Highlighting the Need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Monday, Jan. 27, 2014
Comprehensive immigration reform is essential if we are to achieve the robust, sustainable growth necessary to secure our long-term economic future. Just one example: at manufacturing plants throughout my district, employers are having a hard time finding the skilled workers they need. As our workforce ages, retirements are expanding the need for qualified, highly skilled workers. Smart immigration policy will help American companies strategically address these challenges.
To better understand the issues around immigration, I gathered input from community and business leaders at an immigration roundtable discussion I organized last year. One participant of particular note was what many call a “DREAMer.” Estefania Garcia shared her story of coming to the U.S. when she was 7 years old, growing up here, going to school here, graduating from college here and now building a career helping others here. Her story did not leave a dry eye in the room.
I was so touched by Estefania’s experiences that I invited her as my guest to the President’s State of the Union Address. Her success and her impact in the community personify the strong case for comprehensive reform.
When considering that case, it is perhaps most important to remember that her story is not at all unique. At colleges and universities across the country, gifted, ambitious students face the real fear that after graduation, they’ll have to leave this country and apply their skills, achieve their dreams, somewhere else.
These young DREAMers are only some of the faces of immigration reform. But their stories underscore the urgent need to fix our broken system. This is why four of my Illinois colleagues joined me to invite advocates for immigration reform to the State of the Union—to emphasize the need.
Rarely do we face an issue with such significance for the social and economic fabric of our society. Yet, comprehensive immigration reform poses just such significance. Comprehensive reform is good for our economy, for our communities and for individuals across the country.
In fact, our current system is so broken that fixing it will actually save money. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates $175 billion in savings from the Senate’s bipartisan comprehensive reform package.
Simply put: comprehensive immigration reform is a win-win proposition. We’ll be able to attract the world’s most gifted STEM minds to our schools, train them and then encourage them to stay here and help us achieve 21st Century success. Our economy will be injected with the talent and skills it needs to thrive. And 11 million people will pay taxes and become fully engaged in our democracy for the first time.
We can do well by doing right.
So let me close with one more story. Last year, I attended a naturalization ceremony and watched 53 people from 19 different countries take the Oath of Citizenship and say the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time as Americans. That powerful moment affected everyone in attendance that day—family, friends, neighbors, even strangers.
Experiencing the incredible feeling of hope and achievement at that ceremony and understanding the indisputable economic benefits of real improvements to our system, I had no doubt whatsoever about the absolute need for comprehensive immigration reform legislation. I call on all of my colleagues to join me in this effort.
Boosting High-Tech, Advanced Manufacturing
Friday, December 6, 2013
Our district has the third-highest concentration of manufacturing jobs in the entire country. That translates to nearly 100,000 people working in manufacturing businesses, large and small. These jobs are not the old smokestack, Rust-Belt jobs of the last century, but the new, high-tech, 21st Century, advanced manufacturing jobs driving today’s economy.
With this growth comes increasing need for innovative and skilled manufacturing workers. This need requires a strategic commitment to developing a well-trained, capable workforce.
Two local programs working to boost manufacturing caught my eye, and I wanted to share them with you.
Recently, I joined members of the Veterans Rapid Employment Initiative (VREI), a local program connecting recently-discharged veterans with manufacturing careers, during a tour of a Des Plaines-based manufacturer. Connecting veterans with manufacturing is a win-win proposition. It expands career opportunities for our veterans, whose unique and technical skills ideally suit them to fill skilled positions, and helps drive the next generation of manufacturing growth.
I also participated in the Wheeling Manufacturing Conference at Wheeling High School. This school is home to some of the most exciting educational and industry cooperation in the country. From the high school’s new nanotechnology lab that I visited with Education Secretary Arne Duncan in October to its manufacturing center and the village's commitment to business and manufacturing development, Wheeling is a national model for integrating economic, educational and municipal strengths.
Both of these programs further highlight the need to address our growing skills gap and ensure manufacturers can hire the skilled workers they need to compete in the 21st Century. Legislation such as the AMERICA Works Act and LEARN Act—both bills I introduced—seeks to bridge that gap, and with more partnerships and initiatives like the VREI and Wheeling Manufacturing Conference, I am confident the Tenth District will lead the way in innovative manufacturing for a new century.
