Tim Kaine makes case for comprehensive immigration reform

kaine new2U.S. Senator Tim Kaine marked the third anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and called on his congressional colleagues to work together to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation. Since the program was announced in 2012, DACA has offered temporary relief from deportation to over 660,000 immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as young children, including nearly 10,000 who call Virginia home. Kaine highlighted the stories of two Virginians enrolled in the DACA program, making the case that communities across the Commonwealth have benefited from the economic and educational opportunities made available to these young adults.

“The DACA program announced by the President has allowed young people to contribute to our communities, live without constant fear of deportation, keep families together and provide economic and educational opportunities for these young recipients,” said Kaine. “[DREAMers] didn’t come here of their own volition, they were brought here. They only know Virginia as home and they seek to study, work and build a life in this country as proud Virginians. They want to return the opportunities afforded to them by using their talents to improve their communities and make it a better place for everybody.”

“We are now almost exactly two years from the date when the Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform right here on this floor in June of 2013,” Kaine continued. “Two years, where after a strong bipartisan effort, we’ve waited for action – any action – by the House. Not just taking up our bill, but their own bill, and in a conference finding a compromise, which we can do. It’s time that the House act. It’s time that the Senate and House sit down together and do comprehensive immigration reform. We can give DREAMers and millions of other families who continue to live in the shadows an earned pathway to citizenship. It’s time to pass that reform.”

 

Full transcript of Kaine’s remarks:

Thank you, Mr. President. I rise today to mark the third anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program which was this week. Since 2012, the program that the President implemented, which has been known as DACA, has offered temporary relief from deportation to immigrants who arrive to the United States as young children. And it’s helped almost 665,000 young people since June of 2012, including more than 10,000 in Virginia.

The DACA program announced by the President has allowed young people to contribute to our communities, live without constant fear of deportation, keep families together and provide economic and educational opportunities for these young recipients. I want to thank President Obama and the administration because DACA has provided relief to thousands of youngsters who seek only to pursue opportunity, provide for their families and contribute to the only places that they’ve ever known as home: the United States.

Immigrants aren’t the only ones who benefit. DACA enforces the universal reputation of this country that we’re proud of, that we value our immigrant heritage and we embrace and celebrate their contributions to American history, industry and culture. And, Mr. President, this is a value that is something that we feel very deeply in Virginia, and we feel it more every day. When I was born in 1958, one out of 100 Virginians had been born in another country. Today in 2015, one out of nine Virginians was born in another country, and that period coincides with the moving of the Virginia economy from bottom quarter per capita income to top quarter. Immigration and the contributions of immigrants to our state have been tremendously positive. There are 10,000 youngsters in Virginia; more than 10,000 benefited by DACA. We’re 13th among all states.

Let me tell you two quick stories. Hareth Andrade exemplifies what DACA recipients – if given the opportunity – can give back to their communities. Hareth arrived to the United States from Bolivia, brought by adults – she arrived without her parents. She excelled in school; she attended Washington Lee High School in Arlington. She took Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes. During a campus visit before she graduated she learned for the first time her undocumented status would be a barrier to earning a college education. But instead of giving up on her dream, she organized with other students to form Dreamers of Virginia, an organization that has led efforts to provide students access to in-state tuition and college admission for kids just like her. After the President announced the DACA program in June of 2012, Hareth became a recipient and has since transferred from community college to Trinity Washington University where she expects to graduate with a degree in international relations next year.

Another student, just one more story, Jung Bin Cho also has seen doors open to him because of DACA, like the fine institution Virginia Tech where he now attends. Cho arrived in the United States with his parents from South Korea when he was seven years old. He attended elementary school, graduated high school in Springfield, Virginia and played on the defensive line for the football team. His dream — a lot of Virginians have this dream — was attending Virginia Tech and he gained admission to the school. But at that time he first realized that his undocumented status eliminated him from in-state tuition or any financial aid. Because he couldn’t afford it, he attended community college and worked two jobs to support himself. But following DACA and the decision last year to grant in-state tuition to young Virginians – a decision for which I applaud our governor and general assembly – Cho reapplied to Virginia tech, won admission and he now is able to attend Virginia Tech where he will pursue a degree in business and hopefully participate in this great expansion of the Virginia economy that so many of our immigrants have been proud to lead.

For young people like Hareth and Cho, DACA makes sense. Both came here as young children. They didn’t come here of their own volition, they were brought here. They only know Virginia as home and they seek to study, work and build a life in this country as proud Virginians. They want to return the opportunities afforded to them by using their talents to improve their communities and make it a better place for everybody.

In addition to this humanitarian aspect, as you’ve heard these talented students are the kinds of people who accelerate our economy, DACA is good for our economy too. So I strongly support its continuation but I also want to encourage my colleagues – and I think we all agree on this, democrat, republican, independent – we all agree this program works best not by executive order but by legislation. We are now almost exactly two years from the date when the Senate passed comprehensiveimmigration reform right here on this floor in June of 2013. Two years where after a strong bipartisan effort we’ve waited for action, any action, by the House not just taking up our bill, but their own bill, and in a conference finding a compromise, which we can do. It’s time that the House act. It’s time that the Senate and House sit down together and do comprehensiveimmigration reform.

We can give DREAMers and millions of other families who continue to live in the shadows an earned pathway to citizenship.

It’s time to pass that reform.

It’s in the best interest of our nation and in the best valued traditions of my Commonwealth that we do so. And with that, Mr. President, I yield the floor.

         
 

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