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Immigration Advocates Mourn Kennedy’s Passing

There’s been an outpouring of praise for the life and legacy of Sen. Edward Kennedy from advocates of immigration reform, who call him the leading champion for immigrants’ rights, from his championing the Immigration Act of 1965, which eliminated national-origin quotas, to his tireless efforts to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2007. That bill remains the model for immigration reform legislation today.

This tribute from Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, is a particularly moving one and seemed worth posting in full:

As the head of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition in Boston before coming to the Forum, I witnessed the deep personal commitment Senator Kennedy felt for immigrants and for fixing America’s immigration laws. After a devastating raid in New Bedford in 2007, Senator Kennedy and other leaders met with family members who gathered in the basement of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church as hundreds streamed in. The families huddled around Senator Kennedy asking him for help finding parents and loved ones who had been taken away by armed federal officers.

Senator Kennedy did not want to leave that church basement. These were his people, these were the people he wanted to help, and these were the people impacted most directly by our broken immigration system. I saw in his concern for these terrified and shattered families Senator Kennedy’s personal commitment to righting wrongs when he saw them.

That afternoon, and in the days and months ahead, Senator Kennedy led yet another push for comprehensive immigration reform on the floor of the United States Senate. Each time he spoke, he went back to that moment in New Bedford to remind our country why we need to fix our out-dated immigration system. Fighting for the dignity and safety of immigrants who give their work and their sweat to this country was not an abstract policy matter for Senator Kennedy.

The great-grandson of eight immigrants to America, the brother of two of America’s most visionary leaders on fighting for a fair and just immigration system, Senator Kennedy was in his own right the architect of the modern struggle to honor America’s legacy as nation built by, populated by, and defined by immigrants from around the world.

We will miss his humor, his strategic sensibility, and his ability to keep us moving forward whatever the obstacles. He taught us that the fate and possibilities of all of us are fully intertwined with the fate and possibilities of the least of us. Both political parties and every American, regardless of status or station, can honor Senator Kennedy’s life and legacy by recommitting ourselves to making the United States of America the most welcoming, free, egalitarian, and successful nation on earth.

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