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Letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Immigration Reform

March 20, 2013

Dear Senator: 

On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association, we would like to offer our views in connection with today’s hearing, “Building an Immigration System Worthy of American Values.”

Immigration policy profoundly impacts NEA members and their students. In the words of NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, “As educators, we have witnessed for far too long the impact that the current immigration system has had on our students, their families, and our communities. We see aspiring Americans every day in our classrooms and our schools. They are our friends and our neighbors. They moved here to put food on the table, to provide for their families, or for the promise of freedom and opportunity in this country. We are all better for having these hardworking immigrants as contributing members of our communities.”

In crafting essential reform legislation, we urge you to be mindful that as a nation of immigrants, how we treat new immigrants reflects our commitment to the values that define us. Specifically, we urge Congress to:

  • Create a realistic path to citizenship for the 11 million aspiring citizens who call America home. Small details could have major consequences for millions of these aspiring citizens. We need to ensure a fair process when drafting legislation that takes into consideration who these new Americans are, and what they contribute to our country.
  • Preserve the unity of families, traditional and nontraditional. Family unity plays a critical role in student success. Yet growing numbers of public school students live in fear that our nation’s immigration policies will break up their families, forcing them to choose between their country and their loved ones—mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. Family-based immigration is essential to keeping America strong.
  • Incorporate and expand the DREAM Act and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Many of the more than 50,000 undocumented students who graduate from U.S. high schools are unable to pursue higher education simply because they are unable to afford it. Under current law, undocumented students can be denied access to in-state tuition, federal loans, and health benefits. Addressing these issues is a top priority for America’s educators.  

NEA urges Congress to act swiftly and in a bipartisan fashion to address these issues. We look forward to working with you to make comprehensive immigration reform a reality at last.

Sincerely, 

Mary Kusler
Director, Government Relations