As we honored American freedom two weeks ago on the Fourth of July, I couldn't help but celebrate the momentum for immigration reform that will help honor and build on that freedom for generations to come.
Exactly one week before the Fourth, a broad, bipartisan immigration reform bill passed 68-32 in the Senate. Utahns owe Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, our thanks for the courage he showed when he was among 14 Republicans who voted for the bill.
In his 36 years in the U.S. Senate, Hatch has witnessed multiple immigration debates. In recognizing that now is the time for immigration reform, he is following the lead of Utah business, faith and law enforcement leaders who know that immigration reform is critical for our communities and our economy.
I uniquely appreciate Sen. Hatch's work on immigration. In 2001, he was an original co-sponsor of the DREAM Act, legislation that would have helped me and others like me, people who were brought to this country as children, go through the legalization process and contribute fully to the America we love.
The legislation failed then, and it took Sen. Hatch a long time to come back to a "yes" on immigration reform. But he has done so, and not a moment too soon.
I know. I have navigated the complexities of the immigration system as a former DREAMer, and I am still waiting for my green card even though I have two science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees and an MBA. I pay taxes, my son and a sister are U.S. citizens, my parents and other sisters have their green cards. I'm a manager of an early-stage venture capital group, and I'm a business consultant.
So I see firsthand how our current immigration system is holding us back and how badly we need the kind of reform the Senate bill would provide. Utah's businesses, families and communities cannot wait.
Our outdated immigration system is hindering our potential for growth. Many skilled workers across the labor spectrum, from farm workers to engineers, do not have a legal way to work and contribute to the economy — while countries like Canada and Chile have adapted and are providing visas to the entrepreneurs and STEM graduates we are turning away.
Quite simply, we need a new immigration process that encourages entrepreneurship, ingenuity and pursuit of the American dream.
With his vote on June 27, and in the Senate Judiciary Committee in May, Sen. Hatch helped bring this much-needed reform a step closer to reality. For his support of the bill, Sen. Hatch deserves our support in turn.
Now the House of Representatives must keep in mind the best interests of our state and our country. Reasonable, good-faith debate must prevail, and I agree with Sen. Hatch that it must end with swift passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
Sen. Hatch recognizes the best answer for our broken immigration system is not piecemeal reform but a broad plan that moves us forward together. Addressing one challenge at a time is not a recipe for a long-term solution that will allow us to realize our full potential as a nation.
The bipartisan bill the Senate passed is the right approach. It addresses business needs in a way that will help bottom lines and lift all workers. It strengthens families. It stresses security, and it also creates an opportunity for aspiring Americans to earn citizenship.
These elements will bring honor both to the rule of law and to our highest American values — the values that make us proud not only on the Fourth of July but every day.
Jesus Loya earned an honors bachelor of science in electrical engineering, a master of business administration and a master's in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Utah. He manages a network of 74 private investors who build companies that create jobs in Utah, and he consults for entrepreneurs looking to grow their businesses.