Sunday, April 8, 2012

amnesty ? yes

In the whole immigration debate there is one word that seems to be taboo.  Amnesty.  Some people use it as a weapon to demean policy opponents and stifle debate. While others tie themselves into linguistic and logical knots in order to explain why their reform proposals don't favor it. But I advocate embracing it. It's easier that way and I believe it is totally consistent with the Christian teaching, something that  amnesty opponents supposedly believe in.

What is amnesty but forgiveness and isn't that the message of the cross? At Easter we remember that we have all broken the moral laws of God. We recognize that we are all in need of his help and that he gave it freely with no preconditions. Why then do we act like we are somehow superior to others who may not speak or look like us, or who simply had the misfortune to be born on the "wrong" side of a border?

Often the refrain comes "but they broke the law". Have you ever driven over the speed limit, gone through a red light, or done something dumb on the road and then were secretly glad a cop wasn't around? All those times you broke the law, but you got away with it. Or how about times (like I have had) when you got pulled over and managed to talk your way out of a ticket? We have all done these or similar things, but in our minds that "breaking of the law" is somehow okay.

There are legitimate issues with border security and reform of our immigration system is needed, but demonizing people is not helpful or kind. To label as "enemies" or "invaders" those born in extreme poverty who come here to make a better life for themselves and their families is just cruel. Some even callously complain that they are overtaxing our emergency rooms (treating their lives as less valuable than ours). It doesn't matter how they came, we should be kind and helpful anyway.

What did you do to earn citizenship and all its privileges? Unless you were an immigrant yourself, and most of us are not, you did nothing. I know I didn't, nor did my siblings, nor my parents, nor any in my family tree, back to before there was a US...because we were born here. We didn't have to take any tests, pass any background checks, learn a foreign language...we all learned English the easy way, we grew into it.

There are many issues in immigration and perhaps I can get to those in other posts. Like the Dream Act - helping kids, who had no part in their parents bringing them here, go to college. Or kids born here to illegal immigrants and their citizenship status (and why it's a no-brainer). Or reform of the system and how some want to devise a "second-tier" residency.

But on this Easter Sunday I want to emphasize one thing. I am totally and unashamedly in favor of amnesty. There are millions in our country who have admittedly come here crossing the border without following all the legal rules. I do not excuse that, but I have seen the conditions in Mexico outside of the touristy border towns and resort cities and I can understand their motivation to come here to better their families' lives. And rounding them all up for massive deportation is just unrealistic.

It is time to bring them out into the light. It is time to stop treating them like criminals or treating ourselves as "perfect'. Recognize their efforts and help them integrate into our society as full partners in this land of opportunity. Give them a chance to unionize so companies cannot take advantage of their silence to cheat them on wages or working conditions. Provide them with classes so that they can become fluent in English and contribute more through expansion of skills.  And, yes, provide them a "path to citizenship"

Some may say that I am just a "bleeding heart", and an idealist. I accept that and wear it as a badge of honor, especially today. I am forgiven and free because of the ultimate "bleeding heart" and I think if people think that that term is a slur then they really need to re-examine their professed faith and what the meaning of Easter is.   Just my two cents worth today.:)

He is risen indeed if he is reflected in our actions today:)