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