Like Abraham Lincoln, our country’s first Republican president and Illinois’ favorite son, I am pro-immigrant and pro-immigration. I wish more politicians running for office today had the courage to stand up for Lincoln’s principles.
In a message to Congress in 1864, President Lincoln said immigrants would “replenish” our country, which had been devastated by the Civil War. The president made it clear that newcomers are a source of “health” and “strength.” He even said “providence” had brought these men and women to our shores.
I have served as pastor of Chicago’s First Spanish Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for over 50 years. I have worked with the incredible members of the Latino community and countless Dreamers for their civil rights during my time there. Last year, I was inducted as the first lifetime member of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois, a society that recognizes Illinois leaders.
Today’s immigrants are still a source of health and strength, particularly in Illinois and in Chicago. Nearly 1.8 million immigrants call our state home and, of these, about one-tenth are self-employed. These entrepreneurs generate more than $2.6 billion in business income and their companies employ more than 280,000 people. Even if new Americans aren’t starting their own businesses and creating jobs, they help those of us who were lucky enough to be born in the United States. According to New American Economy, Illinois’ 1.8 million immigrants were responsible for creating or preserving nearly 81,000 manufacturing jobs
Our representatives in Congress must remember these facts and honor President Lincoln’s legacy by taking the time to debate and pass a narrow, bipartisan bill — one like H.R. 4796, the Uniting and Security America Act — that would help the country’s youngest immigrants, the Dreamers.
More than 42,000 young Illinois immigrants are enrolled in DACA, which gave them the right to live here legally for at least two years if they passed background checks and are employed, studying, or in the military. If they lose their DACA status, these individuals who have their whole lives ahead of them, will become eligible for deportation.
This matter is urgent. The United States Supreme Court’s decision to reject the Trump administration’s appeal to expedite the hearing allows DACA recipients to renew for now, but we cannot let this decision mitigate the urgency for a permanent solution. Many Dreamers will still lose their status because it can take months to renew.
I hope our leaders in Congress will recognize that and pass a bill to help the Dreamers.
Rev. Ruben I. Cruz has served as pastor of Chicago’s First Spanish Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) since 1964.