When I was a classroom teacher for at-risk students, many of whom were immigrants, I had a truly wonderful teacher’s aide who was herself an immigrant from Germany. Miss Petra had married and raised two children, and still had a green card because the immigration system is so convoluted, expensive, and difficult that she had started and stopped the process many times over. We spoke often of our students, and if she was struggling with the immigration system what must they and their families be going through?

Before the 1965 Hart-Cellar Act ended the immigration quota system, immigrants from Europe had a much easier time entering our country and obtaining citizenship than any group has had since. After Federal changes to immigration law in 1996, it has generally become even harder to obtain lawful entry into the United States.

Rockville has taken steps to create a safe, welcoming environment for immigrants, regardless of status, while balancing our relationships with County and Federal law enforcement. In addition to creating a safe and welcoming community, we need to take steps to help our immigrant neighbors without residency documents come forward and let us help them gain proper status. They shouldn’t have to rely on the whims of government for their personal security.

The divisiveness we’ve experienced over this issue makes it clear that we need to pay more attention to supporting our immigrant neighbors. Appointing a city-wide task force to evaluate the need for a Commission on immigration and inclusion of immigrants, and to decide if a staff position is needed, is a first step in meeting the level of commitment we’ve made towards a peaceful, diverse community.

My family moved to Rockville because we wanted more—more diversity, more languages, more friends from different backgrounds, more experiences, and more opportunities. We have not been disappointed. Our immigrant neighbors are an essential part of the diversity we celebrate.

Miss Petra finally obtained citizenship four years ago, with her grandchildren in attendance. It took decades and thousands of dollars.

What I’m reading:

Greenstone, Michael, and Adam Looney. “Ten Economic Facts About Immigration.” Hamilton Project, Brookings Institute, 2010, www.hamiltonproject.org/assets/legacy/files/downloads_and_links/09_immigration.pdf.

Kerr, Juliana, et al. “This Is What Immigration Reform Looks Like.” CityLab, Atlantic Monthly Group, 23 Jan. 2018, https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/01/want-immigration-reform-look-to-cities/551261/.