President Obama’s inauguration speech Monday highlighted founding American ideals as well as the necessary steps needed to ensure future prosperity. In that respect, the president mentioned climate change and LGBTQ rights, surprising some. But it wasn’t at all unexpected to hear him allude to immigration reform.
“Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity,” the president said.
Anticipating the inauguration, Democratic Rep. Xavier Becerra of California talked to host Melissa Harris-Perry on Saturday about the possibilities for legislation on immigration in the second term. First, though, they watched a portion of Arizona’s DREAM Act Coalition co-founder Erika Andiola’s YouTube video.
“We need to do something…we need to stop…we’re separating families… ” she cried in her message last week. She posted the two-minute plea after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers took her mother and brother into custody because of their status. Although Andiola’s high visibility video appeal was effective–bringing about her family’s safe return and a job offer from Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona–so many others in the United States still suffer after their families were broken apart by current immigration laws.
Harris-Perry discussed the heartbreaking clip with Rep. Becerra, asking whether it has an effect on lawmakers. “For some of us who are children of immigrants… absolutely it does,” he said.
Many Americans agree. According to a Wall Street Journal opinion poll, 52% of respondents were in favor of amnesty for employed undocumented immigrants, as opposed to 46% against. Rep. Becerra said the percentage of those who simply want a tough-but-fair policy is even higher. “Americans want a solution; they know our immigration policy is broken,” he said. “The people are way ahead of the politicians on this one.”
Regarding the actual immigrants who are being constantly uprooted and detained, Rep. Becerra issued firm support. “They work hard. They do everything the right way,” Rep. Becerra said. Young immigrants are “the next generation that will create those leaders, those innovators.”
Along with public support for immigration reform, Rep. Becerra said that African-American members of Congress and the Latino members of Congress are supporting each other as well.
Despite the “Neanderthal element in Congress that continues to hold us back,” Rep. Becerra is optimistic. “It’s no longer a matter of if we’re going to have immigration reform–it’s when, and I believe it’ll be this year.”
See another MHP immigration reform conversation here.