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Cathryn Miller-Wilson: Proposed legislation would acknowledge that immigrants are a public good

February 22, 2021 Category: FeaturedPurposeShort


This guest column was written by Cathryn Miller-Wilson, the executive director of HIAS Pennsylvania, and was originally published on the organization's website.
HIAS Pennsylvania is proud to support the U.S. Citizenship Act, a bill introduced on February 18 containing the long overdue possibility for millions of taxpayers to become U.S. citizens.

This critical legislation does more than provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of individuals, it recognizes that those individuals are vital members of a community. And the government’s role is to strengthen our community, not weaken it.

For the first time in close to 60 years, Congress is considering broad-based legislation that is built around the premise — and the fact — that immigrants are a public good. Immigrants enrich our families, our communities and our country with their diverse languages, cultures, beliefs and perspectives. These layers of diversity bring innovation, creativity and new ways of seeing the world, enhancing our industries, our economy and our lives.

For too long our immigration laws have been about excluding immigrants, rather than acknowledging that welcoming immigrants strengthens our families and our communities here in Philadelphia and in the country as a whole.

While the need for this legislation is long-standing, it has never been more critical to our country than now. Throughout the pandemic, we have seen how important immigrants are to our community as they have been on the frontlines of our healthcare system and our food production.

Yet they have often been asked to fend for themselves.

This act acknowledges their contributions, and that we cannot become a healthy country leaving millions behind. Every one of us is vulnerable to this terrible disease. To fight it, we need everyone to be able to get medical treatment, obtain vaccinations, demand safe working conditions and access health and safety information without fear. A pathway to citizenship makes this possible.

This legislation is not perfect. There are provisions that make it difficult for non-citizens to obtain health care. Other provisions would bar some immigrants from a path to citizenship because they got caught up in the criminal justice system — a system that has been proven, repeatedly, to disproportionately target Black individuals and other people of color, to be less about justice than about discrimination.

This is disappointing and, in this moment, when health care access and recognizing and solving for the impacts of racial injustice are high priority needs, very troubling. Despite this, the overarching benefits of this Act and the need for its passage cannot be overstated.

From our Partners

Contact Congress and tell them to support the U.S. Citizenship Act. It’s critical for our country’s future and our country’s present.

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