Category Archives: immigration

Toward Principled Compromise: Reimagining the Common Good, Part One

In a genuine spirit of potential bipartisan consensus, I offer the following insights leading to progress on some of the most challenging issues of our day. I have no illusions that ideological captives of Left or Right will applaud; indeed, so many have invested heart and soul in their narratives that it will take a spiritual awakening for openness to triumph over subjectivity and creativity to win over anger. For the thoughtful, here are some ways to reimagine an inclusive common good.

Energy policy: The aspirations of a fossil fuel-free world must be tempered with economic and social realities for the most vulnerable and the real timeline of transition. Canceling the Keystone Pipeline was a shortsighted political move, angering our Canadian friends, and destroying thousands of jobs with no pathways for replacing the energy and employment at a reasonable cost. We can remain independent and create private/public partnerships that explore efficient alternatives and make sure that the working class is not the primary victim of changes. Elites love electric cars, even though their end-to-end cost to the environment is equal or worse that an efficient gas engine compact car.

Health Care: Simply promising the world to voters fails to consider the negative and positive lessons learned in the last decade. Instead of hype and huge premiums for middle-class folks, call a new bipartisan health care summit and create working teams from public and private sectors and imagine a grassroots management system informed by federal ethics instead of a bloated, inefficient D.C. Leviathan. Some have benefitted from the reforms of a dozen years ago. Others have suffered. We can do better.

Immigration: We need comprehensive reform that honors DACA promises, prepares pathways for citizenship, and improves security. No more demonizing ICE, Homeland Security, local law enforcement, or the migrants looking for a better future. There is a bill about to come to Congress…I am hoping it is well-crafted. It is vital that criminal elements be contained while millions of hardworking folks are given opportunities.

Racial Justice: Listen to the locals who live in the neighborhoods most in need of improvement! One day I was in a conversation with community leaders and a veteran of many programs said to the folks at the table: “What some call gentrification we call exile. No one considers the people who actually live here.” Let’s create pathways of access and opportunity. Look for indigenous leaders and groups with successful track records. Enforce current laws. Bring people of all cultures and classes together and honestly assess the failures and successes of the last 50+ years and the nearly $20T of public funds that have been poorly managed. True reparation creates just systems without stifling agency and creativity.

Recommended reading: Robert L. Woodson, Sr., Lessons from the Least of These
For churchleaders and members: Rev. Dr. Irwin Ince, The Beautiful Community

Two Questions

As we consider the turmoil in our streets and online, there are two guiding questions that may help us with a civil and insightful conversation. First, what does “there” look like as we aspire for a more humane, just, and loving world? Second, what are some practical steps toward this vision?

It is much easier to agitate and destroy than it is to build just and sustainable structures that help offer a flourishing future for all. Tearing down monuments to an unjust past is emotionally understandable. Yet, thinking deeply how to teach and understand the many narrative of American history will require more thoughtfulness that current reactions.

Conservatives tend to ignore the historical and systemic shortcomings and focus on personal opportunity and responsibility in achieving the ideals of the Founders and Framers. Some (not all) progressives find it hard to affirm anything positive about the past but offer few practical and economically feasible solutions for all the crises we face.

What does “there” look like? I long for a day when every (of every color or culture, class and gender) person – from conception to coronation – lives in a world with access, equity, and opportunity and can, with the help of others, flourish personally and add to the goodness of our world. “There” includes immigration reform, so America is hospitable and welcoming immigrants ready to contribute. Neither open borders nor separating families are good solutions.

Practically, serious reforms are needed in all sectors (business, criminal justice, education, political accountability, mental health, strengthening families, and more) so that these pathways are created and sustained. We can forge and better future without extreme deficit spending and defunding law enforcement.

Will we find the courage and wisdom to get past anarchy and ignorance, nostalgic and utopian dispositions and work toward justice? The road ahead is perilous but full of promise.

Rightly Ordered Loves, Part 4: Love and Immigration: Hospitality and Security are Possible

The immigration history of the USA includes much prejudice and xenophobia, punctuated by moments of hope and inclusion. During the height of Ellis Island’s embrace of millions (1880s-1910s), Chinese immigrants in California were imprisoned, oppressed, and subject to severe restrictions if they did manage legal status. Heartening narratives of religious and social freedom are unfortunately concomitant with nativism and racism. Maryland was founded in the mid-17th century as a Roman Catholic refuge. By the 1840s, there were anti-Catholic riots in response to the influx of Irish survivors of the potato famine in their homeland. The open doors of the late 19th and early 20th century became the sealed gates of the 1920s to 1940s, with Jewish emigres severely restricted at the height of the Nazi genocide.

Legislation in the 1960s opened the floodgates, with a confusing array of regulations that allowed an influx of students, workers (temporary and permanent), and refugees. At present, some have to wait years for a pathway to citizenship while “undocumented” residents, DACA recipients and others are the recipients of much favor and financial support. The US-Mexico border and adjacent facilities are overwhelmed with people. On the political front, both parties want a steady stream of new arrivals for their economic and political purposes. A large majority of American citizens want reasonable regulation joined with compassion. When the President details the lawbreaking and subversive activities of some at the border, he and his supporters are vilified in the name of compassion. The deep concerns of many concerning racism and oppression of the poor must not be dismissed. Neither party has placed legislation before the White House that ensures hospitable and secure pathways.

