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Chef Andres: Immigrants Want to Succeed, and Congress Should Let Them

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chefandresAward-winning celebrity chef Jose Andres owns nearly a dozen restaurants in cities across America, a business he started building more than 20 years ago when he immigrated from Spain “with little more than $50 and a set of cooking knives.”  Last month, Chef Andres was finally sworn in as an American citizen (joining his wife and three US-born daughters), and took the opportunity to ask Congress to grant a similar opportunity to the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows of this country.  As he explained to Good Morning America and the Washington Post, immigrants–like the ones he’s worked with over the years–come here for the right reasons, and contribute to the country.  It’s time that Congress give them a vote on immigration reform with citizenship.

Read an excerpt from Chef Andres’ op-ed in the Washington Post below, or read the article in full here.

I have become a citizen at a time when legislation is stalled in Congress that would afford millions of other immigrants the chance to earn their citizenship, too. With this bill, which already has the support of many Republican and most Democratic senators, we are closer than ever to achieving immigration reform. So I’d like to address the members of Congress who still have concerns about passing the bill:

I understand that this is a difficult and complicated issue. But we are not asking for an open-door policy that allows unregulated immigration. Indeed, the bill before Congress would do more to secure our borders than any other law in history. What we’re asking is to give the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are already part of America’s DNA a chance — a chance to prove they are worthy of citizenship; a chance to contribute more to this incredible country; a chance to belong.

The fellow immigrants I’ve known and worked with over the years, those with legal status and those without, are here for the right reasons. They don’t want to cause any trouble, take any handouts or steal anyone’s job. Many already pay taxes and have jobs — tough, dirty, exhausting work that America depends on, such as picking our tomatoes, cleaning our fish or canning our products on cold factory floors for low wages and no benefits.

Because many of us took great risks to come here and support our families, immigrants tend to have an especially strong work ethic. My friend Rodolfo started his career in America tiling the floors at Jaleo, our first restaurant. But he soon began washing dishes and baking bread overnight, sometimes holding two or three jobs while he learned how to cook. And today, that construction worker from Bolivia is a head chef, a restaurant investor, a wonderful father and a proud American citizen.

If other immigrants had the chance to pursue their dreams like Rodolfo, all of America would benefit. As legal residents, immigrants would contribute more in taxes, spend more at our businesses, start companies of their own and create more jobs. Immigration is not a problem for us to solve but an opportunity for America to seize.