BY JOE MARVILLI
Elected officials and civic leaders came together in Flushing to demand comprehensive immigration reform, not next year, not eventually, but right now.
U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Melville) was joined by civic leaders and elected officials from northeast Queens to call for a vote in the House of Representatives on immigration reform. According to the Congressman, the bill is being blocked from coming to the floor by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). The group was calling for Boehner to let the bill get a vote.
H.R. 15, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, has 199 co-sponsors, three of them Republicans. Israel said that another 30 Republicans have said they support immigration reform.
“It would grow our economy. It would secure our borders. It would unite families. It would create pathways to citizenship. It would support small businesses in Flushing and throughout the country,” he said. “My constituents want there to be a vote. There’s no more excuses and no reason to delay it.”
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill would reduce that national deficit by $900 billion over 20 years. Besides the economic benefits, the reform would reduce the mass deportations throughout the country that has separated families.
“House Republicans are turning deaf ears to Americans. They are also turning cold shoulders to the sufferings of immigrants, whose families are torn apart, whose dreams are shattered by our nation’s broken immigration system,” S.J. Jung, president of the MinKwon Center for Community Action, said. “We will not rest until we break through Republican opposition. Immigration reform is not just about immigrants. It’s about our nation’s future.”
Two of the assembly members on hand at the rally, Nily Rozic (D-Hillcrest) and Ron Kim (D-Flushing), are first-generation Americans. Both of them argued that everyone deserves the same opportunities they had when they came to this country.
“At the State level, we’re doing whatever we can to make sure we’re a strong voice for immigrant rights and immigrant reform,” Kim said.
Rozic echoed Kim’s thoughts and promised to keep fighting in Albany and in Washington D.C. for reform.
“We’re just like everyone else. We came to this country looking for one thing; a better life,” she said. “Just last night, we had Vice President [Joe] Biden saying that these undocumented immigrants are Americans. They are just like you and I.”
While the focus of the event was on immigration reform at the federal level, several elected officials and civic leaders talked about the New York State DREAM Act, which had recently failed to pass in the State Senate.
“What happened in the State Senate, in defeating the DREAM Act, was unconscionable. We sat there on the floor of the Senate and we realized that this was a sham vote. We’ve got to make sure that the next time the DREAM Act comes up, that it passes,” State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) said.
Steve Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said that New York State should be taking an active role in passing immigration reform and become a trailblazer in the U.S.
“Nearly a quarter of New York State’s population are foreign-born and we need to be a leader for the rest of the country,” he said.
Although U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) had originally planned to be at the rally, a death in the family prevented her from attending. She sent a message of her support for immediate immigration reform.
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joey788.