Washington (CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden echoed the West Wing’s “we can’t wait” mantra Thursday, telling a crowd at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Summit that “undocumented aliens” are already American citizens.
“You know, 11 million people that are living in the shadows. I believe they’re already Americans citizens,” Biden said. “These people are just waiting, waiting for a chance to be able to contribute fully. And by that standard, 11 million undocumented aliens are already Americans in my view.”
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Citing the contribution Hispanics have made to the American economy, Biden stressed the importance of passing immigration reform sooner rather than later, arguing, “It’s the single most significant thing we can do. It’s a game-changer financially for the country.”
To further his point, Biden argued that without immigration reform, America is losing thousands of engineers and scientists who earn PhD’s in American universities. “We should be stapling a green card to each and every one of those degrees as they walk across the stage. “
Biden, along with other speakers at the Washington event, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, argued for the immediate need to pass the current Senate immigration bill.
“Just this one act alone, if we pass the Senate bill, can extend Social Security solvency by two years.” Biden said. “Even Republicans think we should pass the Senate bill,” he later added.
Pelosi went even further saying, “It is more important to pass comprehensive immigration reform to me and to my caucus than to win the election in November.”
Earlier in the program, Biden boasted about his role in foreign policy.
“The President’s basically put me in charge of this hemisphere,” Biden joked. “I’m in and out of Latin America a lot in the hemisphere – meeting with every – I think I’ve met with almost every – head of state.”
Addressing the issue of immigration reform, a topic that also came up during a 50-minute private conversation between President Barack Obama and Pope Francis at the Vatican Thursday Biden acknowledged that immigration policy would play a key role in the United States’ foreign policy with Latin America.
“You know what, those of you engaged in international business get this, but I can tell you from my own experience dealing with the heads of state in Latin America, that immigration reform will have a profound impact on our foreign and economic policy in this hemisphere.”