Immigration Reform Part 2: Essential Elements for Moral, Comprehensive Reform

This is the second of two pieces I’ve written about immigration reform policy. The fist piece, which I posted on March 19, took a critical look at a proposal for immigration reform outlined by Charles Schumer and Lindsay Graham. This piece gives my ideas for what should be included in a moral comprehensive immigration reform.

On Friday, March 19, even as a year’s worth of debates around healthcare were coming to a close, two senators, Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) wrote a piece for The Washington Post in which they outlined a bi-partisan proposal for comprehensive immigration reform.

It was a mixed bag. I gave an analysis of their proposal in an earlier post, and, for the most part, I was critical of what the two senators set forth as a first step in the long journey toward comprehensive immigration reform. Such criticism is not particularly constructive, however, unless it is coupled with alternate ideas and suggestions for what actually will work; to that end I have identified five elements that I feel must be included in any morally responsible immigration reform bill.

These five elements come from the introduction to my forthcoming book Neighbor: Christian Encounters with “Illegal” Immigration. (The book, by the way, will not be released until the middle of August, but, thanks to the foresight and quick work of the folks at Westminster John Knox Press, you can pre-order a copy at Amazon.com.) My book primarily is about people and not policy, but it seemed fair, at the beginning of the book, to say which elements I believe should be a part of immigration reform legislation. I came up with these elements after spending a lot of time studying the issues, visiting the U.S./Mexico border, and interviewing dozens people from many different walks of life. Here, then, are the elements I believe must be part of moral, comprehensive, immigration reform:
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Immigraiton Reform Part 1: A response to Schumer and Graham

This is the first of two essays that I will publish on my blog. This essay is a critique of Senators Charles Schumer and Lindsay Graham’s recent proposal for immigration reform. The second essay, drawing from my forthcoming book, Neighbor: Christian Encounters With “Illegal” Immigration (Westminster John Knox Press, summer 2010) will outline the policies that I believe are necessary for a morally sound immigration reform bill.

On March 19, 2010 The Washington Post published a bi-partisan outline for immigration reform. Penned by Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC), the proposal rests on four pillars:

1) the requirement of “biometric Social Security cards to ensure that illegal workers cannot get jobs”;
2) “fulfilling and strengthening our commitments on border security and interior enforcement”;
3) the creation of “a process for admitting temporary workers”; and
4) the implementation of “a tough but fair path to legalization for those already here.”

For the last two years I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about immigration. I’ve done a good bit of research, I’ve traveled to the border, I’ve spoken with and interviewed scores of people including several undocumented migrants, and I’ve written a book about what I learned from my research, travel, and personal encounters with migrants (the book, which is being published by Westminster John Knox Press, is called Neighbor: Christian Encounters With “Illegal” Immigration; look for it in stores and online this summer).

Applying what I’ve learned while writing a book about immigration, I can say that Schumer and Graham’s plan is a mixed bag. I’m glad the process of serious immigration reform has begun, and I’m glad that it is bi-partisan so far, but I wish it were more practical and less political, which is to say that while some of the solutions the senators offer are really good, others are either immoral or they make no sense in the real world. Continue reading

John Calvin’s 500th Birthday: Reason to Celebrate

At the end of this month, I will be traveling to Geneva to celebrate John Calvin’s 500th birthday, and I suppose the occasion of my pilgrimage to that city on a hill above the place where the Rhone leaves Lac Léman and begins its journey to Provence is as good a time as any to say what I like so much about John Calvin, a man remembered primarily for his stern demeanor, his commitment to the doctrine of predestination, and his abiding ability to make people feel guilty.
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In Support of Amendment 08-B

This column also ran on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum.

On April 4, 2009 the Presbytery of San José voted 84-81 in favor of “Amendment 08-B,” a bit of ecclesiastical legislation that, if adopted by a majority of the 174 Presbyteries, or regional governing bodies, in the Presbyterian Church (USA), will lift the absolute and universal ban on the ordination of Gays and Lesbians in the largest Presbyterian body in the United States. I was one of sixteen presbyters chosen to speak on the amendment. Each of us had two minutes to speak our minds. Here’s what I said:
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In Praise of My Dashboard Jesus

This column is also published on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum.  On January 27, 2009 this piece was broadcast on the Persepctives program on KQED FM in San Francisco, CA.  Give a listen!

