Alaska leaders call for immigration reform
State leaders in Alaska are calling for action to fix what they call a broken immigration system.
Anchorage mayor Ethan Berkowitz and his wife Mara Kimmel were among several people who held a teleconference on the issue Wednesday afternoon.
It was one of dozens of events in all 50 states for the New American Economy’s iMarch for Immigration Campaign.
The goal of iMarch is to showcase the economic power of immigrants and generate bipartisan support for immigration reform.
Kimmel talked about how the issue of immigration is “intensely personal” for her.
She has been an immigration lawyer for 20 years and has represented kids who have sought protection under DACA—the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
DACA was an immigration policy that allowed kids who were brought to the United States illegally to be deferred from deportation and instead be eligible for a work permit.
Former President Barack Obama established the policy with the DREAM Act bill that President Donald Trump ended this year.
“The passage of some sort of relief for these kids is vital to our ability in our community to ensure people have the ability to stay here,” Kimmel said.
Kimmel says Anchorage is home to some of the most diverse schools in the country, with more than 100 languages spoken in schools like East High School and Mountain View Elementary.
“These notions of equity, inclusivity and justice are really vital pieces and parts of the way we want to move our city forward into the future,” Kimmel said.
She also cited immigrants’ impacts on the economy. The New American Economy estimates foreign-born residents in Anchorage contribute $1.9 billion to the municipality’s gross domestic product in 2014.
“There are a lot of metrics to measure the fiscal benefits of what the DREAMers bring to this country,” Mayor Berkowitz said. “To me, there’s a huge moral and ethical cost when we abandon them. And that ethical and moral cost dwarfs the economic benefits.”
Several religious also weighed in on the issue. Reverend Michael Burke with St. Mary’s Episcopal Church said improving immigration reform shows us “who we are as people.”
“When we deport DREAMers, we tear our neighborhoods apart,” Reverand Burke said. “We tear classrooms apart, we tear friendships apart. We tear our faith communities apart. Is that the kind of community we believe ourselves to be?”
Since DACA began in 2012, it’s estimated nearly 800,000 people were protected from deportation and allowed to work legally in the United States.
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