It is wonderful to be back in Nevada and at Rancho. I am delighted to be joined by a number of young people who are going to talk with me, and all of you, about their lives and their stories, particularly immigration. I want to acknowledge my friend and Congresswoman Dina Titus for being here, thank you. And it is Cinco De Mayo, so it’s an especially appropriate day to be having this conversation.
I want to begin by thanking everyone at Rancho High School for hosting us today. I am looking forward to hearing from each of our panel participants. I have wonderful memories from my time here in Nevada. I have gone door to door meeting with families not far from this school. I’ve met with a lot of culinary workers and other workers who keep the economy going strong. I accompanied a registered nurse on her 12-hour shift at St. Rose Dominican Hospital and then was very pleased to go back to her home and have dinner with her kids.
I know how hard hit Nevadans were by the Great Recession. This state in particular suffered some very tough blows. There was a much higher than average foreclosure rate, for example. A lot of people lost their jobs or their hours were cut dramatically, which made it more difficult for them to continue to make a good living.
We now see that this state is coming back from these tough economic times. Families have found a lot of different ways to make it work for them. We also saw people once again starting businesses, thinking about sending their kids to college, maybe doing some of those home repairs, maybe putting a little aside for retirement. But we’re not yet back on our feet.
We have certainly climbed out of the hole we were in, but now we have to do more than get by, we have to get ahead and stay ahead. And there are a lot of ways that we have to think about how we do that together. I think that it’s important to recognize that even with all the hard work and sacrifice that so many families made. In many ways, the deck is still stacked for those at the top. And I’m well aware that in Las Vegas, there’s nothing worse than a stacked deck. I want to reshuffle the deck.
I want to be a champion for hardworking Americans, I want to work across party lines, I want to work with the public and private sector, I want people to get back to the good old-fashioned American style of problem solving and setting us back on the right course.
Now to help reshuffle the deck, people have to do their part, they have to step up and take education seriously, they have to be willing to work hard.
My father was a small-business man, and when I say that, he was a really small-business man. A couple day workers, my mom, my brothers, and I. But he understood that hard work was the way forward in the United States, and he made a good living, and I will forever be grateful for that.
Because when families are strong, America is strong, and I am convinced having fought for families going all the way back to my days in law school and ever since, there is nothing is more important.
Now in this campaign I think we have to wage and win four big fights. One is to build the economy of tomorrow, and not yesterday, and that means we have to be really focused on what is going to help prepare young people, and we have to start early. Education is the key, but education in the first years of life is essential because now we know that brain development has formed really by the time a child is three or four.
So we have to do more to make sure that every single child has the best chance to do well in school, to get ahead, to chart his or her own future, to live up to his or her own God-given potential. It is also essential that we strengthen families and communities and that means that we have to finally and once and for all fix our immigration system—this is a family issue, its an economic issue too, but it is at heart a family issue. If we claim we are for family, then we have to pull together and resolve the outstanding issues around our broken immigration system.
The American people support comprehensive immigration reform not just because it’s the right thing to do—and it is—but because it will strengthen families, strengthen our economy, and strengthen our country. That’s why we can't wait any longer, we can’t wait any longer for a path to full and equal citizenship.
Now, this is where I differ with everybody on the Republican side. Make no mistake: Today not a single Republican candidate, announced or potential, is clearly and consistently supporting a path to citizenship. Not one. When they talk about “legal status,” that’s code for “second-class status.”
And we should never forget that this debate is about people who, and you’re going to meet some of them in a second, people who work hard, who love this country, who pay taxes to it and want nothing more than to build better lives for themselves and their children.
We’re talking about the young people here at this table. They’re DREAMers in much more than name. They are kids that any parent would be proud of. I don’t understand how anyone could look at these kids and think we should break up more families or turn away more hard workers with talent.
So I will fight for comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship for you and for families across our country. I will fight to stop partisan attacks on the executive actions that would put DREAMers—including many with us today—at risk of deportation.
And, if Congress refuses to act, as President I will do everything possible under the law to go even further. There are more people—like many parents of DREAMers and others with deep ties and contributions to our communities—who deserve a chance to stay. I’ll fight for them too.
The law currently allows for sympathetic cases to be reviewed, but right now most of these cases have no way to get a real hearing. Therefore we should put in place a simple, straightforward, and accessible way for parents of DREAMers and others with a history of service and contribution to their communities to make their case and be eligible for the same deferred action as their children.
But that’s just the beginning. There’s much more to do to expand and enhance protections for families and communities. To reform immigration enforcement and detention practices so they’re more humane, more targeted, and more effective. And to keep building the pressure and support for comprehensive reform.
On a personal basis, the first time I ever met anyone who was in our country and working I was about 12 years old, as I recall, and through my church was recruited along with some of the other girls in my Sunday school class to serve as babysitters on Saturday for the small children so that the older children could join their parents in the fields. Because, believe it or not, when I was growing up in Chicago, it was farm fields as far as the eye can see. The immigrant workers would come up through Texas, up through the Midwest, up to Chicago, and then through Michigan, and we were asked to help out.
And I remember going out to the camp where the families lived and taking care of the little kids while kids my age were our doing really hard work.
And what stuck in my mind was how at the end of the day, there was a long road at the end of the camp that went out to a dirt road in the middle of the field.
And the bus that had the workers from the field on it that came back in around 4 or 5 o’clock in the afternoon, stopped and let the workers off and all these little kids started running down that path to go see their parents and were scooped up by these really really tired people.
And I watched this and just thought, they’re just like me and my brothers when my dad comes home from work and we go out there to see him when he comes back from his day of doing what he has to do to support us. I’ve never gotten that experience or that image out of my mind.
And so for me this is about what kind of people we all are and what kind of country we all have. I am absolutely convinced this is in our economic interest, in the interest of our values, and it’s even in the interest of our long-term security as a nation.
So you know where I stand and there can be no question about it because I will do everything I can as President and during this campaign to make this case.
Now I know there are people who disagree with me, and I want them to have a conversation with me.
The facts are really clear, we know how much people who are working hard contribute to our economy both in what they buy and what they pay in taxes. In fact, in New York, which I know a little bit about because I represented it for eight years and I live there now, our undocumented workers in New York pay more in taxes that some of the biggest corporations in New York. So I’m ready to have this conversation with anyone anywhere.
And now let me turn to those who are living this story I want you to meet them and to talk with them.