March 1, 2013 - “I admire the work you do every day. I am so pleased to be here,” Gordon Quan said in opening remarks at the annual Social Work Awards Breakfast. Held each year, the annual breakfast rings in National Social Work month at the Graduate College of Social Work .
Quan delivered the keynote address on Immigration: Can We Solve the Puzzle? An immigration attorney and partner at FosterQuan, LLP, he was the second Asian American to be elected to the Houston City Council and the first to serve as Houston Mayor Pro Tem, as well as a widely known and respected expert on immigration. Quan shared a local and national perspective of the immigration reform’s history and recent developments shaped by his extensive knowledge of the issues of immigrants and Houstonians.
“We pride ourselves in Houston on being a diverse city. We’re diverse because of immigration,” Quan said.
Dating back to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) signed by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 through 2006’s failed Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act (CIRA), Quan gave an overview of immigration legislation in the United States.
“Times are changing and our laws need to change, too,” Quan said.
Speaking to the audience comprised almost entirely of social work practitioners, Quan urged them to serve as “the conscious of the movement” for immigration reform.
“As social workers, you can be advocates and talk about what you’re seeing. The more people that speak out about doing something fair the better. We need immigrants to grow this country,” Quan said.
Making the case that immigration reform is vital to development and progress in the U.S., he noted:
- 45% of patents come from immigrants
- 4 million people are in line today to get visas
- 90% of crops in Texas are picked by undocumented workers
Quan laid out the considerable amount of unresolved issues and various approaches to the detailed questions of what reform would mean for the 10-12 million undocumented people in this country. Issues including: Penalty fees, cut off dates, tax payments, English proficiency, deportations and waivers. Despite the difficulty and uncertainty in finding workable solutions to the many issues that must be grappled with, Quan also noted the recent development of bipartisan support for the issue. Currently, eight members of the U.S. Senate and six members of the House of Representatives, including two from Texas (Rep. John Carter, R-TX 31st District and Sam Johnson R-TX 3rd District have all expressed support for immigration reform legislation. However, while there is political momentum he cautioned, “if we can’t get this done by summer (2013) we could lose a great opportunity.”
The role that social workers can play during this critical period is one they are very familiar with, advocacy.
“Social workers see the real day to day problems experienced by the undocumented. Families are being torn apart; people face many issues including family violence because of all the uncertainty. And social workers can articulate that. Social workers have influence with people and can carry that message even if they are apolitical. They can bring up the questions of fairness. People respect social workers,” Quan said.
The 13th Annual Greater Houston Area Social Work Awards Breakfast, IMMIGRATION: Can We Solve the Puzzle? with keynote speaker Gordon J. Quan, J.D. was held March 1, 2013. Sponsored by:
Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority of Harris County, National Association of Black Social Workers - Houston Chapter, National Association of Social Workers - Houston Branch, Society for Social Work Leadership in Healthcare - Texas Chapter, Texas Southern University, Department of Social Work, University of Houston - Clear Lake, Social Work Program, University of Houston - Downtown, Social Work Program, University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work, University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work, Alumni Association, University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work, Student Association