Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, June 20, 2013 | 11:15 p.m.
Vice President Joe Biden said that a definite path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people living in the United States was long overdue.
“This is the fight of our lives,” said Biden, during a speech at the League of United Latin American Citizens' 84th national convention on Thursday night. “It's long past time that we provide a firm, fair, unfettered path to citizenship.”
During the vice president's address to the Youth and Young Adults Awards Banquet at Caesars Palace, Biden repeatedly stressed that the majority of the American people supported immigration reform.
"I believe the American people are with us," said Biden. "They know that immigration has been the constant lifeblood of this country. It's the thing that makes us the most unique nation in the world."
Recent polls showed that 64 percent of voting-age Nevadans supported an immigration reform bill.
Biden said that the nation needed to end the immigration reform debate.
"It's time to bring this debate to a close for overwhelming practical, as well as moral, reasons. We've got to pass this legislation," Biden said to the members of LULAC, the largest and oldest Hispanic organization in the United States.
Biden, who was introduced by “Sons of Anarchy” actor Jimmy Smits, said that claims that immigration reform would have astronomical costs were “a bunch of malarkey.” (He quipped that “malarkey” was a Spanish word.)
The vice president cited the Congressional Budget Office's recent report that stated that the reform would reduce the deficit.
“The Congressional Budget Office showed that the reform will save money and boost money in the economy,” Biden said. “They said the reform will reduce the deficit by 197 billion dollars over the next 10 years. Almost 900 billion, almost a trillion dollars over the next 20 years.”
Biden, who scolded “mean-spirited” amendments to the bill, asserted the reform would bolster the gross domestic product.
“It will increase the gross domestic product by 3.3 percent over the next 10 years and 5.4 percent over the next 20. That's huge,” said Biden.
Biden said that not all immigrants were Latino, but said that the Hispanic community was helping determine the future of America.
“The Hispanic and Latino community represents 17 percent of every student on a college campus. Twenty-five percent of all students, from K-12, are Hispanic,” Biden said. “Eleven percent of every man and woman who wears the uniform of the United States and defends us is Hispanic.”
Biden said that the 25 percent of Hispanic schoolchildren were integral to the future of the country.
“These children aren't just your children. They're our children. They're America's children,” Biden said. “They're the kite strings that lift our national ambitions aloft. Immigration reform is the wind that will carry the hopes and the aspirations of our entire country.”
Biden said that every new wave of immigration had been met with hostility by some xenophobic forces, but said that the nation has always overcome those voices.
“We have to succeed and when we do, I promise you, we will have a transformative impact on this nation's future,” Biden said.
Although the vice president felt that the passage of the bill was in its final yards, he added that the next few weeks would be the most difficult.
"A lot can go wrong between now and the Fourth of July recess," Biden said.
Biden's wife, Jill Biden, delivered a speech at last year's convention. President Barack Obama also addressed the Hispanic civil rights group at its 2008 convention in the midst of his first presidential campaign.
Biden will remain in Las Vegas until Friday and will deliver remarks to the U.S. Conference of Mayors at Mandalay Bay.