We at America’s Voice are deeply saddened to mark the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy today. He was a valiant hero to the immigration reform movement and a true champion for immigrants of all nationalities.
He did not get to liberalism’s promised land, of course. The universal health coverage he’d fought for throughout his career is still unrealized; his death may make it harder to realize, at least in the immediate months to come. Labor law remains unreformed, and America’s 12 million undocumented immigrants still live in the shadows with no legal path to citizenship. These were all battles that Kennedy would have led; he was the go-to guy, the champion, the orator, the deal-maker for the uninsured, the undocumented, the unable-to-join-unions; the senior senator from Massachusetts and for all the excluded in American life.
As USA Today chronicles, Senator Kennedy spent a large part of his life’s work making the American dream a reality for not just Western European immigrants, but for Asian, African, and Latin American immigrants, as well. The article quotes America’s Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry, reflecting on Kennedy’s many achievements in this area:
“He fashioned the modern-day legal system of immigration. He created humane refugee and asylum policies. And he has set the stage for a 21st century solution to the problem of illegal immigration,” said Frank Sharry, an immigrant rights advocate who worked with Kennedy on legislation.
Kennedy’s first major piece of legislation, in fact, was the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which allowed previously-prohibited groups (like Asian immigrants, who had been barred from entry after the Immigration Act of 1924) to settle on American shores.
Immigrants like my parents.
USA Today concludes:
Sharry remains convinced that Kennedy “laid the groundwork” for a bill that eventually will pass. President Obama has made an immigration overhaul along the lines of the Kennedy-McCain bill one of his top legislative priorities.
On the day the bill failed in 2007, Kennedy himself predicted its backers would be vindicated. “We will be back and we will prevail,” he said.
Si se puede — Yes we can.