WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09) joined New York City Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams, members of New York’s Congressional delegation, and immigration activists for a press conference outside of the U.S. Capitol to call for federal action on an agenda to address the immediate asylum seeker crisis as well as reform immigration policy infrastructure for the long-term.
CLARKE: We live in a country where everyone’s family has, at some point, chosen to come to these shores seeking freedom or a better life. That’s why we hear American politicians, and even Americans themselves, love to call themselves “a nation of immigrants”. It’s been nearly 250 years since the founding of our nation, and still, America has managed to maintain that self image – whether through the forced migration of millions of African slaves, restrictive immigration laws based on unjust fears of “inferior” races, and nativist movements that encouraged immigrants to assimilate or leave.
But the true reality of America’s immigrant heritage is much more complicated beyond myth. It stands as the fundamental truth of the history of our great nation. To truly understand our country’s immigration system today is impossible without knowing who’s been kept out, let in, and how they have been treated once they arrive. As it stands, our immigration laws have not been updated in more than 30 years.
This has kept families apart for decades, limited our ability to attract and retain top talent, and forced millions to live their lives in a perpetual state of uncertainty. The values, courage, and tenacity of people seeking the opportunity of a better life should guide our efforts to support the immigrant community. As a daughter of Jamaican immigrants, I am uniquely familiar with the intestinal fortitude required to make that arduous journey and work every day to achieve the American Dream, despite systems put in place to exclude and castigate.
As a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Co-Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Foreign Affairs and Immigration Task Force, and founding co-chair of the House Caribbean and House Haiti Caucuses, I have seen the glaring inequities and civil rights violations plaguing our immigrants in this nation. Let me be very clear: Our immigration system is broken, and I will not relent until our immigration system reflects a modern and equitable approach to this issue. The time has come for the values of our nation to be reflected in our immigration policies.
We need innovative policies and community support to reimagine the immigration system in a humane, just, and fair manner. I’m proud to stand here with my colleagues to demand additional federal aid to address the asylum seeker crisis.
And let’s be clear – this is a crisis. Not at our Southern Border, but here in our communities and neighborhoods. We have a moral obligation to provide Dreamers, TPS, and DED recipients with a real, manageable pathway to citizenship and permanent residency, update the immigrant registry, clear the family and employment-based backlogs, and pass comprehensive immigration reform.
They came here fleeing everything from political and economic conflict to natural disasters and health crises. They came seeking a better life. They came and made this nation a better and more prosperous place. We are a nation of immigrants, founded by immigrants, so we must do better for our immigrants. In closing, Happy Immigrant Heritage Week. Let’s stay true to our heritage.
The full press conference can be watched here.