Updated: November 10, 2013 7:47PM
In Chicago on Wednesday, 300 community members, including elected officials, stood in front of local immigration offices on Congress Parkway, demanding a stop to deportations and a House of Representatives vote on comprehensive immigration reform. More than 100 of them took to the streets for peaceful acts of civil disobedience, and it’s happening not just in Chicago. In the last month there have been acts of civil disobedience in New York, Washington, D.C., Orlando and across the country, with hundreds of people having the courage to stand up and say the time for immigration reform is now.
The gridlock in Washington is coming at the expense of American families in Chicago and across the country. A handful of elected officials caused a government shutdown, and now a handful of elected officials are standing in the way of comprehensive immigration reform. The time for immigration reform is now. We must continue to step up the pressure on Congress to do what’s right for our families and what’s right for the economic future of our country.
The moral imperative and the economic imperative don’t always align, but when big and small businesses, labor, tech startups, universities, religious leaders, law-enforcement agencies, advocates, community members and elected officials of all stripes agree that we need to fix our broken immigration system, it’s clear that legislators standing in the way of immigration reform are on the wrong side of history and on the wrong side of the American people and economic growth.
As a big-city mayor, I see up-close the vital contributions immigrants make to our economy. In Chicago, one half of all new businesses every year in Chicago are started by immigrants, which means that to be pro-small business means to be pro-immigration reform; they go hand in hand.
Immigrants not only make up the backbone of our work force, they stand at the vanguard of the new knowledge economy. One quarter of high-tech startups have at least one immigrant founder. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that fixing our broken immigration system will reduce federal deficits by about $200 billion over the next 10 years.
All of these statistics speak to one fundamental truth: immigration not only creates value for our economy, it is true to our values as a country as well.
Americans across the country are showing courage and leadership to stand up for those values by speaking up for justice and fairness in our immigration system. They are calling for a vote on comprehensive immigration reform; they are calling on Congress to let democracy work.
It’s time for Congress to show that same courage and leadership. It’s time for the House of Representatives to call a vote and pass comprehensive immigration reform this year.
Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, served in the U.S. House from 2003 to 2009.