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

Living in a World of Wonder

This column was published on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality website on November 12, 2007.

I have planted by the stars in defiance of the experts,
and tilled somewhat by incantation and by singing,
and reaped, as I knew, by luck and Heaven’s favor,
in spite of the best advice.

—Wendell Berry, from “The Contrariness of the Mad Farmer”

As a clergyman, I have grown used to the fact that no matter what else a person may say about my vocation, it really isn’t cool to be a man or a woman of the cloth. Oh, being a minister is dignified, but no matter how well you accessorize, a clerical collar never is hip.

So imagine my surprise when a kid from two doors down showed up to play at our house wearing a tee shirt bearing the image of a handsome young man in a dog collar.

I almost fell down and kissed his feet. “Bless your three-year-old heart! Maybe my kids will grow up thinking I’m not a dork after all. Someone like me is on a shirt!” Continue reading