New Year, Same Priority: 2014 Is the Year for Immigration Reform

On December 31, millions of Americans gathered in Times Square to welcome the beginning of 2014. As the cloud of confetti disappeared and the new year began on January 1, I reflected on what many before us were in search of when they came to Ellis Island in New York City, the gateway to the American Dream for countless millions of immigrants. Today, that promise of limitless possibility, that for so long defined America, is at risk for the 11 million undocumented immigrants now living in our country.

The American Dream has always focused on building a better life for yourself and your family, striving for success, and even fleeing from religious prosecution. Today, the American Dream includes those same ideals but it is unattainable because our stifling immigration system is broken. Things need to change.

My first day in 2014 was a time of reflection on what has been achieved and the remaining goals ahead. Congress must seriously address comprehensive immigration reform this year and should not hide behind piecemeal efforts that would help only a small percentage of the undocumented living in this country.

Our friends, neighbors, and their families have been forced to live in the shadows out of fear of being torn from their families and deported from what is, for many of them, the only country they have ever known. By enacting comprehensive immigration reform and creating a path to citizenship, we have the opportunity to change history so that these immigrants can come out of the shadows to pursue their dreams and make contributions that will benefit America for generations to come.

Before the holidays, I had the opportunity to meet with the Fast for Families activists who fasted on the National Mall for 22 days to raise awareness about the immediate need for comprehensive immigration reform. The outstanding work and shows of support by the American people, advocacy organizations, and community leaders to pass immigration reform have been heard loud and clear inside the halls of the Congress. I continue to be inspired by the passion and activism.

On New Year's Day, I joined in a 24-hour fast in solidarity with the Fast for Immigration Reform movement that first began under Cesar Chavez. As the year progresses, I will continue to work hard with my colleagues to fight for change. Please continue to voice your beliefs as your participation is the foundation of our country's democracy.

The American Dream is in need of 21st century solutions, which is why I am proud to co-sponsor H.R. 15, a bill that echoes the spirit of the Senate comprehensive immigration bill and upholds basic principles: protect workers, unite families, offer hardworking immigrants an earned pathway to citizenship and secure our borders. There is no longer the excuse that "there just isn't enough time to complete immigration reform" or enough support. With 195 bi-partisan co-sponsors and plenty of room on the Congressional Calendar, we have a real opportunity to ensure that we accomplish what we have promised the American people time and time again.

Let us start the New Year on the right foot. It's time to remember our American values, rooted in the American Dream. No country has been more invigorated by immigrant culture, more rewarded by immigrant labor and immigrant ideas than America. In this year's State of the Union, scheduled for January 28th, let's hope that President Obama uses a prime-time window to pressure Speaker Boehner to call for a vote on H.R. 15 and pass real comprehensive immigration reform in 2014.