New York Democratic representatives Yvette Clarke, Charles Rangel and Anthony Weiner came out this week in support of comprehensive immigration reform during a Thanksgiving event that also recognized immigrants’ heritage and contributions to the city.
During Monday’s event, the three members of Congress criticized the current immigration system as broken and inhumane. “Too many families are being kept apart by the hypocrisy of a system that encourages people to come and work, then tries to criminalize them when they want to stay. We have an obligation, a moral obligation, to see that these laws are changed,” Rangel said.
Clarke, a daughter of Jamaican immigrants, said an immigration overhaul is at the top of her legislative agenda. Calling herself a “Jamerican,” she said that in 2008, 47% of the total foreign-born population in the Brooklyn district she represents (New York’s 11th Congressional district) were not U.S. citizens. Some were green card holders, others were undocumented, including many children. Often times, she added, legal immigrants have undocumented relatives.
“And we must keep families together,” Clarke insisted.
Rep. Weiner, a member of the House Immigration Subcommittee, seemed confident that comprehensive reform is gaining momentum.
“We’re going to pass immigration reform early next year,” he said, stirring applause from the crowd of immigrant religious and community leaders who gathered at the New York Historical Society in Manhattan.
“It’s not that complicated. We know that there are many people who are here without documentation that are playing by the rules, that are paying taxes, that are sending their children to school, that are giving to our economy each and every day.
“We just have to figure out who they are, get them out of the shadows, give them some form of identification, and get you to the end of the line and we are going to make you just as part of American fabric as any other citizen of this country.”
However, asked after the event about the realistic chances of passing a reform bill soon, Clarke was less optimistic: “The president has said that he is committed to it. And there is a steady drumbeat in the House to move on this agenda. So there is a chance. Is it 50%? Is it 40%? It’s hard to say… And what the Senate will do is a whole other issue.”
She also added that to her knowledge the House will take up the issue in February.
The event’s organizers –the American Jewish Committee, the New York Immigration Coalition and the New York Interfaith Network for Immigration Reform– also launched a national holiday postcard campaign that will ask members of Congress to support comprehensive immigration reform.
New York City Council members-elect Margaret Chin of Chinatown and Ydanis Rodriguez of Washington Heights, both immigrants, also participated in the evening to express their support for the immigration reform cause.