On Immigration Policy

ImmigrationThere are some 11+ million people currently in the United States who have either over-stayed their visas, or have entered the country illegally.  These people live in our communities, go to our churches, raise children who attend our schools, and contribute to our economy through both their purchasing power and extremely valuable labor.  Indeed, some industries would simply not function without their work.  Many have lived in the United States for years, and are integrated in families made up largely of U.S. citizens. 

We must come to terms with this reality.   America has neither the will nor the resources to ferret out all these people and deport them.  Let us therefore accept that these people are here, and will remain an integral part of our society.  It is high time that we move past our political obsession with how they got here, and start a rational convesation about normalizing their status.

In my view, there is only one answer that is both rational and fully in keeping with our national identity:  and that is to forge a pathway to citizenship for those who wish to become citizens.  I have been in nations (such as Bahrain and Kuwait) where, to this day, there are two tiers of people:  citizens and foreign laborers.  The citizens (at least the male ones), have the right to move in society and have full access to the justice system.  The workers remain at the mercy of the person or entity that sponsored them.  They have no access to the courts, they have no right to change employment, indeed, they have essentially no rights at all.  It therefore should not be surprising that some of these laborers suffer abuse at the hands of their sponsors.  In some circumstances, their status resembles more indentured servitude than employment.  These laborers often come from such desperate circumstances that even terrible working conditions constitute an improvement in their prospects.  In my view, this system is not healthy, either for the workers or for the employer, and is most certainly NOT the American way.

Unfortunately, America has a history with an institutionalized system that created citizens and a permanent class of laborers who lived and worked here but had no rights.  That system not only permitted the ruthless exploitation of human beings, but it also perverted the psyches of those who were citizens, making them believe that they were inherently superior human beings. The very last thing we need to do is create yet another system that enshrines two separate and unequal levels of rights and citizenship in this country.   Again, such would not be good for the immigrants, or for the rest of us. There is only one kind of citizen in this country, and that is a citizen in full.

I believe that anyone who serves honorably in the military should jump to the head of the line and be granted citizenship.  I also believe that those who were brought here as children should have priority in gaining citizenship.  The rest should have to demonstrate that they have been here for at least five years and that they have been law abiding.  They would also have to pay any back taxes owed and pass a citizenship test.   I believe that we can do this while still improving the security of our southern border and improving our mechanism for tracking and removing persons who have overstayed their visas.