Op-Ed in Queens Tribune: A Borough Built By Immigrants

March 30, 2017

I am a proud son of Queens. And for years, I’ve watched with enthusiasm as the borough gained recognition as the amazingly vibrant and diverse community it is. But one thing has never changed in all of Queens’s history: the long and strong tradition of immigrants who have shaped our community.

Queens is, in many ways, a modern-day Ellis Island. It is where today’s immigrants enter our country, make their homes and build the multi-ethnic community that is representative of America today. When I walk the streets of my district, I see South Asians and South Americans, Koreans and Colombians, those from the Greek islands and those from the Caribbean – all living and working alongside each other. They have made Queens their home, just like my Irish immigrant grandparents did.

As the son and grandson of immigrants, I have a deep appreciation of the bravery and the strength it takes to leave behind everything you know and come to a foreign land in the hopes of a better life for yourself and your children. I see that same courage in the faces of today’s immigrants – the doctors, small business owners, restaurateurs and teachers who make up these communities.

Like so many immigrant families, I know my ancestors came here dreaming of a better life for me – even if they never imagined I would someday be fortunate enough to represent my home in the United States Congress. While serving in Congress is a tremendous privilege, it is also a responsibility and one that I take extremely seriously.

I believe that I have a responsibility to ensure that immigrants are able to live, work and contribute to their communities. That means ensuring access to the education, health care and social services they need. But perhaps more importantly, I know that I have the responsibility to ensure that immigrants are welcomed here – in every way.

That has become even more important in recent months as we have seen an increase in offensive rhetoric and policies to match – from promises to build a wall along our border with Mexico, to efforts to create a de facto deportation force, to threatening to deny New York City of needed homeland security funding as punishment for being open to immigrants.

I promise to the people of Queens – new immigrants or long-time residents – that I will continue to stand up against these hurtful, damaging policies, as well as the hateful, xenophobic rhetoric that demonizes immigrants. It’s been horrifying to see that alongside this hateful rhetoric have come increases in hate speech, racial and religious intolerance and even violent crimes.

But through it all, I have been heartened to see how Queens has stood strong against this wave. From rallying to the side of an immigrant shop owner attacked in a hate crime to marching proudly in support of refugees and speaking out for hardworking families being divided by deportation threats – I know that Queens stands strong for its immigrants.

We are – and have always been – a borough built by immigrants, home to immigrants and welcoming of immigrants. That is the Queens I am proud to represent in Congress and even prouder to call my home.

U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley represents the 14th Congressional District of New York, which includes sections of Queens and the Bronx. He is a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee and serves as Chair of the Democratic Caucus in the House of Representatives.