Vasquez: Don't let Boston bombers derail immigration reform
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The terrible crimes committed during the Boston Marathon should not stall the urgent effort to reform our immigration system.
What happened in Boston is not the fault of the 11 million people who are in the United States right now without proper documentation. Look around you. The immigrants you come in contact with are good, hardworking people who only want a better life for themselves and their loved ones.
Many immigrants came over when they were very young. It wasn't even their decision, and this country is the only country they have ever known.
But our current immigration system doesn't take that into account. Instead, it separates children from their parents, who are either sent back to their country of origin or thrown into prison.
If you believe that families are an important institution, you should be for immigration reform. And if you believe children should be with their parents, you should be for immigration reform. Immigrants make us rich in diversity and culture. Our willingness to welcome in people from all over the world is a huge credit to the United States.
And immigrants don't sap our social safety net. They contribute more in taxes than they actually use in government programs, according to a recent study in the Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare.
Yes, the government should do a background check for violent crimes on immigrants before they can become citizens so as to keep out anyone who would do us grave harm. But if they clear that hurdle, they deserve a path to citizenship.
And that path shouldn't take forever. Today, there are immigrants in this country legally who have waited 20 years to become a citizen. That's just cruel.
The path to citizenship should also be affordable. And the rules should be spelled out and fair for everyone.
Soon after the Boston bombings, a few Republican politicians made unfortunate comments suggesting that this dreadful event should upend the drive to immigration reform.
But now more Republicans are grasping that this is neither fair nor wise. The Republicans lost the presidential race in 2012 in part because they showed disdain for immigrants who are here without proper documentation. Infamously, Mitt Romney told them to "self-deport." That was an insensitive and ridiculous answer, and it deprived the Republicans of a line of attack against President Obama, who has deported more immigrants and at a faster pace than any president in history. It is not something he should be proud of.
Neither party has done right by immigrants, and too many families have suffered as a result.
We are a better country than this. As a nation of immigrants, we need to be true to ourselves by passing comprehensive immigration reform now.
Angie Trudell Vasquez is a writer for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues.