Tributes have been pouring in from around the world for immigration reformer and peoples champion Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy who died of a brain tumour yesterday age 77.
One of the tributes comes from Jennifer McFadyen’s blog on about.com who said that migrants and advocates lost a powerful and influential voice yesterday with the death of Kennedy.
Ted Kennedy was possibly the last major political figure of this powerful dynasty, which stretches back to President John F. Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy who were both assassinated in the 1960’s.
His Father, Joseph, was Ambassador to the Court of St James.
The Senator had been at the forefront of immigration and welfare reforms for over 40 years, starting with his call for immigration reform in 1962 which led to his role in helping to pass the Immigration & Nationality Act of 1965.
Kennedy also co-authored the 2007 comprehensive immigration reform bill. Though disappointed by the bill’s failure to pass, Senator Kennedy refused to back down from his goal:
“Immigration reform is an opportunity to be true to our ideals as a nation. Our Declaration of Independence announces that all of us are created equal. Today, we failed to live up to that declaration for millions of men and women who live, work, and worship beside us. But our ideals are too strong to be held back for long.”
Himself a great-grandson of Irish immigrants, Kennedy viewed America as a nation of immigrants: a country built by immigrants, defined by immigrants and a country whose progress as a nation and future economic growth depended on immigrants. Immigrants, according the Senator, defined the “true spirit” of this county: “good people who come to America to work, raise their families and contribute to their communities to reach the American dream.”
At an immigration rally in 2006, Senator Kennedy’s passion for immigration reform shone through as he addressed a crowd of immigrants and supporters in Washington, D.C.:
“Some in Congress want to turn America away from its true spirit. They believe immigrants are criminals, and they are wrong. They believe any of us who help immigrants, even our priests, are criminals, too. They are wrong again. They say, you should ‘report to deport’. I say, report and become American citizens.”
Senator Kennedy’s dedication to the immigrant-rights community, his personal commitment to immigrants and their families, his love for this nation, and his welcoming, open arms, will be sorely missed.
But perhaps his final legacy will be early his backing of the then outsider Barack Obama for the Presidency, who looks set to deal with the ‘visa retrogression’ issue which is holding up thousands of nurses taking up nursing jobs in America.
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