A Win-Win for Our Businesses and Our Workers
Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013
Learning by doing is one of the fastest and most effective ways to acquire a new skill. I’ve seen this in my own business experience, and I’ve heard it from employers. That’s why today I introduced the LEARN Act to expand our nation’s On-the-Job training programs.
The LEARN Act helps businesses invest in people, hiring and training new employees to grow their business and provide quality jobs. As our economy continues to recover and workers adjust to a rapidly-changing marketplace, On-the-Job training is a win-win.
Businesses have the ability to train workers with precise skills for the 21st Century, but too many find the cost of hiring and training prohibitive—the LEARN Act helps offset these costs and can help businesses expand and help workers gain necessary experience.
On-the-Job training is a way for businesses to grow quickly, and I’m excited about the new opportunities the LEARN Act can create in our communities.
Why I Voted to Protect Nutrition Assistance
Monday, Sept. 23, 2013
In the richest nation in the world,far too many families suffer from hunger and malnutrition —often not knowing where their next meal will come from. Five years after one of the largest economic meltdowns in our nation’s history, food insecurity remains at record levels. Regardless of these facts, Congressional Republicans decided yesterday was the time to impose severe, harmful cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
During the debate over SNAP cuts, there have been a number of distortions and misleading arguments used. To set the record straight: nearly half of SNAP recipients are children; in Illinois, recipients receive a miniscule $1.55 per meal, $4.65 per day; and more than 90 percent of SNAP recipients are households living below the poverty line.
To secure their drastic cuts to the program, Republicans stripped the nutrition provision from the Farm Bill—in which it traditionally is included—and doubled the cut to a shocking $40 billion. This intensely partisan bill (every Democrat and 15 Republicans voted against it) is roundly opposed by seniors, charities, homeless groups, religious institutions and farmers for extending cuts too far.
Our economy is still far from a full recovery, making these misguided and irresponsible cuts all the more hurtful. The Senate proposed $4 billion in cuts. The Republican House cuts are 10 times deeper, and contain other, even harsher changes to the program. Families, seniors and veterans all across the country are all struggling to put food on the table. They need a hand up and a push forward, not yet another obstacle in their way.
Last week’s vote was about our values. There are sensible, long term reforms Congress can make to federal assistance programs that will uphold our values and not overburden seniors, children and working families, but these draconian SNAP cuts extend too far. This dramatic cut will hurt the most vulnerable in the midst of a fragile economic recovery.
Recommend a Business for a "Brad at Your Business" Visit
Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013
A primary focus for me, representing Illinois's Tenth District, is helping grow our economy and advocating on behalf of small businesses. To best understand the interests and concerns of the small and medium-sized companies in our community, businesses that are critical to our future development, I've made it a priority to hear directly from businesses in the area.
In that vein, I initiated “Brad at Your Business,” a program designed around Stephen Covey’s principle: “First understand, then be understood.” Whenever I return home from Washington, I visit companies around the district, touring more than 30 businesses so far. I have also had countless more conversations with individuals—business owners, managers and employees—consistently seeking to understand the issues, challenges and opportunities they face.
Building on our efforts, we’ve now created a Brad at Your Business homepage on my website—a one-stop-shop for news, updates and much more on my business visits. To see pictures, learn about businesses I’ve visited or just read more about Brad at Your Business, check out the homepage.
Help Recommend Businesses to Visit:
If there is a company you’d like to recommend for an upcoming Brad at Your Business visit, let me know by filling out this form.
Keeping College Within Reach
Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013
The cost of a college education is steadily moving beyond the grasp of many American families. Too many of our young people are finding themselves without the means to pay for the higher education they wish to pursue.
Last week, I joined more than 300 of my colleagues to pass a bipartisan compromise that will keep student loan interest rates from permanently doubling. The deal both sides struck is not perfect—there are aspects I wish were different, but that’s the nature of compromise. Both sides made concessions, and ultimately we were able to strike a deal that is good for our students.
