Gutierrez has shown the leadership, common sense, and courage of his convictions to do something about our broken immigration system. We hope other members of Congress will rally behind him. This bill is only the beginning. Advocates from all over the country will be responding to its specifics in the coming days and months.

Numerous academic and government reports have documented that a program requiring undocumented immigrants to register, become legal, and pay taxes would have a positive impact on our economy. By and large, the American people support reform that pulls the undocumented population out of the shadows and puts an end to an underground labor force that exploits the undocumented and undermines all workers. The American people believe that comprehensive immigration reform is better for America's economy than requiring these workers to leave the United States. Poll after poll demonstrates that the vast majority of Americans support a comprehensive overhaul of the immigration system that restores the rule of law by including legalization and smart enforcement.

Past election cycles have shown that voters reject candidates who simply demagogue this issue or adopt extreme enforcement-only approaches. For far too long, those who support the harmful status quo have been allowed to lead on this issue, even though they do not represent the can-do will of the American public. And it is clear that the immigration debate has rallied Latinos, the fastest-growing segment of the electorate, who participated in record numbers in the 2008 election, in large part in response to the promise of change. Latinos are watching. The American people are watching. And we have the public support to arrive at a solution.

We have a moral imperative to address immigration effectively and humanely. We must fix the broken system that tramples on our values, fosters exploitation, and weakens our economy. NCLR joins members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Black Caucus, Asian Pacific American Caucus, and Progressive Caucus in applauding Congressman Gutierrez and urging presidential and congressional leadership to usher in a new kind of debate on this issue, move us forward together, and deliver workable solutions.