As a first-generation American, small business owner and Mayor of one of Florida’s most diverse communities, this issue is deeply personal. My parents immigrated to this country from Jamaica with no more than a fifth-grade education. My mom was a cook and did domestic work while my dad spent over a decade cutting sugar cane — backbreaking labor in the Florida heat. Because of their sacrifice and the opportunities of this great country, I received the opportunity to inherit their American Dream and take on tough fights as mayor, including creating designated safe zones for immigrants and directing city law enforcement to not support ICE’s abusive efforts to deport our residents, unless they are in possession of a judicial warrant.
Despite the actions that local leaders across the country are taking to make communities safer for all residents, divisive rhetoric continues to dominate the Washington conversation. These are unsettling times as the current administration seeks to further divide our communities and pit hardworking neighbor against hardworking neighbor. Immigrants strengthen our communities and the economy at large. Our nation runs on the contributions immigrants make every day. The last thing we need in this country is our most vulnerable communities living in a constant state of fear.
I have seen this firsthand in Miramar, which has an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) check-in office within the city limits. It has been frustrating as community members and local families are subjected to degrading conditions, including lack of restroom facilities, shelter from the elements, parking and adequate sitting and waiting areas. That’s why our city passed a resolution demanding ICE improve these conditions. What this comes down to is human dignity. I’m proud to partner with the Florida Immigrant Coalition and United We Dream in their work to provide relief for members of our community, including creating legal aid clinics and municipal identification cards.
We need to reform our immigration system from top to bottom and make sure our country is not only safer, but also more inclusive of, immigrants. The first thing we need to do is provide a pathway to citizenship for American Dreamers. This is a long overdue action for people who, through no fault of their own, find their path to the American Dream blocked. Then, we should offer comprehensive immigration reform that re-establishes a fair and orderly process to achieve the American dream.
Fear of our neighbors and friends is not a true American value. Our diversity is our strength as a nation.
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