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Remembering Ted Kennedy: The Inspirational Champion of Immigration Reform

Guest blogger Robert Gittelson reflects on the passing of Edward M. Kennedy.

Growing up in the 1960’s, the people of my generation were inspired by the Kennedy brothers. In particular, their leadership and commitment to social equality and civil rights legislation ignited a lifelong passion in many of us to follow the courage of our convictions, and to speak out and work to right the wrongs that we perceive to exist in socially unjust laws and regulations.

Many of us recognize that our current immigration laws are not just, and that a comprehensive overhaul to our immigration system is required. Because there our those in our society that would seek to oppose and obstruct this much needed reform, many of us have taken up the issue of Comprehensive Immigration Reform as the social equality and civil rights issue of our time.

Senator Ted Kennedy was our most inspirational leader in this cause. His passion, booming voice, and larger than life presence had been sorely missed this year. Now that he has passed, we mourn his passage, but remain inspired by his words, deeds, and accomplishments.

I will forever remember his impassioned speeches on the Senate Floor, imploring his fellow Senators to do the right thing, and pass his Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act. Toward that end, I wish to let the late Senator speak on his own behalf, as I reprint a text of his speech from April 2006, as he argued in support of the urgent legislation that he championed:

Immigration is the story of American history. From the earliest days of our nation, generation upon generation of immigrants has come to be part of a land that offers freedom and opportunity to those willing to do their part. Immigrants built our great cities. They cultivated our rich farm lands. They built the railroads and highways that bind America from sea to shining sea. They erected houses of worship to practice their faiths. They fought under America’s colors in our wars. In fact, 60,000 immigrants are fighting in the U.S. armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan today. Immigrants worked hard so that their children could embrace the ever widening possibilities in our land. And over the centuries, immigrants came to America from every part of the globe and made the American dream. They created a nation that is the envy of the world.

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