An Immigrant’s Son Addresses Latino Conference
LAS VEGAS – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders told Latino officials at a conference here on Friday that his family shares their immigrant experience and that he supports reforms that would put millions of people living in the United States on a path to citizenship.
“I myself am the son of an immigrant,” the senator told the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. He recounted his father’s journey to the United States from Poland and how his parents met and married, worked hard, raised a family and sent two sons to college. “Their story, my story, our story is a story of America. Hard-working families coming to the United States to create a brighter future for their children. It is a story rooted in family and fueled by hope. It is a story that continues to this day in families all across the United States.
Sanders said he knows from first-hand experience that not everyone who comes to the United States is treated fairly. He saw America’s broken immigration system up close in 2008 when, as a new senator, he traveled to the tomato fields of southern Florida and met with migrant workers paid paltry wages for back-breaking work. Sanders invited leaders of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to come to Washington and testify at a Senate committee hearing where they confronted growers on abusive labor practices. The result in Immokolee was better working conditions and pay.
“But how many more Immokalees are out there?” Sanders asked. “How many fields or factories are there where people – often without legal status – are used up and thrown away? We cannot continue to run an economy where millions are made so vulnerable because of their undocumented status.”
Sanders said he voted in 2013 for a comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate but has languished in the House. “It is time to bring our neighbors out of the shadows. It is time to give them legal status. It is time to create a reasonable path to citizenship.”
Sanders also supported the DREAM Act, which would offer the opportunity of permanent residency and eventual citizenship to young people who were brought to the United States as children. “It is my belief that we should recognize the young men and women who comprise the Dreamers for what they are – American kids who deserve the right to legally be in the country they know as home.
Immigration reform alone is not enough, Sanders added. “We must also pursue policies that empower minority communities. This must start with energizing Latinos all across the country to engage in the democratic process,” Sanders said. And he called for new economic policies that empower communities to address the crippling poverty that affects tens of millions of Americans, including more than 12 million Hispanics.
He laid out an agenda for all Americans to live in a country where health care is a right, not a privilege; where every parent can have quality and affordable childcare and where all of our qualified young people, regardless of income, can go to college; where every senior can live in dignity and security and not be forced to choose between their medicine or their food; and where every person – no matter their race, their country of origin, their religion, their disability or their sexual orientation – realizes the full promise of equality that is our birthright as Americans.
To read the senator’s prepared remarks, click here.