08/21/2013 02:45 pm ET Updated Oct 21, 2013

Immigration Reform for a More Perfect Union

From Angel Island to Ellis Island; from our northern to southern borders; from the fertile earth of Steinbeck Country to innovation's epicenter of Silicon Valley -- immigration issues affect each of us, and in every corner and facet of our nation. Immigration is about families. Immigration is about building a stronger community, society, and economy. That is why it is imperative in this immigration debate that, more than ever before, reform be truly comprehensive, inclusive, and humane.

For too long has our immigration system been used as an exclusionary tool to keep apart families. The Supreme Court's monumental ruling to strike down a backbone provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) this summer, however, closes one discriminatory chapter in our immigration law. With the demise of DOMA's Section 3, same-sex couples will now be treated equally within our immigration system. This means that Judy Rickard -- a constituent from my district -- no longer has to choose between the love of her life and the love of her country. Judy's wife, Karin, just received her spousal visa card in the mail. Because of Judy and Karin, and the tens of thousands of other lawfully married lesbian and gay couples, I have fought to ensure that all families will be included in the immigration system.

As the representative from California's 17th district, I am extremely proud that Silicon Valley businesses such as eBay, Google, Cisco Systems, and Intel have long supported the rights of LGBT employees and have championed the inclusion of permanent partners in comprehensive immigration reform. Our valley's businesses knew the economic, productive value of retaining talented employees and their families. As the global community becomes increasingly smaller and intricate, our nation cannot afford -- morally or economically -- to continue the historical trend of an outdated exclusionary immigration policy.

The immigrant's spirit is the entrepreneur's spirit. In fact, 40 percent of the largest U.S. companies have been founded by immigrants or their children. The frontier drive to seize the moment, to take that leap forward, or to cross the expanse of an ocean is the drive to start a business. In Silicon Valley, between 1995 and 2005, more than half of all major technology and engineering firms were founded by an immigrant. That is why this immigration debate cannot be a zero-sum game, where we pit the "best and brightest" against family. We cannot sacrifice our family in the name of reform. We cannot sacrifice our global competitiveness for the sake of political expediency. The miracle of a truly comprehensive and inclusive immigration system is that we do not have to sacrifice one for the other.

People come to our shores with different dreams, aspirations, and needs. We must support stronger provisions for those guest workers who toil the earth and place food on our dinner tables. We must support students who come to this country seeking a top education, and then allow them to kindle their entrepreneurial spark into our economy. We must support high-skilled immigrants, as well as their families, who will strengthen our talented workforce. We must never turn our backs on our married children and siblings, just because they are above a certain age. Stronger families create stronger economies.

Over two-thirds of Americans want and expect a comprehensive fix to our broken immigration system. The Senate passed a historic bipartisan immigration bill by a vote of 68 to 32. As the Immigration Task Force chair of the Congressional Asian and Pacific American Caucus, I will continue to ensure that our nation is truly inclusive, nurturing and inviting.

One hundred and ten years ago, a poem was engraved on a bronze plaque and installed inside the Statue of Liberty's pedestal. The engraving read: "From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome... Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free... I lift my lamp beside the golden door." Our country has always been great when we beam with openness. Let's take the present momentum of equality and inclusion and make sure we are fighting for an immigration reform that truly makes our nation -- and our union -- more perfect.