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Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ): Immigration Reform is the "Civil Rights Issue of Our Time"

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At the Center for American Progress this afternoon, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) discussed what he believes immigration reform should look like and called it the “civil rights issue of our time.”  After host Neera Tanden, the President of the Center for American Progress, called Latino voters “THE story of the 2012 elections,”

Menendez said that last week was a watershed moment for the entire nation to finally recognize the electoral power of what he termed “the New America.”  Noting that Mitt Romney lost the Latino vote by historic margins in last week’s election, Sen. Menendez added that he believed “Romney may have lost the election” due to immigration.

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“This election was a mandate to enact comprehensive immigration reform,” he said, adding that the issue has “languished too long.”

Menendez said he believed immigration reform should be a pathway to eventual citizenship. Undocumented immigrants in the nation should be required to pay any taxes they haven’t paid as residents. They should also face a background check, pay a fine, and be required to learn English. And, if they have a criminal history, they should be sent back to their home country.

All of that should lead to legal residency, and then after a period of time, perhaps five years, they should have the opportunity to apply for citizenship, he said.

The English-language requirement is notable because, as Menendez noted, “it’s something that in fact we have never required for permanent residency in this country.”

Menendez hopes the election results will move “awakened” Republicans to action.