I didn’t run for Congress to be “the immigrant candidate.” But I’ve had to re-learn some tough lessons as a rookie politician, including the very first one that any person of color has to learn form a young age: you don’t get to pick.

I know I’m a skinny guy with dark skin and a funny name. And as much as I like to joke about how the┬álast guy fitting that description here in Illinois worked out just fine, I understand that still puts a target on my back.

My father came to this country to live the American Dream. And he did. He started with a few bucks in his pocket and a single suitcase to his name. And, from there, he put himself through school, became a citizen, and raised a family. What that means is that “the immigration issue” isn’t just an issue for me; it’s a basic building block of my life story. “The immigration issue” isn’t my line of work. It’s not how I pay the bills. “The immigration issue” isn’t just something that covers the payments on an imported sports car or on a second home in Florida, like it is for other candidates.

Immigration is who I am.

My priorities in Washington will be:

  1. Passing the DREAM Act and normalizing the status of the more than a million young Americans who were brought to this country by their parents and have never known any other home.
  2. Put the Dreamers’ parents on a path to permanent status, but only after existing backlogs for green card applications have been cleared. Prospective immigrants who have attempted to follow the law should not be bumped any further back in line.
  3. Call for a House investigation into the widespread culture of abuse at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Since the election of Donald Trump, ICE agents have flouted judicial injunctions around the “travel ban,” abused their administrative warrant authority, and have begun tearing parents away from their children in broad daylight with no regard to human decency. And if we can’t hold ICE leadership accountable, then we need to start over with a new agency.