The current U.S. immigration system is broken and failing millions, said U.S. Representative Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, who yesterday brought together local leaders for an immigration roundtable discussion at Southwest Michigan First in downtown Kalamazoo. Joining Upton was U.S. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., who is the cofounder and chair of the Congressional Hispanic Conference in the U.S. House of Representatives. Over the past two years, Upton and Diaz-Balart have been leading a bipartisan effort in the House to get immigration reform legislation enacted.
“From the start, Congressman Upton has understood the problems that our immigration system faces, and we have been working together to find an answer that will bolster our economy, respect the rule of law, and protect our nation,” said Rep. Diaz-Balart. “I'm grateful for friends like Congressman Upton who see these problems and have committed themselves to being part of the solution. I look forward to joining him and our House colleagues in the 114th Congress to continue working towards a better tomorrow for our country."
The roundtable gave Upton and Diaz-Balart the opportunity to share their ongoing efforts with Southwest Michigan community leaders and to encourage a constructive local dialogue on the issue. Participants included representatives from major area employers, higher education, farmers, and community advocates.
“Immigration reform is a critical issue for our country. In Southwest Michigan it really affects three areas: hospitality, university education and agriculture. It's really a matter of national security,” said Ron Kitchens, chief executive officer of local economic development organization Southwest Michigan First. “I'm glad we had the opportunity to speak to Congressman Upton, who is a huge supporter of immigration reform. And I am extremely happy he was able to bring one of the top leaders in the House on this issue, Congressman Diaz-Balart, to talk to Kalamazoo leaders.”
Following the roundtable, Upton invited Diaz-Balart to join him for the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration at St. Joseph Catholic Church hosted by the Hispanic American Council of Kalamazoo. While there, the two met with community members and reiterated their firm commitment to see reform enacted, action that both agree is years overdue.
“It as a very emotional moment for me when my Congressman, Fred Upton, told leaders throughout the private sector stakeholders that we all need to work together to make immigration reform a reality,” said Lori Mercedes, Executive Director of the Hispanic American Council, who also took part in the immigration roundtable earlier in the day. “And then to have another Congressman, Mario Diaz-Balart, come and speak to our Hispanic community and tell us that yes, this is a very important issue for Congress to pass. And that they will. It was a tremendous opportunity.”
Upton and his staff have continued to regularly meet with a broad range of Michigan stakeholders that each bring a unique perspective to the immigration discussion: farmers, business leaders, higher education, families, faith and community groups, and law enforcement.
“This is an issue that has an impact on every community in our country. To further delay reform is to perpetuate the problems of a broken system that hurts millions of families and costs our economy dearly. That is simply unbefitting our great nation,” said Upton. “As we heard today, this is an issue that cannot afford to sit on the back burner any longer. I look forward to continuing my efforts with Mario to get the job done, working with Democrats and Republicans to craft legislation that the President can sign into law. The costs of inaction are simply too great.”
This August, Upton and Diaz-Balart were two of only 11 Republican House Members to vote against a measure that sought to stop the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program that provides protections for those who illegally arrived in the United States as children.