Social Justice: It’s time to push for comprehensive immigration reform
By Barbara Budde
Recently I read the story of Manuel. He came to the U.S. when he was 9, went to school, learned English, became skilled in the construction business, met and married his wife Juanita and provided for his family, including his two children. Manual was a good husband and father, a law abiding, tax-paying citizen and a model in the community. However, he was cited for a broken tail light and when he went to pay the $75 fine, he was detained by Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) because he did not have proper documentation. He was given a choice by ICE to fight the detention and deportation, in which case, they assured him that they would also pick up his wife, which would leave their children as wards of the state, or he could just quietly be deported back to Mexico. Like the movie “Sophie’s Choice” from several decades ago, Manuel was faced with an impossible decision, abandon his family or cause his children to be parentless in their own country –– the country he had come to know as his.
Manuel’s story is one reason among many that our country desperately needs comprehensive immigration reform. In an April editorial, Bishop Joe Vásquez wrote, “We believe that each person is created in the image and likeness of God; therefore, we have to speak out when there is an affront to human dignity, when there is human trafficking and when families are blown apart because they are forcibly separated by hundreds of miles.”
I have heard many arguments about why we should not reform our immigration system, but most of them seem to be rooted in fear. We are afraid that immigrants will take too many jobs, or drive down the minimum wage; we are afraid that our culture and language will be drastically changed; we are afraid of “amnesty;” we are afraid of criminals and terrorists. The truth is that comprehensive immigration addresses these issues: millions are already here and working and benefiting our society, and legalizing these workers will benefit our economy even more; immigrants assimilate within a generation and enrich our culture; the reform is not amnesty, but earned citizenship that will be long and arduous; a reformed system will help us to keep track of those coming into our country.
However these arguments are not the most important. The truth is we need to support comprehensive immigration reform because we are Kingdom people! In August we heard Jesus tell his disciples, “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” (Lk 12:32) We are God’s people filled with God’s grace to reveal the kind of community that can exist when we are open to God’s grace and love. It is a community that does not live in fear, but welcomes the stranger, feeds the hungry, clothes the naked and cares for the sick and imprisoned.
We can choose to let politics and politicians define us, or we can let our baptism and our faith define us. If so we will tell our politicians, who work for us, that we want to be a community of light and faith, a community that will not force fathers like Manuel to be deported, but will help him and millions of others to live and thrive in this great country of ours.
The U.S. bishops have a website, www.justiceforimmigrants.org, where we can sign a postcard to send to our Congressional Representatives and Senators. There is detailed information on the reforms that the bishops recommend and information on immigration reform not from a politician’s perspective, but from our faith perspective. Together, we can act as people of faith and reform our immigration laws in a way that acts on the values of our faith.
Barbara Budde is the diocesan director of social concerns. She can be reached at (512) 949-2471 or firstname.lastname@example.org.