Every person is a neighbor
June 21, 2010 | Download PDF
Jesus' parable that we are to be a neighbor to every person also has ramifications for the debate that is now underway on the issue of immigration reform. Today there are more than 10 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, most of whom have been here for some time as productive, contributing workers, many of whom pay taxes, without ever violating criminal law. They do not take jobs away from U.S. citizens, but supplement the native-born workforce. They do not burden or deplete public resources, but make a substantial contribution to the United States economy. We know that past waves of immigrants into this country-many of whom were our grandparents and great-grandparents-were not barred from entering our nation, did not require documentation, were not treated as criminals once they were here, and we know from experience how they greatly enriched our nation.
While we do not condone the unlawful entry of persons into this country, it is clear that current immigration laws are not working and actually contribute to the phenomenon of persons entering the country without proper documentation. That's because current laws keep families separated sometimes for decades and set arbitrary limits on temporary and permanent immigration that are far below both need and demand.
Further, while we must acknowledge the need to have enforceable immigration laws and must be attentive to legitimate security concerns that pertain to border enforcement, we cannot simply brand undocumented workers as lawbreakers and demand punitive enforcement actions as an excuse to walk away from our obligation to care for our immigrant sisters and brothers and to find ways to achieve meaningful reform.