Importantly, this compromise will lock in the rate at the beginning of the loan for the life of loan, giving students and families the certainty they need to plan their financial futures and make informed, thoughtful decisions. This certainty will also help our academic institutions as they plan their financial aid programs. I’ve consistently said that uncertainty is crippling in tough economic times, and the assurances this deal provides students, parents and schools are critically important.
This deal is not perfect and we must still work to address the ever-rising costs of higher education, but I am pleased to know that compromise is still possible. The seriousness and determination with which we tackled this issue must be replicated when addressing our other pressing challenges. I’m ready to work together and break through the gridlock, and I hope this deal is an indication that more of my colleagues are ready too.
Working Together to Break Through Gridlock
Thursday, July 18, 2013
I have the utmost faith that our country’s best days lay ahead, but only if we begin to tackle the challenges confronting us today. Moreover, the issues we face are too great to confront with ideology alone. To move this country forward, we must commit to working together, regardless of party, and find that common ground where progress becomes inevitable.
Now I’m a proud, life-long Democrat. Still, I don’t think either party has a monopoly of all the answers. That’s why I am always willing to partner with anyone—Democrat or Republican—who has good ideas, an open mind and willingness to work together.
This freshman class in the House came to Washington with the goal of breaking the gridlock. This spirit of transcending partisanship is growing, and it’s exactly what we need—it’s what our constituents, families and businesses need.
It’s in this vein that I am honored to be a part of the No Labels Problem Solvers, a robust and growing group of Representatives and Senators from both parties who want to find common ground and address our country’s toughest challenges together.
Whenever I am home, I spend as much time as possible meeting face-to-face and talking with people in my district about the challenges they face. Regardless of the venue, I hear over and over again about the great frustration with the partisan gridlock and inaction in Washington. People tell me they are most aggravated by the inability for Congress to work together to advance even the simplest, most sensible solutions to the issues we face.
Yet I know there is common ground where both parties can work together to make progress. The challenges we face, such as strengthening small business, closing the skills gap, reducing gun violence and preserving our environment, must be tackled now. They must be addressed holistically, and they must be addressed together.
While we all don’t see eye-to-eye on everything, there are many areas where we can, and will, find agreement. That’s what the Problem Solvers are focused on—finding those areas where interests and objectives overlap so we can shape positive solutions.
I’ve been a problem solver all my life. It’s what drew me to engineering, and it’s why I joined the No Labels Problem Solvers. Like my No Labels colleagues, I believe that we’re all in the same boat, and that together we will work to secure a brighter, more prosperous future for the next generation.
Moving Marriage Equality Foward
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
237 years into this American Experiment, we continue to amaze.
Last week, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), confirming that everyone should have the opportunity to marry the person they love.
I’m proud of the Court’s landmark decision because when two loving individuals want to make a public, lifelong commitment to one another, they should be able to, it should be called marriage and they should receive the exact same benefits as any other married couple.
DOMA is unconstitutional. That fact is no longer up for debate. And affirming that marriage in the eyes of the law treats all couples the same is another step in what has been a long, difficult march of progress.
At home in Illinois, it’s now high time to finally make marriage equality state law. I further encourage all states that haven’t already done so to move forward toward equality, and at the same time, I will continue fighting for equality in Washington.
While the Court’s decision marks a tremendous turning point for equality, there still remains a vocal, extreme minority that opposes expanding equality to all Americans, in all facets of life.Overturning DOMA puts renewed emphasis on the need to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. No one should face discrimination in the workplace simply for being honest about their sexual orientation, simply because of who they love.
Hopefully soon I will be able to proudly cast a vote in support of full marriage equality, proudly congratulate Illinois lawmakers on making the leap forward and proudly put an end to workplace discrimination—not just because it’s part of our constitutional foundation, but because it’s the right thing to do.
Building a Highly-Skilled Workforce
Monday, June 17, 2013
Twenty-first century, advanced manufacturing demands highly-skilled workers. And a highly-skilled workforce depends on having advanced training programs, which requires advanced curricula, capable instructors and modern facilities. Just as a business functions better when its parts are synchronized, creating a twenty-first century workforce requires collaboration and cooperation. That means students, workers, educators, business owners, administrators and their representatives must all work together. This understanding is the big, yet simple idea behind the AMERICA Works Act, the first bill I introduced in Congress.
