I write today to encourage everyone to work toward timely passage of comprehensive immigration reform legislation. The current system, which relies on harsh enforcement measures, is ineffective and unjust.
Long waitlists keep families separated for years and encourage efforts to circumvent the system. Workplace raids create a culture of fear and harm entire communities. Lax oversight of guest worker programs leaves a system ripe for exploitation and worker abuse. The biblical tradition says that as we welcome the stranger, we welcome Jesus himself. Instead, immigrants to the United States, whether documented or undocumented, often face a culture of unwelcome: suspicion, isolation, militarized borders, workplace raids and visa backlogs.
In order to be truly effective, immigration reform must also address the root causes of migration. Individuals are willing to risk their lives crossing the desert because the alternative – facing abject poverty or persecution in their home country – is so bleak. Ultimately, the U.S. must seek foreign policy solutions and trade agreements that promote economic opportunity and stability in migrants’ home countries.