Immigration activists argue that the people crossing the border are no different than all the other immigrant migrations that our nation has experienced in previous generations. The argument is that these people are indeed the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free that we’ve invited to our shores in Emma Lazarus’ poem engraved on the Statue of Liberty. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_Colossus) Activist would have us understand that these migrants are simply coming to our shores in search of a better life and that we should therefore treat them with compassion and respect.
Arizona has had law enforcement officers shot and killed in an immigration related shootings, crimes committed by immigrants, including murder, is increasing and drug cartels have reportedly put a bounty on all law enforcement officers. From their point of view, it is glaringly apparent that something has to be done immediately, but after asking for Federal assistance, and receiving none, for more than twenty years, they felt compelled to take matters into their own hands. Worse, after the attacks of 9/11 and multiple terrorist plots on our homeland, our porous border is leaking not only Latino migrants, but potentially hostile Arab ones as well. (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2005/jun/30/20050630-124933-1494r/)
If we pay closer attention, there are more than two sides that need to be considered and we can find people of faith on all sides. Migrant activists claim that our current process of legal immigration is too slow, too difficult, too expensive and generally too cumbersome. From their point of view, this lack of fairness is reflected in the rising numbers of migrants who feel compelled to flaunt the law in search of something that is unavailable at home. They question whether heavy-handed legal enforcement (or worse, outright prejudice) is necessarily directed at people whose only interest is in finding employment and caring for their families. Their opponents point out that, as an immigrant nation, we welcome newcomers to join the millions of us who have already come here but we invite them to do so legally. They ask, why we should not legitimately separate those who wish to join us as fellow citizens and those who wish only to use us as a convenient income stream but who do not desire to accept the responsibilities of citizenship.
On another side, we hear that the jobs being sought are jobs that American citizens don’t want. Still, others argue that when at least ten percent of our population is actively seeking employment (and some estimates double that), it seem doubtful that so many of our fellow citizens would refuse work of any kind.
The more we look at our immigration problem the more it is apparent that there are far more questions than answers. Why are asylum seekers who come to our shores seeking protection persecution, religious and otherwise, being systematically imprisoned? (http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/pdf/090429-RP-hrf-asylum-detention-sum-doc.pdf) What should we do with the children of illegal immigrants, children who were born here or who speak only English and who have known no other life than the life of an American? (http://www.kevindhendricks.com/2010/05/19/immigration-protest-its-not-about-us/) In this maze of questions it is apparent that our current system of immigration is in dire need of reform. Currently it seems to be unfair to everyone, immigrants, citizens, border-states and others.
I don’t pretend to have any answers but one thing seems obvious. Name-calling isn’t going to help. Partisan bickering and finger pointing isn’t going to provide a path to a solution. Everyone seems to have real issues that need to be addressed. Immigration needs to be reformed. Our current system is unwieldy, slow and expensive. Arizona and other border states are constitutionally entitled to a secure border. National security demands that we prevent terrorists from crossing our borders at will. In each instance, we need to find a way for human beings – regardless of their political motivations or immigration status – to treat one another with respect, compassion and justice. If a solution exists, it can only be found by having a reasoned and intelligent conversation, we will have to have an open mind are be willing to hear – and listen to – arguments from every sides.
The truth will not be found in the black and white but somewhere in the stew created by the gray in-between.