The Immigrant Lie

The New York Times ran a significant article on Sunday which dispels many of the lies we believe about immigrants.  As the immigration debate continues to rage in Washington it is important to understand the issues in light of the facts.  Interestingly I think both sides often miss some of the important facts highlighted in the New York Times article.

Those in favor of immigration reform often emphasize humanitarian issues.  Whether based on Biblical ideas of welcoming the stranger or simply improving the lot of our neighbors, the emphasis is on the individual.  Those who oppose immigration reform often emphasize national impact.  Whether based on Biblical ideas of disobeying authorities or broad impact on our economy and way of life, the emphasis is generally on our American system.    That alone is rather interesting since typically my friends on the left often focus on government systems and my friends on the right usually look at individual impact.  But the facts are even more interesting.

According to this weekend’s NY Times article, conservatives and liberals should agree on the value of our immigrant friends to our democracy.  Statistics demonstrate naturalized immigrants are more likely to have a job, obtain education, have intact families, and earn more money than their American-born counterparts.  My friends who support family values and work, should appreciate the importance such values have to our immigrant neighbors.  As conservatives bash entitlement programs, we should recognize that the foreign-born among us receive significantly less government assistance than our native born.  The immigrants coming to our shore still believe in the American Dream of education, hard work, and strong family values.  Why wouldn’t we encourage having such citizens join with us so together we can be more innovative in addressing the challenges of 21st century globalization?

My liberal friends should remember that the Bible not only has much to say about the fair treatment of the sojourner among us, but on the importance of work, contributing toward community, and family values.  These values are strengthened by welcoming the stranger.  No one serious about reform advocates amnesty for those who entered or overstayed unlawfully.  But there should be every reason for us to work together to place millions of hard-working, pro-family, American-loving people on the path to citizenship.  Appropriate fines and background checks should be implemented, but we should not miss the opportunity to keep families intact, eliminate labor abuses, and bring millions of people out of the shadow of fear and into the light of hope for a brighter future.  Our nation was founded on this hope and we will be stronger in pursuing it.  My friends at the immigration table have a powerful new movie coming out called The Stranger which I encourage you to learn more about and share with others.

We claim to believe in liberty and justice for all.  Let’s demonstrate that by living up to the ideals of the concluding lines of Emma Lazrus’s poem, The New Colossus, found on our Statue of Liberty which she appropriately referred to as the Mother of Exiles, ”

“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!”

My prayer is that we can put aside partisanship and work together toward an appropriate, comprehensive solution to our immigration crisis.  Like the Good Samaritan let’s stop and serve a foreign-born person in need.  Let’s do so with mercy and compassion.  Let’s go and do likewise.