Congressman Hank Johnson

Representing the 4th District of Georgia

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Rep. Johnson's comprehensive immigration reform speech

April 8, 2013
Speech

The 2012 elections were a game changer. With immigration being a defining, mobilizing issue for Latino, Asian-American and new American voters, the election produced a mandate for immigration reform.  The fight for the Republican nomination for president was like a mad rush to see who could be the most anti-immigrant nominee among the candidates. The result was an emphatic victory by President Obama on November 6, 2012.

As Ed Gillespie, a prominent Republican leader, recently said: “There is no instinct like a survival instinct.” The Republican Party learned the hard way, that if it's candidates don't change their ways, the GOP will head off the demographic cliff. That is why we are hearing a growing cascade of insincere Republican voices inside and outside of Congress – from John Boehner and Rand Paul to Sean Hannity and Charles Kraphammer (I mean Krauthammer) – arguing that the time has come to get immigration reform behind them. And now, there are Republicans in both chambers of Congress who are working to do just that, by signing onto the bipartisan principles released in the Senate , and by working on a bill in the House.

So I believe that this is the year when Congress will pass common sense, comprehensive immigration reform. The centerpiece of this effort must be the creation of a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million new Americans who aspire to become citizens. Americans support it. Republicans need it. It's time for Congress to deliver.

America deserves common sense immigration reform that reflects our interests and our values as Americans. The centerpiece of reform is a straightforward path to citizenship. If you are already here and you pass background checks, study English and pay taxes, you can earn the chance to become an American citizen.

For reform to succeed, it needs three interactive elements: 1) it must create a roadmap to citizenship for 11 million immigrants here without immigration papers; 2) it must create an orderly 21st century legal immigration system that reunites families and grows our economy, and; 3) it must keep our borders secure  and it must require that employers verify that all employees are legal.

Done well, and done together, this combination will produce a system in which immigrants living in America are here legally, immigrants who come in the future are admitted legally and employers who break the law be held accountable. The result will be immigration policies that reflect our traditions as both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws.

Our immigration laws ought to reflect both our interests, and our values as Americans. As Americans, we have the right to decide who lives within our borders, and we can't let unscrupulous employers to undercut honest business owners by exploiting cheap labor. But we need to treat this as a problem to be solved, not as an opportunity for politicians to score political points by preying on both our legitimate concerns and our prejudices.

We are a nation of laws, but we are also a nation of immigrants. Most Americans have parents or grandparents who immigrated to this country, and we know the hardships they faced, from learning the language to dealing with prejudice. So let's secure our borders, Require employers to comply with common-sense laws that benefit our country, and expect immigrants who want to stay here to do what people who have come to our shores in search of a better life have always done: obey our laws, learn our language, and pay our taxes, while earning the chance to become tax-paying American citizens.

The President and the Senate's proposals for immigration reform are a move in the right direction in ensuring America's economy, military, and global competitiveness are strengthened. We have a responsibility to ensure that comprehensive immigration reform is successful in the 113th Congress, and I truly believe the we will get the job done.

Thank you.

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