I am very happy that we have opened a dialogue on immigration. Without a doubt it is one of the particular issues that we need to grapple with and resolve as a nation. Having a presidential election is a good way of bringing this issue to the fore. I am even happier, as I mentioned in my initial post, that all three candidates who have a shot at being our next president have reasonable, just, compassionate, and comprehensive proposals on this issue. It helps to point out that it is now mathematically impossible for Gov. Huckabee to receive enough delegates in the remaining primaries and caucuses to win the nomination. He can stop Sen. McCain from doing so and force an open convention- every political junkie's dream. I guarantee that Gov. Huckabee would not emerge from an open Republican convention as the nominee. So, in the wake of Jack's post and Fred's comments, I want to emphasize that the proposals on the table are based on reason, not sentiment. I also believe that among the many issues facing our country, immigration is one that can be resolved. I feel the same way about healthcare. Determining the biggest obstacle to resolving both issues is easy, just look at who benefits from the status quo. Hint: it is neither you nor me, nor immigrant people now living in the shadows.
I begin by pointing out that, like faith and reason, justice and compassion are complementary, not contradictory. A truly just proposal is also a compassionate proposal and, as with the inverse property of multiplication, vice-versa. Now, allow me to apply this to my take on immigration.
A nation not only has the right, but the duty to secure its borders because it is the fundamental duty of the state to protect its citizens. Nobody on either side of the debate disagrees about the need to accomplish this end. What we differ about is the most effective and just means of so doing. Deciding on the best means comes down to a prudential judgment. I disagree, both on practical and moral grounds, that building a wall is the best way to accomplish this.
I once again point out the impossibility of the logistics, not to mention the injustice, of deporting more than ten million people. However, I oppose just giving people who entered the country illegally a completely free pass. Indeed, there may be some who, for various reasons, it is desirable and even necessary to deport. People who have been here a long time, work, obey the laws, pay taxes, etc. should be allowed to stay and they should be given a path to accomplish this relatively easily and in short order. An important component to this process would be honestly acknowledging their status, paying a reasonable fine, and doing all this by a realistically established deadline. However, their safety should be guaranteed until such a time as the government can establish the process and get it up and running. In other words, no more futile, arbitrary raids on meat packing plants for political purposes! Such actions accomplish nothing, except throwing people's lives into turmoil. Given the current situation and our obligation to act morally, such arbitrary and selective enforcement is unjust. In any established process, the reunification of families should be high on the agenda. This means that separated families should be given priority.
Again, establishing a guest worker program would allow us to know who is coming into and leaving the country and why. Such a program also goes a long distance toward discouraging people from undertaking perilous border crossings and seeking the services of exploitative "coyotes". So, we kill two birds with one stone. It does not end there, we get a third bird. If people are here legally, the ability of employers to treat employees unfairly and unjustly is greatly diminished. How? Because a legal worker does not have to hesitate to bring a grievance through legal channels, be it a refusal to pay wages, provide promised or required benefits, or unsafe working conditions.
Finally, working with Mexico and Central American governments in accomplishing the necessary political and economic reforms to provide their people with more opportunities in their native countries will help address all of these issues. Granted that is a bit vague. So, more concretely, we need to revisit treaties, most particularly NAFTA, which has only benefited the rich, not workers in the U.S., Mexico, or Canada. We also need to look at the prudence and justice of our current agricultural policies, particularly as it pertains to subsidies.
This is not some sentimental screed about how we love our neighbors by aiding and abetting their breaking of the law. It is a judgment about how to bring our faith to bear on a real issue confronting our nation, on our collective circumstances. It is not ideological. These proposals also have the distinct advantage of being in accord with what our national conference of bishops has proposed. Is it a 100% solution? No, but what is? It is a workable solution that, over time, will justly, which is to say compassionately, render a big problem much smaller, a giant step in the right direction. What strikes me as an emotional, not to mention nativist, which is to say anti-Catholic, even if only by implication, position is build a wall, deport ten million people, keep current free trade agreements unamended, and deny opportunity to people looking for a better life and willing to work hard to earn it. I, for one, do not want to live in fortress America.