Immigration Reform: Is it Rhetoric or a Dream?

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Immigration Reform: Is it Rhetoric or a Dream?

The time for common sense immigration reform is now. To some that sounds like rhetoric; to millions it sounds like an almost attainable dream. We often use these words lightly: immigration reform and dream. Well, not everyone. Not folks who are living in limbo, not folks who have gone through a fifteen to twenty year process to become Americans, not their friends, and not their family. I’m family to both ends of the spectrum, to those who live in limbo, and those who struggled for years to become American citizens. To us, the words immigration reform and dream are one in the same and millions of dreams are on the verge of finally coming true now that Congress has introduced and is holding hearings on comprehensive immigration reform.

If you’ve ever observed the swallows coming home to San Juan Capistrano in Calif., then you have seen migration. For many in our global community migration is just as natural. In many parts of the world, migrating for the promise of freedom and economic opportunity is a part of life. As Americans we often do this too, we just don’t think of it as migration. That’s why so many New Mexicans are transplants from other parts of our country. Our country works best and our economy prospers when we all do our part and work as one nation. Immigration reform will allow this to happen.

Raised by Salvadorian immigrants, I witnessed the drawn out – sometimes unfair –process that my parents undertook to become American citizens.  Yet there was more than just the struggle that I was able to witness. I witnessed proud parents teach their children about democracy and constantly heard stories of what it was like to grow up in a country that lacked it. I witnessed first hand my parents’ iron will to succeed as my father worked double shifts and overtime, and while my mother cleaned multiple houses on a daily basis. They instilled a work ethic in us as kids that always meant failure was not an option. They also applied this iron will to succeed to their citizenship process – failure was not an option.

Our story is not much different than many new American immigrants’ except that many new American immigrants have not had the option of a pathway to citizenship as my parents did. You see, my parents were fortunate to have a pathway to becoming Americans because of President Reagan’s Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. For far too long, too many of our friends, family members, and loved ones have not had the option to start the journey on their pathway to citizenship – to them it has only been a dream.

We find ourselves in historic times as we inch closer to comprehensive immigration reform. We are on the verge of so many first generation Americans being able to witness their parents start their journey to becoming new American citizens, as I was lucky enough to do growing up.  What I love about New Mexico – I too am a proud transplant – is that New Mexicans know that it’s not about what you look like or where you were born that makes you American – it’s how you live your life and what you do that defines you.  A common sense pathway to citizenship not only keeps faith with this, but also respects New Mexico’s rich diversity and proud legacy of embracing immigrant communities who contribute to our culture.

I’m proud to live in a state that respects and values our immigrant community and their cultures. I’m proud to live in a city that celebrates International Workers Day every May 1st. I am a proud New Mexican transplant, a proud United States Marine, and the proud daughter of two amazing immigrants. More importantly, I’m the proud daughter of two amazing Americans.

-Marsha Garcia, Hispano Media Director, ProgressNow New Mexico

This editorial originally appeared in the Albuquerque Journal on April 29, 2013.