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Shutdown won't stop the fight for immigrant families, DREAMers

“They shut down the government, but they can’t shut down our dreams,” said one DREAMer at the Oct. 8 Rally for Immigrant Dignity and Respect on the National Mall. As you may know, eight members of Congress and some 200 other participants were arrested that day by the Capitol Police on charges of “crowding, obstructing and incommoding” access to the closed U.S. Capitol building.

Being accused of “incommoding” may be as good a metaphor as any for the overall experience of advocates of comprehensive immigration reform over the past few years. This is perhaps especially true for those struggling to focus the debate as much on family immigration as on the economic benefits offered by highly-skilled immigrants.

There is strong evidence that immigration reform itself would have a powerful, positive impact on the economy. At the rally, Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey brought forward a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to demonstrate that.

According to the CBO, if the Senate plan were passed it would create approximately 121,000 jobs a year for the next 10 years, and would also increase the GDP by as much as 3.3 percent in the first decade after its passage. “Nothing we offered has ever had such a dramatic economic impact,” said Menendez.

Although it’s certainly important for U.S. businesses to be able to reliably bring in the talent they need from abroad, the rally centered on the many contributions immigrants have made to America -- and on the heartbreaking separation of families caused by our current immigration laws.

The rally had begun with a solemn recital of the long list of people who have died or been deported when trying to cross our southern border -- many of them merely for the chance to see a loved one.

"Congress, feel the pain of the immigrant community,” said one woman, whose nephew disappeared. He had tried to cross the border to visit his 8-year-old son and was deported.

In a blog post after the rally, a participant representing the ACLU urged Congress not to pass the SAFE Act, which would criminalize associating with an unauthorized immigrant and give unprecedented powers to local police and sheriffs to enforce U.S. immigration law. Instead, Congress should focus on fair, comprehensive reform that will both reinforce the country’s economic and security interests and protect the families of all Americans.

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