Aspiring Citizens Should Have Responsibilities – and Rights – of All Americans
More than 360 organizations from 28 states sent a letter to President Obama and members of Congress urging that programs and public services that meet basic human needs be included in commonsense immigration reform. Groups signing onto the letter include the AFL-CIO, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems, the National Association of Social Workers, the Sargent Shriver Center on Poverty Law, and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
“All Americans – whether U.S. born or aspiring citizens – should have equal access to affordable health care,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “Those on the road to citizenship should be afforded the same rights – and responsibilities – as their fellow Americans, and no less. Immigration reform that fully integrates the 11 million citizens-in waiting will strengthen our families and communities.”
“At Church World Service, we work to eradicate hunger throughout the world,” said Rev. John L. McCullough, president and CEO of Church World Service. “The gospel vision of multiplying loaves and fishes tells us that there is enough for all. Now is the time for Congress to enact commonsense immigration reform, and CWS affirms that it is better for the holistic health of our communities to ensure access to health care for immigrants as they pursue a path to citizenship.”
These organizations are members of the national campaign to promote equal access to health care and other safety net programs.
“It is in the best interest of all Americans and our economy to ensure that immigrants are able to integrate fully into society, succeed in the workforce, and share in labor and economic protections,” said Alan Houseman, executive director of CLASP. “CLASP looks forward to working alongside our immigrant and anti-poverty allies to ensure that access for aspiring Americans to key health and nutrition programs is a part of immigration reform.”
Organizations from New York to Hawaii signed the letter, which was addressed to President Obama and the members of Congress engaged in the immigration reform negotiations. Groups from crucial swing states, including North Carolina, Colorado, and Ohio, also have joined the campaign, signaling widespread interest in ensuring that the nation’s immigration laws create stable, thriving, and healthy communities.
“Today as in the past, immigrants are helping to strengthen our nation,” said Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs. “To keep our democracy strong, we must not exclude immigrants from the health care and other services they need.”
The campaign represents a broad coalition of organizations invested in fighting poverty and promoting sound public health policy. The organizations have asked Congress to create immigration policy that mirrors America’s values and promotes economic security for all low-income families. This can be achieved by ensuring that the following components are included in immigration reform legislation:
- A core safety net for citizens and immigrants residing in the U.S., which will reinforce efforts to achieve national progress in health and nutrition.
- Access to key programs and public services that meet basic human needs, including health services and insurance, and nutrition assistance.
- Investment in robust efforts to integrate immigrants into their communities.
“Children of immigrants are one-fourth of the kids in America, so getting immigration reform done means getting it right for kids,” Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus. “And protecting access to health care and other critical services is an important part of making reform work for kids.”
Groups representing Latinos and Asian Americans also joined the campaign, noting that their communities are too often among those least likely to have access to affordable health care and basic nutrition.
“Access to health insurance and basic preventive care is vital for immigrant Latinas’ reproductive health, the well-being of our families, and our nation’s future,” said Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “We look forward to working with policymakers to find commonsense solutions that keep our families healthy and our communities strong.”
“The Asian & Pacific American Islander Health Forum calls on Congress to pass a commonsense immigration policy reform package immediately that includes a clear road to citizenship and access to affordable health care,” said Kathy Ko Chin, president and CEO of APIAHF. “For Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, a fair and just immigration process is urgently needed as 60 percent of Asian Americans and 30 percent of Pacific Islanders are foreign-born. Our current immigration system flies in the face of our nation’s principles of equality and justice, and has taken a huge psychological toll on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have invested deeply in America, but are prevented from realizing their full potential.”
The National Immigration Law Center envisions a society in which all those living in the United States – regardless of country of origin, gender, or socioeconomic status – can live, work, and raise their families with dignity. To read more about the National Immigration Law Center’s immigration reform priorities, click here.