Immigrants and citizenship: History gives us the real story

Hardships of the immigration system burden far too many in our community and undocumented immigrants are especially affected. Optimists by nature, hard-working in deed, and almost always supportive of those in need, most immigrants reflect American ideals to a tee. Those who are undocumented are no different in their contribution to our country.

Though they are a complement to our native workforce, Congressional inaction has meant that these immigrant families will continue to work and live in legal limbo. It’s time to relate the positive intentions of immigrants long dead to the ones that are today forced to live in the shadows.

The high profile examples of successful immigrants are countless, as are the number of jobs created by their innovative thinking. Immigrants started 25 percent of the highest-growing companies between 1990 and 2005. All immigrants, like their native counterparts, also go on to pay taxes, win military honors, and further culture – helping to invest in our country’s vibrancy.

If your ancestors had come to America and faced current immigration law, they would have been rendered undocumented and ripe for exploitation, and the subsequent loss of their work ethic, valuable ideas, and future generations would have made contemporary American life unimaginable. The pain inflicted by Congressional lethargy on families and businesses affects all of us, now and will continue to do so in the future.

As we return (hopefully) refreshed from summer and Congress (with any luck) decides to end its yearlong recess, let the reality of the current situation become apparent. It’s time for the House of Representatives to take meaningful steps toward recognizing immigrant populations as a vital part of our economy, shared history, and long-term success. To continue to ignore this section of society and deny them equal footing under the law will be a categorical mistake. Immigrants who pay fees, taxes owed, and a fine, while meeting certain conditions – like a clean legal record, for one – should be allowed a path to citizenship.

Industries that rely on seasonal and high-tech workers alike have joined in the chorus calling for reform. Getting America back to business has made unlikely partnerships between tech frontiersmen and Catholic bishops across the country. It’s clear that foreign ideas and individuals, when given the opportunity to be cultivated in the United States, can lead to the advancement of all within our borders. Never before have we so strongly neglected our immigrant past; we must face this rejection as a great challenge to our societal and economic fabric: troublesome, but able to be overcome.

While the Massachusetts delegation in Congress generally supports the efforts to improve our immigration system, they could be more vocal and collaborative with GOP colleagues. Call their offices today and insist that they get back to work as bi-partisan legislators, helping to create a bridge for the undocumented – today’s image of the American-immigrant story.