Leaving aside the extremes of racial nativism and complete open borders, there are ways forward involving principled compromise…if love is understood properly. Open borders in the name of compassion may involve a loving attitude, but agape love looks at the long-term and will foster equal justice for all. Borders and citizenship are positive principles for a society built on personal virtue and the rule of law. Reasonable security is not the absence of love and regulating the influx of new residents is not the opposite of compassion, but stewardship of resources and institutions.

Agape love can transform the current debate by unmasking the motives and methods of current policies. Families should be kept together and given reasonable time to be heard. But thorough vetting will protect the nation from criminal elements. Agape love is sometimes “tough love” that avoids creating generations of welfare dependents and residents that refuse any assimilation into the values and vision of a pluralistic society. Agape love considers all facets of social flourishing and fosters structures of inclusion and wisdom. Agape love also helps people make friends across cultural divides and offers uniting virtues that help citizenship be unity-in-diversity.

Immigration reform is not an unsolvable problem, if unselfish love guides policy. Alas, greed and power often overtake true love. Future generations deserve better, as we welcome people from every corner of our world to help our nation flourish.

Immigration

The USA, like most nations, has a checkered history here.
We have been hospitable and xenophobic, paranoid and welcoming. From the Irish to the Chinese, from Eastern Europeans to Jewish Holocaust victims, we have often closed our doors or poorly received “the other.”

And, for over two centuries, we allowed the slave trade to flourish.
For the past 50+ years we have has a confusing system that both welcomes and keeps in the shadows millions of people. I am thrilled that millions want to find a better life from all parts of the world and our Hispanic/Latino sisters and brothers bring family and a great work ethic.

But.

Our current chaos is unacceptable. Borders and security matter and deporting real criminals is part of keeping us safe. On the other hand, inhumane and inconsistent policies keep families apart (and this did not begin with Trump) while opening the floodgates for exploitation.

On the Mexican border, the Democrats want permanent voters (they are even beginning the slippery slope of advocating voting rights for non-citizens!) and many Republicans want the cheap labor. Mexico’s corrupt government fortifies its Guatemalan border while arguing for the right of undocumented crossings to the USA.

Meanwhile, thousands trying to enter legally wait years and pay thousands of dollars.

We can fix this, with courage and wisdom.

First, offer a legal pathway toward either guest worker status or citizenship for current undocumented, non-criminal residents. This means temporarily de-criminalizing the border crossing itself.

Second, deport all convicted felons to their countries of origin.

Third, convene a conference with Latin American leaders and talk frankly about shared concerns about migration, drug trafficking and security.

Fourth, call on the Mexican government to be a partner in helping all secure a better future with border security, hospitable immigration policy and rooting out corruption.

Fifth, improve border security and reunite all families where possible.

Sixth, call the bluff of the sanctuary movements and offer clear pathways out of the shadows (see above) for non-criminals.

And seventh, make sure American citizens and documented/legal residents have priority in education, job opportunities and services. It is wrong for a hard-working American student on scholarship and aid to have to take 5-6 years to graduate while a full tuition paying foreign student breezes through in 4 or an undocumented one gets a full ride.

Conservatives concerned with security are afraid of being labeled racist. Progressives speak of humanitarianism but offer little substance on security.

Let’s get past the accusations and agitation and actually love our neighbor by offering a system that is just! We can do this. Today. In Congress. And millions will rejoice.

“Solving” Immigration

USA immigration history is full of draconian and hospitable seasons. Our Statue of Liberty represents the best in our history as Ellis Island welcomed millions willing to brave the journey, go through the vetting and find a new home in a new nation. We have also had horrific seasons of xenophobia and racial injustice, from the suffering of the Irish in the 1840s to the anti-Chinese laws on the West Coast in the 1890s to the anti-Semitism of the 1920s -1940s. Dark chapters indeed. With huge borders with Canada and Mexico and relative economic prosperity from the end of WWII to the 1970s, comprehensive policies were not needed, and many found their way to flourishing.

With the open-door policies initiated in the 1960s and never refined since, we have crises of capacity and compassion, economics and social cohesion. People from nations other than Mexico or who are not officially refugees and follow the rules sacrifice much as they wade through the red tape and often pay thousands of dollars to get legal residency and eventually citizenship. Meanwhile, millions of “undocumented” pour over the border, use our services and find work. Billions of dollars are sent back over the border. Most folks are hard-working and want a better future. Some are felons and need permanent deportation. A few use our porous border to infiltrate as terrorists.

The solution comes in three steps: First, real reform that solves the genuine hardship issues of DACA and refugees, while allowing for screening out terrorists. Pathways for temporary work and long-term residency and citizenship need clear guidelines, fair application and a hospitable spirit. Reform must also not favor foreign students for college dollars and the undocumented for entry-level labor. Second, border security and ICE enforcement must be unimpeded by the misguided and sometimes hostile sanctuary movement. Third, current undocumented and temporary residents who are repeated violent felons should be deported and security personnel alerted to any attempts at reentry.

The above can be done in a matter of weeks with courage and wisdom; however, Democrats must stop vying for cheap votes and Republicans for cheap labor. Both parties are responsible for the mess and it will take people of conscience and intelligence in both parties for reform to work. Security on our borders and screening some from a handful of countries is not racism and xenophobia. Favoring the productive is good common sense and national policy.

Finally, a word to the compassionate: reasonable guidelines and enforcement of the law is not a violation of either the Bible of human pathos. If one feel certain laws are unjust – change the laws! Extreme positions of groups like La Raza must be rejected in favor of inclusion with integrity and a refusal to exchange one form of racism for another.