I recently got to see this collaborative approach and the success it produces firsthand at Wheeling High School’s Manufacturing and Engineering Program. The Wheeling High School Principal, Dr. Lazaro Lopez, and two of the program’s teachers, Michael Geist and Tom Steinbach, provided me a tour of the facility and gave me the history of the program. Now in its third year, enrollment has doubled each year, now reaching 40 students and making it the largest initiative of its kind in Illinois. The program has 50 local industry partners who help provide the hands-on professional experience and ensure that Wheeling High School is teaching the skills needed in today’s market.
I was profoundly impressed by the sophistication and the success of Wheeling’s program. Under the leadership and guidance of Dr. Lopez, Mr. Geist and Mr. Steinbach, the Manufacturing and Engineering Program has tapped into our community’s urgent need for skilled workers. Illinois’s Tenth Congressional District is the third largest manufacturing district in the entire country, and we got there because of the hard work and skill of our innovators and workforce. Yet virtually every business I visit expresses concerns about the growing skills gap, and educators and industry leaders working together directly is our best shot at closing this gap.
A recent University of Illinois-Chicago study found that a single Illinois manufacturing job creates additional 2.2 jobs. That’s an astounding figure, and one that illustrates how important this moment is. Unless we commit to building more partnerships between educators and businesses, we risk losing our manufacturing excellence and forfeiting our global edge. If we commit now, we can reach new levels of success, and that’s what I’m committed to working toward.
Joining me at Wheeling High School were Brian Panek, Terry Iverson and Joe Arvin—three leaders in Illinois manufacturing. I know they were just as impressed with the program as I was, and their enthusiasm is exactly how Wheeling’s program boasts 50 manufacturing partners and counting.
We need more partnerships like what Wheeling High School has built, and that's exactly what the AMERICA Works Act encourages.
Cheering on Waukegan Public Library
May 9, 2013
Yesterday was truly special. I had the honor of joining staff members from the Waukegan Public Library at the White House as First Lady Michelle Obama presented them with the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ National Medal. Waukegan Library was one of only ten institutions nationwide to receive this honor.
Richard Lee, Executive Director of the Waukegan Library, wisely noted that they no longer judge libraries “by the number of books checked out,” but rather success is measured by a library's service to the community. Clearly, today’s award symbolizes exactly how successful Waukegan Public Library has been.
More than 55 percent of Waukegan residents speak a language other than English, and so the library started various language programs, including its Conversational ESL Program that boasts more than 250 current or former participants. It’s programs like these that accomplish more than teaching English; they serve as gateways to more opportunity in the future.
During the awards ceremony, First Lady Michelle Obama praised Waukegan Library for its innovation, passion and commitment to the community. The mark of a true community institution is what it gives back to the people, how it helps enrich their lives. Waukegan Public Library has clearly established itself as a focal point of the Waukegan community and an innovative nationwide leader in community service.
When our communities are enriched by programs that empower residents and open doors of opportunity, we all prosper. I am proud to say that Waukegan Public Library is a pillar of the Tenth District, and I congratulate the library and its staff once again for earning this distinguished award.
Reducing Gun Violence in Our Communties
Feb. 19, 2013
We see it on our TVs every day. Random shootings, innocent lives lost, families shattered. Here in Illinois it feels like an epidemic. And nationally, 33 people die every day due to gun violence.
In just the past two years, the tragedies in Tucson, Aurora, Oak Creek and Newtown shocked us to our cores. These mass shootings blind us with grief and pain, but they also open our eyes to the tragedies—the less publicized ones—that occur each and every day, from big city streets to small town homes.
More often than not, the localized instances of violence don’t command the attention of the nation, but once in a while one does.
Hadiya Pendleton was an honor student, and as a majorette in the band, she performed at the President’s inauguration. Hers was a life full of promise and hope. She would make a difference in this world because she was determined to. But Hadiya’s life was tragically cut short on a rainy January afternoon.
Cleopatra Cowley, Hadiya’s mother, said what we all felt in our hearts: no parent should ever have to experience this. No parent should ever experience the pain of burying a child.
