America: A Land of Hope, Not Humiliation

The holidays are almost here -- a time when we gather with our families, hope for good cheer, and open our hearts to the less fortunate among us.

So, especially in that context, I could hardly believe my eyes when I first read what congressional Republicans proposed: allowing states to require mandatory drug testing for out-of-work Americans who apply for unemployment compensation. And that unemployment benefits only be paid to those who can prove they have earned at least a high school diploma.

It is an outrage.

As someone who has lived the struggles these families are facing, I am outraged by this insult to more than 13 million unemployed Americans. Because I know what happens when the breadwinner in the family loses a job and what the loss of security and stability also means to personal dignity.

When I was just eight years old, my mother courageously left an abusive marriage in Japan to give my brother and me the opportunity of America. We arrived in Hawaii with little more than the clothes on our backs.

The ensuing years were anything but easy financially. My mother struggled to make a living and put food on our table. At one point, my mother was laid off from her job. It was a miracle that my mother was able to keep a roof over our heads.

Yet, now, Republicans in Washington deliver a punch in the gut to the dignity and decency of unemployed Americans who want to work, but cannot find it. And they scapegoat our fellow Americans who lack a quality education, rather than doing anything to strengthen our public schools. It is painful to know that my Republican colleagues could add that insult to injury.

America is a land of opportunity, not ostracizing. A land of hope, not humiliation. I know this about our remarkable country firsthand.

It's about time congressional Republicans figured it out, too, especially as the holidays draw near.