President Joe Biden has just handed one of the thorniest issues in Washington to Sen. Bob Menendez to shepherd through the U.S. Senate: Immigration reform.
“This plan is not only about fixing our broken immigration system, but building a better one that reunites families, brings the undocumented community out of the shadows and on a path to citizenship, stands up for human rights, addresses root causes of migration, and includes a smart border security strategy,” said Menendez in a press statement Jan. 20.
“As I prepare this bill for introduction, I know all too well from my work with the ‘Gang of Eight’ that passing immigration reform through the United States Congress will be a challenging task,” stated the U.S. Senator. “However, there is a moral and economic imperative to get this done.”
Menendez will introduce the Biden-Harris Administration’s immigration bill he believes will build a fairer, more humane and functional immigration system.
The son of Cuban immigrants, the senator said he is filled with hope to advance the bold vision for immigration reform set forth by President Biden.
“The past four years have been traumatic for immigrant communities who have endured relentless attacks from the Trump Administration,” said Menendez. “We turn the page on this dark chapter of our history and begin the hard work of repairing the damage and rebuilding a better union that reflects the values of our nation.”
Menendez, who has characterized immigration as “one of the few unresolved civil rights issues of our time,” noted he has spent his legislative career advocating for Latinos and immigrant families in the U.S. He was a member of the so-called “Gang of Six” that crafted a bipartisan DACA bill to provide Dreamers with a pathway to citizenship that garnered 54 votes in the Senate, after President Trump refused to support it.
Before that, Sen. Menendez in 2013 was a member of the so-called “Gang of Eight” that passed bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S. Senate, only to be blocked by Republican leaders at that time from receiving a vote in the House of Representatives.
“History shows our nation is stronger and more prosperous when we embrace immigration and treat immigrants with the dignity and respect every human deserves,” New Jersey’s senior senator stated.
In outlining the legislative path forward and work that will be required to build bipartisan support to get the bill passed in the Senate, Menendez said he will start by reaching out to Republican colleagues. He expressed optimism that the legislation will be passed over the next two years.
Addressing the American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC), he told immigration advocates as well as business, labor and faith leaders that “it makes a difference when you have leadership that is willing to put real political capital on the table for this cause.”
“I know that President Biden and Vice President Harris understand the importance of getting this done,” said the North Jersey lawmaker. “They know this is about more than undoing the damage of the last President or fixing a broken system—it’s about building a better one, keeping families together, respecting human rights and addressing the root causes of migration.”
The senator characterized getting immigration reform passed through the Senate will be a “Herculean task.” But he promised to frame the conversation from a position of strength.
Stressing the economic advantages, the Senator proclaimed history has shown immigrants have enlivened the economy, unlocked innovation and unleashed prosperity, and set us apart in the world.
“To my friends in the business community, we need you to give it everything you got,” satted Menendez. “We need you to make clear with your words, your actions, and your dollars that you will not lend your support to politicians or platforms that stoke fear, spread xenophobia and stymie prospects for reform.”
The senator added “No other country on earth is as rich as a constellation of families who hail from all over the world but share a thirst for freedom and opportunity.”
Menendez told those in the advocacy and labor communities, “we have our work cut out for us. We must make the case for immigration reform not just to immigrants and their families but to Americans from all walks of life. We must emphasize why immigration reform is in the moral, economic, and best interests of our country.”
He concluded that immigrants always have and will be the U.S.’s greatest believers in the American dream.
“I know it because I have lived that dream —just as Vice President Kamala Harris has—and I look forward to working with her, with President Biden and with my colleagues to build a 21st century immigration system that keeps the promise of that dream alive for generations to come” he said.