It has been a week of drama and politics, of emotion and reaction, of hype and hysteria about the issues of the steady stream of people seeking to come to America. The fears of Arizona and other border states are real from bearing the brunt of the influx and the increasing problems of crime, drug cartel violence and the fear of the insecurity of the border which Americans rightly expect should protect us.
The reaction to those fears has sharpened because this is an election year and the illegal immigration issue is being used by both Democrats and Republicans seeking to have it both ways appealing to our insecurities by talking tough while appealing to the growing Hispanic voting block to join the party.
As I sat in church today, the lesson appointed was from The Acts of the Apostles, 11:1-18, spoke to me about this immigration issue we face. It tells the story of the Apostles traveling in Judea when Peter invites some Gentiles to eat with him. This was a scandal because the Jews regarded the Gentiles as “unclean” and the meal served was not kosher and thus also unclean. Peter was berated for such behavior—“why did you eat with them!”
Peter tells them that he saw a vision and a voice telling him to eat with the Gentiles and accept them as fellow believers. Peter said he protested saying he had never eaten unclean food with unclean people. But the voice did not accept this and told Peter “what God has made clean, you must not call profane.” This happened three times until Peter realized it was the Holy Spirit telling him to do as he was told.
Then three men came upon Peter and the voice of the Holy Spirit told him to go with them to the house of a Roman Centurion, a Gentile, and to “make no distinction between them and us.” The Centurion told Peter that an angel had been sent from God telling him to seek out Peter who would give him a message from God “by which your entire household will be saved.” The Centurion said as the voice spoke to him the Holy Spirit descended upon him—just as it had done to Peter and the Apostles themselves. It said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Peter told the crowd that if God had given the Gentiles the same gift of grace that He had given the Apostles who were they to reject them.
- So how many nations of this world have the problem of people “breaking into the country” seeing it as a place of safety, of opportunity, of truth, of justice and hope for a better future for themselves and their children?
- So how many nations can truly claim that they are a melting pot of people of every nation, every faith, every language, every race and color all assimilated and made one by the American experience?
- What other nation celebrates the rule of law, lives into its Constitution and its Bill of Rights as profound and celebrated as the Laws of Moses, and declares for all in the same words as our Founders that all men and women are created equal in this land of the People, by the People and for the People?
America has an immigration problem because the orderly process of welcoming, processing, integrating and assimilating newcomers is mismanaged by the Federal Government and allowed to fester into a political problem because of the adverse impacts on states and local communities.
The Gift of Immigration
Remember not so long ago, that the high tech companies of America were scrambling for the math, science and other skills needed to produce the products and develop the technology that drives our economy? Our response? We hassled them with onerous H1-B visa requirements depriving America of some of the world’s best minds, many educated in America’s best universities seeking to use those skills to advance our American economy and live the American way of life.
Remember the message of the managers of Social Security and Medicare that the funds are running short of money because today fewer workers are paying into them and the baby boomers are beginning to collect benefits. A growing economy is the only way to change that balance bringing more workers into the workplace.
America has been a magnet for workers from Mexico because the economy of that country is broken and opportunities are limited. Remittances from relatives working in the US and profits from drug demand by Americans sustains the Mexican economy and allows it to avoid facing the economic problems it faces. America bears some responsibility for the Mexican problems because we have enabled them or tolerated them on our borders.
It is time—well past time that both the US and Mexico face these issues head-on. Here is my proposal:
- Secure the Border. Build the fence and staff it appropriately on both sides of the border to enforce it. Those who enter the country illegally would be barred from the guest worker or H1-B skilled worker program for five years.
- Create a Registered Guest Worker Program. Allow non-H1B workers in approved countries that would include Mexico and other countries with whom the US has free trade or open markets agreements to register to be guest workers to legitimize their work status whether they are currently in the US legally or not. These permits would be annually renewed automatically for those currently employed with no criminal record. A guest worker who works in America for five years with no criminal record would automatically be eligible for a green card and fast track to citizenship.
- Make America a Magnet for the Skilled Workforce of the Future. Use the H1-B visa application process to define the skills needed by America’s businesses and streamline the process of granting such visas so that a decision is made within a reasonable 30 to 90 days. A H1-B worker who works in America for five years with no criminal record would automatically get a green card and fast track to citizenship.
- Citizenship Process. Make the process of becoming a citizen a national experience by authorizing community colleges, colleges and universities to offer programs resulting in preparation, testing and qualification for citizenship. Completion of such a program would lead to an automatic path to citizenship for those with no criminal background or not on a security restricted list.
- American-Mexico Economic Development Strategy. The US and Mexico should engage in discussions leading to a strategy to promote economic growth and diversification to make Mexico an attractive place for business. Mexico should its revisit its restrictions on investment in its energy industry and other parts of its economy in an effort to jump start its economic growth.
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame with conquering limbs astride from land to land; here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles.
From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. “Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she with silent lips.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” —-Emma Lazarus