In the last decade, we have navigated enormous challenges faced by our country and planet, ranging from economic crises and extreme inequality to the disrupting effects of climate change and a global pandemic. In Florida, we are seeing COVID-19 continue to spread and a breakdown of civil rights through the passage of voter suppression policies along with the creation of conspiracy theories.
As a twice-elected state representative for Florida, I have been on the front lines in pushing back against dangerous policies while amplifying the need for comprehensive federal reform to address some of our most challenging issues — and that includes immigration.
This summer, a federal judge in Texas blocked new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The move puts in limbo the status of our Dreamers, children of undocumented immigrants, and it includes 50,000 new DACA applicants who had not yet been enrolled in the program. This decision creates a new sense of urgency for comprehensive immigration reform, and we need both Congress and President Joe Biden to act using the budget reconciliation process.
As a daughter of immigrants myself, I know all too well the challenges that immigrants face in the United States — but I also know the incredible contributions immigrants make to our country, and the public support for immigrants too. In fact, a majority of Americans support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. According to one poll conducted earlier this year, a majority of likely voters and an overwhelming proportion of Democrats “strongly” or “somewhat” support offering a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. These findings were consistent with other recent surveys, including one conducted by Pew in June 2020.
Of course we also know that former President Donald Trump and the politicians who follow in his footsteps have gained power by campaigning on lies and xenophobia. They intentionally attack democratic systems so that their increasingly extreme right-wing nationalist agenda is maintained, a strategy that culminated with an insurrection led by white supremacists against the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has unfortunately followed Trump’s playbook, spearheading anti-immigration, anti-democratic and racially tinged policies since his first days in office. Immigrants were our governor’s first scapegoats but most recently, he went as far as to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory in Florida schools, a curriculum that was not being taught in public schools, but a policy decision that will no doubt intimidate educators from discussing with their students racist parts of our country’s history.
A few weeks later the governor traveled to the southern U.S. border, seemingly making what seemed more like a campaign stop for his potential presidential run than an actual act of public service.
In deep contrast, President Joe Biden has made bold promises on immigration reform. He committed not only to reverse and undo all the damage caused by the Trump administration but to craft a pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants who live in this country, something no president has been able to accomplish in nearly 35 years.
We must uphold these promises — and using the budget reconciliation process is an essential step to doing so. Please join me in urging your members of Congress and our two U.S. senators to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Rep. Anna V. Eskamani, D-Orlando, represents District 47 in the the Florida House.