Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, a Democratic candidate to replace U.S. Senator Edward Markey as Framingham's next congressman, met with local Brazilian leaders Tuesday afternoon at Tropical Cafe on Hollis Street.
After telling those assembled of his family's immigrant ancestry Koutoujian said the race will be about "jobs and the economy, women's rights, energy & the environment and about immigration reform."
Koutoujian said he has been speaking about immigration reform everywhere and wasn't speaking on it Tuesday just because he was meeting with them.
Editor's Note: Click on the attached video to hear the candidate speak, in his own words, from Tuesday's campaign stop in Framingham.
"I believe we should have a path to citizenship. The senate wrapped up a (immigration reform) bill that is very responsible and fair," said Koutoujian.
Immigration reform needs to to be fair to those who are trying to come here legally, those who are here now and those who have been in the pipeline trying to become legal, said the candidate.
The senate bill would allow those who are here now not to jump the line in front of those who have been applying legally the whole time, said Koutoujian.
He said creating this path of citizenship would also help the economy improve.
If the United States was to deport the estimated 11 million people assumed to here illegally it could cost $300 million, said the candidate.
If we bring these people on the path to citizenship, there is an $870 billion impact on the gross domestic product over the next decade, said Koutoujian.
Framingham Real Estate agent Pablo Maia said many of those in the immigrant community, who are not citizens, do not want to purchase big ticket items like homes, cars and furnishings for their homes, if they don't know how long they will be allowed to stay in the United States.
Koutoujian said if we keep people here and "brought them in from the shadows, there is a tremendous economic impact that can benefit all of of this economy not just the immigrant community."
Koutoujian said he understood Maia's point.
"Maybe they are not buying that refrigerator or buying that car, because they can not register that car," said Koutoujian but if they were put on the path to citizenship "they would help to spur economic growth" not just in the Brazilian community, but the region and the state as well.
Koutoujian is one of a handful of Democrats vying for the 5th Congressional District seat. There is a Democratic primary on Oct. 15, with the final election in December.
The Waltham resident told Brazilian leaders assembled yesterday his grandparents immigrated to this country but not without some struggles.
"My grandmother ended up in an orphanage in Syria, and my grandfather ended up here in the United States," said Koutoujian. Through the Red Cross his grandfather was able to find his grandmother and she was brought to the United States. He said they had three boys and a daughter. He said all three sons served in the military,
"My grandmother spoke little English, until her death," Koutoujian said. But they both "loved this country because it gave them refuge."
Koutoujian said his mother was a teacher in Newton, His father was city clerk in Waltham, for more than 30 years. He said they had a sense of public service, and "I think it was from their immigrant roots and ancestry."
He told those assembled his parents sense of public service led him to his career choices.
Koutoujian worked as a prosecutor, even spending time at Framingham District Clerk. he was then elected as a state representative before becoming Middlesex County Sheriff.