My Turn: Safer for everyone

For the Monitor
Published: 7/2/2021 8:00:03 AM

It is my honor to serve as sheriff of Cheshire County, a duty I proudly and respectfully accept, along with the responsibility and public trust I have sworn to uphold. Public safety depends on public trust. That is why one of the factors that can make my job more challenging and complex is our country’s failure to enact immigration reform and provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people who are Americans in every way but on paper.

In my line of work, building trust is key. When undocumented immigrants are forced to live in the shadows, law enforcement officials face the impossible situation of protecting a community where our very presence is feared.

Witnesses remain silent, crimes like domestic violence and sexual assault go unreported, and offenders get away with abuse. It’s an untenable situation that makes everyone less safe.

Like the rest of us, our immigrant neighbors are hardworking individuals seeking to create a better life for their families. Many are Dreamers who were brought to the country as children and who have only known this country as home. They want to feel safe at home and at work and go about their lives, and as a sheriff, I want to make sure they can trust us to protect them and their loved ones.

That’s why I’m counting on our leaders in Congress to do the right thing and pass a roadmap to citizenship for eligible immigrants who, like every generation of immigrants before them, have made extraordinary sacrifices to make a better life for their families. This will bring undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and strengthen the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the people we serve. By providing a pathway to citizenship, Congress has an opportunity to improve public safety for everyone.

Already, the U.S. House of Representatives passed important legislation to create a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. The Senate should do so as well and pass a bill that is both widely popular and widely beneficial, unlocking the potential of Dreamers and giving them more security and peace of mind. There is also an opportunity to provide a path to citizenship for essential workers who are served in frontline industries during the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring food stayed on the shelves, critical industries stayed open, and hospitals provided care to people in need. This legislation, along with President Biden’s U.S. Citizenship Act, is crucial to overhauling our immigration system.

The Biden administration and Congress have the power to create an immigration system that builds trust and keeps families together. Such actions will improve the safety and well-being of all our communities. Immigration reform is a critical step in assuring all people that they will be treated fairly, equally and with respect, and that’s something each and every one of us can support.

(Eli Rivera is the Cheshire County sheriff.)

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