Immigration Bill: How Do We Make the Bad, Good?

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Adios 2016 (or 2020 or 2024 or 2028).

It's not just the polling that doesn't square with the pro-immigration reform messaging. When I attended the March on Washington last week reporting for Latina, I saw immigrants with flags from Mexico, El Salvador, and Venezuela. To be clear, it wasn't as many foreign flags as I saw at the 2006 immigration reform rallies which I covered as a local reporter. But it was one too many: no other flag should be present at any pro-immigration reform event except our Stars and Stripes.

You can't have it both ways and why would you want to? I think of my Papi who came to the U.S. more than 45 years ago and says: Colombia me vió nacer pero no me verá morir. Colombia no me dió nada.

And he's right. His homeland didn't offer an abundance of opportunities, not even a few, which is why my parents left. Where they found a future for themselves and their kids is in the U.S. This is the case with virtually every immigrant who comes here to stay.

To bridge this immigration theory and practice gap, the pressure is on the advocacy community to preach civics up and down the line. It must be made clear to our immigrants that this was a hard fought fight which they themselves know too well, putting their lives at risk to cross the Rio Grande or the desert. These future Americans must take advantage of citizenship workshops, apply for citizenship, and then register and actually vote. One more thing: become as fluent in English as possible not just because proficiency is a requirement, but because English is the language of power.

If this bill passes--and it has political momentum--it will transform our nation's immigration laws, bringing it into the 21st century. The millions banished to the shadows will walk tall and proud, for all to see. Let’s do more: let’s integrate these immigrants fully into our society as fully participating citizens.

Viviana Hurtado Ph.D., founder of the Hispanic woman-focused news and current events website The Wise Latina Club, is Latina’s Washington, DC-based political correspondent. Read Viviana's political posts here.

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