All over Queens, thousands of people are living in the shadows. They may be unable to enter the school their children attend, even in the event of an emergency. They may be working for pay far below the minimum wage or simply going unpaid for weeks on end. They may be afraid to call the police if they become the victims of crime.
They might be called second-class citizens, but they’re not citizens at all, though many would like to be. They’re the illegal immigrants who have found their way into the country over the years and now want to stay here.
Though they did break the law, we have no choice but to find a way to legalize and normalize them as the members of our society they already are. There are at least 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, probably many more, and there is simply no way they could all be deported, even if that were anything other than a heinous idea.
That’s why we were glad to see a bipartisan group of senators finally get together to craft a comprehensive immigration reform bill, a measure that passed the Democratic-led Senate by a commanding 68-32 vote on June 27.
And that’s why we were disappointed, as usual, to see the Republican-led House of Representatives refuse to take a similar approach, with members instead offering watered-down half measures or simply voicing their xenophobia.
Now comes news that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid isn’t even going to send the bill to the House for consideration because he knows it is headed for defeat. House Speaker John Boehner says he won’t even let it come up for a vote.
That’s not fair to the illegal immigrants or to American citizens, as it’s essentially a denial of democracy. No compromise between the two houses can be found if one won’t even consider what the other has passed.
A delegation of House members including Majority Leader Eric Cantor just visited Queens and other places in the city to highlight our immigrant heritage, in a trip purposely devoid of policy discussion. We don’t know how he could come away from the visit without going back to Washington to tell his colleagues how people from all over the world live together here in relative harmony and that we must pass immigration reform “in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice [and] insure domestic tranquility.”
Those words justifying the creation of the Constitution could just as easily explain why we need comprehensive immigration reform, the sooner the better.