Durbin: We Should Work Together to Create an Immigration System that Reflects the Best of America

In a speech on the Senate floor, Durbin reflects on his recent visit with migrant families in Chicago

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, reflected on his recent visit to the Salvation Army Freedom Center in the Humboldt Park neighborhood in Chicago to meet with migrant families who were forced to come to Chicago from Texas by Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX). During his speech, Durbin praised Chicago’s agencies for stepping up to support these migrants. Durbin’s mother is an immigrant who came from Lithuania to the United States in 1911.

Durbin said, “These modest acts of generosity have changed everything for the families arriving at that Salvation Army Freedom Center. In Chicago, we are honored to offer a warm, welcoming hand to these families escaping unimaginable horror… America opened its doors to my family all those years ago—and gave us a chance to find stable footing in a new land of opportunity. Today, it is our responsibility to welcome families fleeing violence and persecution, seeking nothing more than safety and a fair shot. This is fundamental to who we are as Americans. But sadly, it seems some politicians think otherwise.”

Durbin blasted Governor Abbott for exploiting a humanitarian crisis to score political points. Abbott also refused to notify Illinois or Chicago that these migrants were coming.  

“He took advantage of the fear and confusion. He rounded these families up, boarded them onto a bus, and shipped them to cities like Chicago and New York, without even telling them where they were headed, and without any consultation with their destination states. This is cruelty of the highest degree,” Durbin continued.

During his visit, Durbin met a man named Carlos, who came to the United States with his wife and two young daughters from Venezuela. The family traveled to reach the Texas-Mexico border by foot. The journey took four months, and they were faced with violence, theft, and exploitation. Durbin also met another man, William, who fled Venezuela, looking for a better life in America.  

“Carlos had no intention of ending up in this great city. When he and his family arrived in America, he told me, with real gratitude, that he wanted to stay in Chicago. I warned him to get ready for the winter. They've been amazed by the welcome they've received from the Salvation Army and from so many others,” Durbin said.

As the lead author of the Dream Act and Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Durbin has been a champion for immigration reform for years. Both Carlos and William are eager to work in the United States, but because they are asylum seekers, they are at least six months away from being able to legally work here.

“This is yet another example of a broken immigration system. The system has failed not just these families, but our nation's economy as well. We have ten million unfilled jobs in this country. We have five million unemployed Americans. There are jobs in every direction... In every direction they need these workers and now. Yet we don't have a system that allows for these people to come to this country and to legally work. It doesn't make any sense,” said Durbin. “We are a nation desperate for workers—particularly young, able-bodied people like Carlos and William. But we can’t put them to work. How does that make any sense? It’s the same story for millions of people living throughout our hemisphere: even though American employers would be willing to sponsor them, there are few, viable legal immigration pathways for them to make it to America. And as a result, the arduous journey to the Mexican-American border is the only option they have in front of them. I’ll be the first to agree with my colleagues on the other side in saying we need an orderly process at our border.”

Durbin continues to work with his colleagues to find viable options for comprehensive immigration reform. Durbin, along with seven of his Republican and Democratic colleagues worked on a comprehensive immigration reform package that would have addressed many of the challenges our nation faces at the border today.  That legislation passed the Senate with bipartisan support in 2013 but did not receive a vote in the Republican-controlled House. 

Durbin concluded, “Our nation’s immigration system should reward hard work and a determination to make it in America. Instead of exploiting families who are fleeing for their lives, we should work together to create an immigration system that reflects the best values of America.”

Video of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s floor speech is available here for TV Stations.