Migrants at border wall
Asylum-seeking migrants are detained by a Border Patrol agent after crossing the Rio Bravo near El Paso, Texas. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

Immigrants from all walks of life come to the United States to work, pursue an education, and build better opportunities for their family’s next generation. A vast majority of immigrants are forced to leave their homes due to persecution, war, famine and poverty.

Immigrants are the farm workers feeding our country, the construction workers building our homes and cities, the caretakers looking after our loved ones, and the essential workers serving on the frontline during a global pandemic.

However, our broken immigration system treats immigrants as second-class citizens. Our nation has an incredible need to enact comprehensive immigration reform now.

Taking decisive action on comprehensive immigration reform is of the utmost importance: we are long overdue for updating our immigration system and repealing cruel and divisive Trump-era anti-immigration policies. We will never forget the horrors we witnessed when families were separated at the border.

In 2018, I went to the border and met children who were separated from their parents. I saw firsthand how former President Trump’s policies harmed families and children in the name of deterring people from coming to the United States fleeing persecution and seeking safety and better opportunities. Family separation was and always will be a monstrous policy. We must keep families together.

Former President Trump implemented Title 42 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Title 42 was never about public health and safety. Title 42 harmed countless people seeking refuge in our country and denied asylum seekers their right to due process.

Russia’s cruel war in the Ukraine has displaced millions, and many came to our borders to seek safety. Thankfully, Ukrainians were granted exemptions to Title 42, and we must continue to do everything we can to support Ukrainians fleeing violence. Refugees from Latin America and Africa deserve the same treatment. 

The Biden Administration is currently taking steps to terminate Title 42 on May 23, and I urge the Administration to continue working toward this deadline. Title 42 should never have been implemented in the first place, and we cannot continue to expel asylum seekers without any justification.

Throughout my tenure representing California’s 51st Congressional District, I’ve met many immigrant community members. All too often, my office handles cases to assist immigrants who have been mistreated by the United States’ outdated immigration system.

Many DACA recipients in my district, and across the United States, are kept waiting for responses from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services due to the agency’s case backlog. My office assists constituents with casework related to green card renewals, TPS applications, and works with deported veterans who were eligible for U.S. citizenship after bravely serving our country.

The current USCIS case backlog — almost 10 million cases — means that processing times can take months, if not years. We need to overhaul our immigration system to reduce processing times so immigrants can live and work in our country without fear of deportation.

I recently joined my Congressional Hispanic Caucus colleagues in releasing our executive action agenda, urging President Biden and his administration to make immigration reform a priority. The United States’ broken immigration system must be fixed.

As the son of Mexican immigrants who came to this country as part of the Bracero program, I know how important it is to create opportunities for people to come here and succeed. Reforming our immigration system will strengthen the United States and allow for more people to achieve the American Dream.

Our executive order agenda will boost our nation’s economic potential by extending citizenship to the millions of undocumented immigrants who contribute to our economy; securing protections for asylum seekers and refugees at the border to ensure they are treated humanely and fairly; improving border efficiency by addressing the root causes of migration; and updating our archaic immigration laws. The United States was built by immigrants, and immigrants still contribute so much to our economy, our communities, and our culture.

We must empower our immigrant communities and make a meaningful impact for generations to come. Comprehensive immigration reform must happen. The moment is now.

Rep. Juan Vargas represents California’s 51st Congressional District, which includes the southern portion of San Diego County, all of Imperial County and California’s entire border with Mexico.