One of the more contentious issues in this country over the past decade has been immigration reform. In last year’s presidential election, Mitt Romney garnered only 27 percent of the Hispanic vote as a result of the failure by the Republican Party to pass an immigration overhaul bill that would make it easier for immigrants to gain citizenship.
America is a nation built by immigrants. My grandparents were Italian immigrants who raised my father and his eight siblings during the Depression. I’m sure many of you could tell similar stories of hardship and triumph.
There are now approximately 13 million unauthorized immigrants living within the nation’s borders. For years, our elected officials have been trying to fix America’s broken immigration system, to no avail, but recently that has changed, and progress has been made.
On June 30, just days before we celebrated the nation’s independence, 14 Republicans joined every Democrat in the Senate to pass an immigration overhaul bill by a vote of 68-32. The “Gang of Eight,” a bipartisan group, drafted the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill and successfully brought it to a vote.
The bill would allow unauthorized immigrants living in American to gain temporary legal status if they pass a criminal background check and pay a fine and whatever back taxes they have outstanding. Someone who maintains a clean record and holds a job would be eligible to apply for a green card in 10 years and U.S. citizenship three years later.
Sen. Marco Rubio, himself the son of Cuban immigrants, said, “This is not just my story. This is our story. No one should dispute that like every sovereign nation, we have a right to control who comes in. But unlike other countries, we are not afraid of people coming in from other places.”
That is the spirit of America.