Every Hispanic Heritage Month, the nation lauds the contributions of Latinos. Now is the time to go beyond safe tribute and to integrate a segment of workers that have been left in limbo.
The official celebration of Hispanic Heritage began as a week-long event during President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration in 1968 and was expanded to last a month by President Reagan in 1988. Coincidentally, Reagan was also the last president to enact immigration reform.
Yet, while in the 80’s the states were capable of handling both a foreign and domestic agenda, today commentators are questioning whether immigration reform will get pushed to a backburner, if even handled by Congress. The conflict in Syria, a continuous Republican push to dismantle health care and the debt ceiling are all critical issues. But so is Congress failure to act around immigrants.
For four week, from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, the great accomplishments and contributions made by Latinos in the United States will be celebrated with events and speeches all over the country. But let’s seize this opportunity to resoundingly emphasize that Congress must prioritize the passage of comprehensive immigration reform.
The economic benefits of this reform will be significant in terms of growth, earnings, taxes and job creation. Several studies, including one from the Congressional Budget Office, have highlighted these advantages for our economywhich won’t happen if the reform gets derailed.
Lawmakers should keep in mind that immigrants aren’t only workers. They’re also consumers and taxpayers, and officially integrating them into the economy makes sense. Congress must act now.
As immigrants become more prosperous, we all benefit. And as immigrant youths are educated, we can position a workforce and leaders to replaced aging baby boomers.
During this Hispanic Heritage month, we call on Congress to update our immigration system and put undocumented persons on the path to legalization and citizenship.