Joining a number of my colleagues seeking to highlight the importance of addressing gun violence, I chose to invite Cleopatra to the President’s State of the Union address Tuesday night. I was so pleased that she and Hadiya's father, Nate, had the chance to sit beside First Lady Michelle Obama during the speech.
Cleopatra is a powerful and heartbreaking new voice joining a chorus calling for common sense action to reduce these senseless acts. She should be an inspiration to us all as we work to sensibly reduce the gun violence in our communities.
And while I know no matter what we do that we can’t completely prevent these tragedies from ever occurring, we do have the opportunity to save lives.
I heard it during the gun violence roundtable I hosted last month, and I continue to hear it every day: Congress must act now because we all have a responsibility to seize this moment and make a difference.
We need to implement universal background checks—a smart step that more than 90 percent of Americans support.
We need to finally make gun trafficking a federal crime.
We need to expand access to mental-health treatment.
We need to limit access to large capacity magazines and military-style assault weapons.
We need act for Hadiya and the countless other young people whose lives are abruptly ended in senseless acts of gun violence. We need to act for those killed in Newtown, in Aurora, in Oak Creek, in Tucson. We need to act for the 33 we lose each and every day to gun violence.
This is the moment. This is our time. Let's get to work.
Touring the Tenth District’s Businesses
Jan. 15, 2013
I have consistently held that re-energizing our economy is job one. It is crucial that we begin to restore confidence in our future so that businesses, large and small, begin to again invest in their futures—in innovation, in hiring and in training new employees.
This past week, during my first trip home to the Tenth District after being sworn in as its Congressman, I had the opportunity to visit and tour nine local businesses, meeting their owners and employees, learning in some detail about the opportunities and challenges that they face and discussing how Congress can have a positive impact to help them prosper and grow.
If I have one important takeaway from my visits, it’s that the Tenth District is home to many wonderful businesses employing many capable people. At every company I visited, I saw enthusiasm, I sensed optimism and I learned about the diversity of opportunity here in Illinois. I have no doubt that our district is poised to help lead our nation’s economic recovery.
But I also heard frustration about what is happening in Washington.
From family businesses such as C-Line Products and Ludlow Manufacturing, to large corporations such as Walgreens and Underwriters Laboratories, some common themes emerged: we need Congress to stop fighting and start working together; we need more skilled technical workers; and incentives for companies to invest in their businesses and their people make a difference.
Ludlow Manufacturing, a metal fabricator based in Gurnee, is a family-owned business with 100 percent of their operations based in the Tenth District. They have experienced rapid growth and are excited about continued expansion, but one of the major concerns is the lack of technicians and engineers to operate sophisticated machinery. They’re so eager for new, skilled employees that they’ve reached out to local high schools to generate interest in the profession and even mentioned considering conducting most of the training in-house.
I heard the same concern from Knuth Machine Tools—a global metalworking equipment manufacturer with its North American headquarters here in Lincolnshire. With installations throughout the country, they simply can’t keep pace with the demand for technicians.
It is companies like these that have established the Tenth District’s long history as a national leader in manufacturing, and in order to keep that tradition alive, it’s critical that the opportunities to learn the necessary skills exist.
For both Connexion, an electrical products distributor in Buffalo Grove, and Schumacher Electric, a battery charger manufacturer in Mount Prospect, uncertainty in Washington poses a serious obstacle. Several of the companies I visited told me that without knowing when or which regulations will go into effect, without knowing how taxes will be structured or whether various compromises will be reached, decision making becomes more difficult and investments can be delayed or deferred.
Congress simply has to stop kicking the can down the road for two, or six or twelve months—successful businesses don’t make investment decisions with six-month horizons; they plan for three, or five or even ten years. In order for these employers to have the confidence to invest in new technologies and take on new workers, we must bring longer-term thinking to the policy decisions we make in Congress.
By the end of the tour, it was clear that these businesses are excited to have their roots in the Tenth District and are confident in their abilities, but frustrated by inaction in Washington. These businesses want to stay here, to grow and succeed here. They’re not asking for special favors, just fairness and constructive action from elected officials. And I think that’s a request worth getting behind.