Opinion: Senator Durbin: The Real Voice for Immigrants

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and I share a special background as the sons of immigrants. My parents came to the United States in the 1970s, and Senator Durbin’s mother came here as a young child. We were taught the lessons of hard work, perseverance, and middle class values from our immigrant parents. And with those lessons in mind, we have been able to represent Illinoisans at both the state and federal levels.

But our stories are not unique—it is this history and hard work of immigrants that makes America so special.

As the first Asian American elected to the Illinois State Senate and the first Indian American elected to the Illinois General Assembly, I know Senator Durbin as a true champion for all immigrant families.

As the one of the Senators who originally introduced the Dream Act 20 years ago, Senator Durbin has been fighting for immigrants as long as he has been in public service, and it is for this reason that I have been astonished and disheartened at the reaction of some in the immigrant community to Senator Durbin’s attempts to make several key reforms to improve Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-Utah) original Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act.

These reforms include early filing to protect immigrant workers and their families who are stuck in the backlog; an annual green-card set aside for immigrant workers who are ineligible for early filing because they are overseas; a one-year delay in implementing a section of the bill to protect immigrant workers with pending green-card applications; and the 50-50 rule, which protects American jobs and prevents the exploitation of immigrant workers.

Despite Senator Durbin’s concerns about Senator Lee’s original bill, mainly that it includes no additional green cards and therefore will not reduce the green card backlog, Senator Durbin sat down with Senator Lee to resolve their differences.

And in recent weeks, Senators Durbin and Lee came to a compromise and attempted to pass that compromise legislation on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Unfortunately, Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, objected to this compromise by Senators Durbin and Lee, and therefore, the legislation did not pass.

I would ask the immigrant communities who are behind Senator Lee’s legislation to consider the following: Today it is other immigrant communities that Donald Trump and Republicans want to target.  Tomorrow it could be you. Wouldn’t you want people to stand together in a way where every community can thrive and prosper?

This “Divide and Conquer” strategy, as it relates to the different immigrant communities, by Donald Trump has been a longstanding, deep concern of mine.  The notion that the Trump Administration and Senate Republicans are pro-immigrant is absurd.  They are cynically using this issue to appeal to immigrants, who are rightfully frustrated and who have faced severe injustices, with a flawed solution.

If you are serious about achieving a resolution, let’s sit down and try to work it out, just as Senator Durbin has done time and time again.  Don’t smear the record of someone who has fought for our communities for decades.

The President and his apologists in Congress have stopped all immigration measures in the Senate. No committee action, and no meaningful floor debate.  Instead of smearing a true champion of all immigrants, please join me in calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold a hearing on legislation to address the green card backlog.

Ram Villivalam (Courtesy: Facebook)

Sen. Villivalam is the first Indian-American to be elected to the Illinois State Senate

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