As we work to fix the immigration system, we should honor our heritage and our values.
Like most Americans, I grew up pledging allegiance to "one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Not just liberty and justice for some but for all. As we work to fix our broken immigration system, we would do well to heed the Pledge of Allegiance.
America forged its identity on the promise that opportunity comes to those who work hard, play by the rules and contribute their fair share to the success of our nation. Citizenship embodies that identity. To break that long-standing promise and prohibit aspiring Americans from earning citizenship dishonors that heritage — and our values.
We don't ask immigrants who come to this country hopeful and determined to give us their best and then deny them the opportunity to be equal partners in pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. An earned path to citizenship in any immigration reform is essential to preserve the American Dream.
At times in our history, we've witnessed the American Dream denied. Some Americans were enslaved or segregated. Others were interned. Many who crossed oceans in search of work were summarily told they "need not apply."
My father was born in America, but the signs he read on restaurant windows were directed at him: "No dogs or Mexicans allowed." In the eyes of many, he was a second-class citizen. Yet, like millions of other aspiring Americans, he didn't let the signs deter him from pursuing the American Dream.
We've moved forward from those days. And on immigration reform in particular, the American people are way ahead of the politicians. Giving aspiring Americans, like my father, a chance to earn their stripes as citizens simply reflects our values.
It's also economic common sense. Reforming our broken immigration system with an earned path to citizenship — which two-thirds of the American people support — would take a trillion dollar bite out of our nation's deficits and boost job growth by hundreds of thousands.
It's time for members of Congress to get to work, match the Senate, and pass a bipartisan, comprehensive fix to our broken immigration system, including an earned path to citizenship. We have the votes. We have the bill, H.R. 15, with more than 190 co-sponsors. It's time to heed the pledge we recite every morning and put our country before party.
Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., is chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.