Hispanic Heritage Month reminds me how far we've come and the work yet to do under Biden
I’ll never forget when my father said to me and my siblings, 'You’re so lucky to be in America. Leave the ladder down for those who come after you.'
Every year, millions of Americans come together for Hispanic Heritage Month to celebrate our community’s contributions to this country. As the proud son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, I saw firsthand the sacrifices my parents made to ensure a good life for my four siblings and me.
My parents came to this country because they had to flee a brutal dictator. My father served with pride as a legal immigrant in the United States Army. They taught us to value the freedom this country gave us. Millions of people have come to this country hoping that our leaders will support them in their quest for the American dream. But for four long years, Latino Americans watched as Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress turned their backs on them and their families.
Supporting the American dream
The former president and his allies built their agenda around hate, vitriol and contempt for the Latino community. They didn’t believe that people like my parents should be able to come to America to build a better future for their families, and routinely put obstacles in the way of immigrants achieving the American dream.
Helping ensure immigrants can come to America and be treated with dignity and respect has been a key part of my life’s work, and as the son of immigrants, watching the former president attack people like my parents shook me to my core.
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That’s why it was so easy for me to throw my support behind Joe Biden in the 2020 election – I have seen his hard work on immigration reform as a senator and knew he had a deep respect for the Latino community. And since he was sworn in as president, Joe Biden has taken crucial action to reform our immigration system and help Latino families get back on their feet.
From Day One, President Biden has worked to rebuild our economy and help those who have struggled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and he has put bold plans in place to help solve the systemic problems we as a nation have faced for decades.
During Hispanic Heritage Month, I am especially grateful for all of the work President Biden has done on behalf of the Latino community. Thanks to his swift action, millions of Latino Americans have the support they need to get back on their feet after the pandemic ravaged their homes and businesses, including thousands of dollars in their pockets from the president’s expanded child tax credit that kicked in this July.
While this has been a strong start to Biden’s presidency, there is much more work to do to ensure a better future for Latino families. And that means both ending the filibuster and passing swift, meaningful immigration reform that will put more people on a path to citizenship.
Fighting for immigration reform
Immigration reform will be good for our families, our communities and our economy as a whole. But for too long, bold plans like this have been stalled, cast aside or marred by red tape. In 2013, the Democratic-controlled Senate by a 68-32 vote passed comprehensive immigration reform that would have provided a pathway to citizenship for over 11 million immigrants, as well as reforms to ensure that we would be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.
Immigration policies? They change as often as we change presidents. I saw it when I lived at the border.
Then-Vice President Biden played an integral role in the passage of this bill in the Senate, just as he did in 1996 when the last immigration reform bill was enacted.
The Republican-controlled House never allowed this bill to come up for a vote. The party of Lincoln and Reagan was once the party that embraced our immigrant heritage. The party of Trump is the party of nativism.
There is still a long way to go. The crisis we have seen at the border over the past several months has proved that it will take everyone, from both sides of the aisle, coming together to enact real reform. President Biden and Democrats have proved that they are on the right side of this fight. It’s time for Republicans to get on board.
On his first day in office, President Biden sent a bill to Congress that would modernize our immigration system and create a path to citizenship for those who come to our country for opportunity. It’s time for our leaders to do right by the millions of Latino Americans who call our country home and get this bill passed.
I’ll never forget when my father said to me and my siblings, “You’re so lucky to be in America. Leave the ladder down for those who come after you.”
Since January and especially now in Hispanic Heritage month, I have been excited to have voted for a president who shares my values when it comes to supporting the Latino community. Joe Biden has put more money in the pockets of Latino families who were struggling to get back on their feet after the pandemic hit, and has taken crucial steps toward strengthening our immigration system. The best way for our leaders in Congress to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month is to finish the job.
Tom Perez serves as co-chair of American Bridge 21st Century. He is a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.