By supporting our immigrant communities nationwide, we are in turn doing what is best for every one of us. An immigrant herself, Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy knows firsthand the importance of immigrants here in Florida. After fleeing Vietnam, the congresswoman and her family worked hard and built a better life for themselves and their children.
Similarly, my journey to the U.S. had its challenges. After practicing a strong work ethic and athletic training in my home country of Jamaica, I earned a full athletic scholarship to the University of Florida. Like Congresswoman Murphy, I knew I had to make a difference with this opportunity I was given. So, after receiving my bachelor’s degree from UF, I went on to earn my MBA, then my Juris Doctor degree, and started my own practice, where I work to help other immigrants secure hope for their future.
Our stories, like those of millions of immigrants, are essential to the American story. Immigrants have consistently worked hard to get to the United States and become valuable workers in essential industries, where they have contributed immensely to the nation’s economic recovery and reinforced the American workforce. Most recently, studies show, immigrant-owned businesses employed almost 8 million American workers and generated $1.3 trillion in total sales. In addition, immigrants comprise one in every five entrepreneurs in the country, with 3.2 million immigrants running their own businesses.
In Florida, one in four workers are foreign-born, and 420,000 undocumented immigrants contributed and worked in industries essential to Florida’s pandemic recovery. Florida has a long tradition of welcoming those in search of safety and a better life.
Immigrants found a way to be resilient during this pandemic. The Migration Policy Institute recently reported that six million immigrants worked in frontline occupations such as health care, food production and transportation. They are also overrepresented in certain critical occupations such as doctors and home health aides, where they face heightened risk of COVID-19 exposure. The Institute further reported that another 6 million immigrants work in industries that have been economically devastated, such as food services and domestic household services, making up 20 percent of the total workforce in those industries.
At this time, immigrants face growing challenges through adverse and antagonistic policies. We need to stand up in support of creating a responsible pathway to residency and citizenship undocumented immigrants to further the legal integration into the American society.
I am confident that the congresswoman will build on her reputation as an advocate and leader by standing with Florida’s immigrant community and supporting the inclusion of a pathway to residency and citizenship in the budget reconciliation package, despite the Senate parliamentarian’s recent ruling. With the leadership of people like Congresswoman Murphy, we can pass long overdue immigration reforms.
Congresswoman Murphy and I were part of the privileged few who were given the opportunity to create a life for ourselves in America. Now that we are here, we must fight for those who are still awaiting their opportunity to make their mark in the land of the free. I urge the congresswoman to make her voice heard and be an advocate for Florida’s immigrant communities by supporting a pathway to protections and citizenship in the budget reconciliation legislation.
Sékou Clarke, Esq. is an Orlando attorney and founder of the Sékou Clarke Law Group.