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Why we should strengthen immigration for families

From an editorial Monday in the New York Times:

The momentum in Washington for immigration reform has been growing with amazing speed in recent weeks, and it seems that the question now is not whether Congress will try to fix the immigration system this year, but how big and effective the repairs will be. We hope that whatever bill emerges will continue to protect and unite families, preserving and strengthening a bedrock value of America’s immigration system.

It might be hard to imagine that America’s long tradition of allowing immigrants to sponsor spouses, children and siblings for visas would be threatened. But anti-immigration groups and lawmakers have long attacked the practice, using the misleading term “chain migration.”

These tensions emerged at a recent hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, who led the hearing, spoke movingly of her own experience immigrating to Honolulu as a young girl, and yet joined other witnesses in explaining how the system falls short: She noted that it treats women unequally – many who arrive as dependent spouses are denied the right to work legally, and face discrimination and obstacles to assimilation.

But even as Moua explained how important family visas are, Sen. Jeff Sessions balked at the very concept. Using an example of two hypothetical Hondurans, he suggested that the visas were bad because some relatives can be underachievers. He ignored the powerful truth that family immigration is an economic bulwark. Families incubate job-creating businesses, provide a safety net for their members and hasten assimilation. Employment visas are important for companies to recruit needed workers. But these workers have spouses and children and siblings.

And we need workers at all levels of the economy: As Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois put it, “Silicon Valley engineers and entrepreneurs would not be very productive or competitive engines of our economy if they did not have food to eat, or people to care for their children or parents.”

Immigration is more than a business relationship America has with selected foreigners. Recruited workers enrich the country. Reunited families do, too.

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