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The Time Is Now for Comprehensive Immigration Reform | Commentary

Elon Musk was born in South Africa and, like millions of others, he came to the United States for better opportunities and to make a better life for himself. In 1992, he arrived in the United States to attend the University of Pennsylvania, then moved to California. Today, he is CEO and chief designer of SpaceX, CEO and chief product architect of Tesla Motors, and co-founder of PayPal. These multimillion-dollar companies are actively boosting the American economy and employing thousands of Americans — Tesla’s Fremont, Calif., plant alone employs 2,000 experienced autoworkers.

Musk’s story is just one of many in my home district of Silicon Valley. He is an example of why immigration is critical to our social, business, cultural and political lives. He is also an example of how much we continue to lose by not having a sensible immigration policy.

Recently, Speaker John A. Boehner and the House Republicans put forth their immigration reform principles. It looked as if they were ready to begin moving forward. As Immigration Task Force co-chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I was encouraged to see that my colleagues across the aisle were willing and ready to work on real and lasting immigration reform.

Only a few days after releasing those principles, however, Boehner announced, “There’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws. And it’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.”

This was not a new tactic. House Republicans continue to say they are willing to work on immigration legislation but then keep making excuses why they cannot. The assertion that President Barack Obama will not enforce the laws is just another in their long line of excuses.

America is in desperate need of fixing its broken immigration system. Families are waiting to be reunited; employers are waiting to hire more employees who will boost our economy; borders must be secured; the visa system must be overhauled; and DREAMers need a road map to legalization.

None of this is possible without legislation. A list of principles is not sufficient. We need comprehensive immigration reform, and we need it now.

If Boehner and Republican House members are willing to reform our broken immigration system with urgency, my Democratic colleagues and I are ready and willing to work with them. I will continue to advocate for immigration reform and I am committed to reaching across the aisle.

But comprehensive immigration reform means just that — comprehensive. Family-based immigration is just as important as obtaining more H-1B visas for high-skilled workers. We need to stop looking at family- and employment-based immigration as opposing ideals. They are not mutually exclusive. In fact, a less family-friendly admission policy will make the United States less attractive to highly skilled immigrants. As economist Harriet Duleep has asked, “Would Einstein have continued to live in the U.S. had he not been able to bring over his sister Maja?”

Family unity is a valued tradition and the foundation of America’s immigration system, adding to the nation’s economy and strengthening families and communities.

The evidence is overwhelming. Immigration reform must happen now. We need a common-sense plan that adheres to our country’s established notions of basic fairness and inclusion, which are the cornerstone of American values.

To make this happen, it’s going to take all of us. We all have to work together. As the African proverb says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” The journey to comprehensive immigration reform will not be an easy one, but we can all do it — if we work together.

I still remain hopeful. When the GOP released its principles, it was an important first step toward reaching a historic agreement, and I stand ready to move our country forward in the right direction. Now it is time for them to solidify their promise to the American people and implement legislative proposals.

A humane and thoughtful approach to immigration reform is long overdue. Enough excuses. It’s time to get to work. We cannot afford to wait any longer.

Rep. Michael M. Honda is a Democrat from California.

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