 

I don\'t care if it rains for freezes...Something in our nature inspires humans to collect religious trinkets—talismans and relics that remind us of life’s transcendent mysteries, or icons through which we glimpse the divine. I’ve got dozens of such pious knickknacks—everything from a small collection of large Bibles to a cross necklace—but I suspect the most important of my faith-based souvenirs is a plastic dashboard Jesus figurine that sits up on the back of my stove between an empty bottle of Calvin beer from Geneva and my daughter’s Albert Einstein action figure.

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What Hasn’t Changed

Don’t get me wrong. The recently-concluded season of American presidential politics—the longest and costliest in the history of the universe—was a much-needed time of introspection for the American people. After eight years of constitutional degradation, unnecessary warfare, and the erosion of America’s reputation abroad, we’ve needed a period of internal dialogue, and there’s clear evidence that the great national soul search was beneficial for us. In Barack Obama we’ve chosen a thoughtful, intellectually curious, articulate, and inspirational leader at a time when even mediocrity would feel refreshing. Historians will forever remember this election because after 219 years of electing white men to the Presidency, we have elected a man with an African father, and we put two women within spitting distance of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

So three cheers for introspection; but unchecked introspection can turn to narcissism, and the last thing our world needs is a narcissistic America so self-satisfied, so pleased with the transformation in Washington, that it ignores what has not changed around the planet.
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Back to Business: Desmond Tutu on Climate Change and Poverty

I saw this video and felt a singular weight of conviction: now that the election is over its time to talk less about Joe the Plumber from Ohio and more about José the campesino from Honduras; less about middle class tax breaks and more about breaking the cycles of war, poverty and disease in Africa.

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A Pastor’s Plea: Choose Hope

This column also ran on UPI’s religion and Spirituality Forum.

It’s ten minutes before worship on a Sunday morning. I’m fussing with my Geneva tabs, zipping my robe, double-, no, triple-checking to make sure my reading glasses are in my breast pocket, and the phone on my office desk rings. I know I shouldn’t—for years now my wife’s been trying to train me to ignore ringing phones—but I pick it up anyway.

Foothill Presbyterian Church,” says I.

“Daniel! Did you get this crazy mailer?” It’s my friend, John, the pastor over at the neighborhood Methodist church, who should be getting ready for worship himself.

He doesn’t have to describe the envelope in question. The same packet—testimony to the weirdness of this election’s waning days—arrived in the Saturday afternoon post and was waiting on my desk when I arrived at church.
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Proposition 8: Evidence of Change

This column also ran on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum.

Talk about change.

When Californians go to the polls in a little more than a week we’ll be voting on one bit of change that is more than just a presidential campaign’s hopeful rhetoric. If things go the way I hope they will (and some polls suggest they may), voters in the Golden State will reject a ballot measure—Proposition 8—which calls for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
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Cultural Jihad*: Nothing to Fear

*A note on the use of the word “jihad”: “jihad” means something like “faithful struggle.” For Muslims, “jihad” is a positive word unassociated with terrorism or violence of any kind. In this column I use the word as it is misused by many non-Muslims, that is, as a synonym for holy war, especially when such war is directed at the West. I’ve done this because I don’t know how to talk about the concept of “cultural ‘jihad’”–a figment of paranoid non-Muslim imagination–without using the awkward name given to the phenomenon.

So a pastor, a rabbi and an imam walk into a crowded, fancy hotel ballroom in California’s Silicon Valley…

Each clergyman says a few inspirational words and offers a prayer of invocation. The men of the cloth then embrace and seven hundred folks in the room clap and cheer because the three of them— the pastor in his faux-linen dog collar, the rabbi in his crocheted yarmulke, and the imam in white robes beneath an ankle-length gabardine overcoat— present a compelling image, a brief reminder that options beyond antagonism are readily available for the spiritual heirs of Abraham.
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