Just Immigration Reform: Foundational Principles
The United States is a nation comprised largely of a citizenry of immigrant origins1. Everyone, except Native American Indians can trace their ancestry to someplace else2. Our historical immigration stance is one of the great and encouraging stories of human civilization. American openness to immigrants has resulted in one of the most ethnically diverse populations on the planet3. While this diversity has not been achieved without conflict and suspicion of new immigrants,4 the nation’s laws have made it possible for most new ethnic groups to gain a foothold and eventually thrive here5.
Today, our nation continues to receive immigrants from many ethnic backgrounds6. We are proud of our nation’s ongoing, welcoming stance toward immigrants. However, we recognize that certain factors have made the immigration climate today much bleaker than it has been in previous generations7. Currently, thousands of people wait in virtual lines for years before they can immigrate to our shores8. This interminable wait must be shortened. Yet, that problem cannot be adequately addressed until we deal with the dilemma of illegal immigration. Right now, more than 12 million people live in the United States illegally9. Contrary to some popular opinions, these undocumented immigrants10. are from a vast variety of ethnic backgrounds11. Furthermore, they arrived in our nation through a variety of ways. Some estimate that nearly forty percent came on temporary visas and overstayed their visas once they expired12. The other sixty percent entered illegally13.
This article was published in the Spring 2011 edition of the Regent Journal of Law and Public Policy. The full citation is: Land, Richard, and Barrett Duke. 2011. “Just Immigration Reform: Foundational Principles.” Regent Journal of Law and Public Policy 3(1):68-93. Download PDF. (105 KB)
The presence of undocumented immigrants has become a matter of intense national debate. Some are concerned that they pose a threat to our national security,14 and others are concerned about their impact on employment, surmising that illegal immigrants make it more difficult for legal immigrants and U.S. citizens to find work15. Additionally, others raise the issue of their very presence as an illegality—a question of respect for the rule of law. If we have laws regarding immigration, they should be enforced16.
For many others, the presence of so many people from so many diverse cultures and backgrounds threatens to overwhelm American culture with a politically correct multiculturalism, which would undercut the preeminent role English has played in our cultural foundation17. Other arguments also exist, and most people have more than one reason for their concern about the illegal presence of such large numbers of people in the nation.
The authors share many of these concerns. Something must be done, and it must be done soon. It is imperative that an acceptable solution be found to address the millions of undocumented immigrants living in our nation. Currently, the two extremes of deportation and amnesty are being played against each other, resulting in a stalemate in Congress18. Neither of the two extremes are appropriate, workable solutions. To force all those here illegally to leave is neither politically viable nor humanitarian. To offer blanket amnesty to those who broke the immigration laws of our country and their countries of origin is disrespectful of the rule of law. A solution that respects the rule of law, treats undocumented immigrants in the nation compassionately, and furnishes them an earned pathway to legal status is necessary.
It is most constructive to think through this issue from two perspectives—as responsible citizens and as committed Christians. As citizens, we have a responsibility to engage this issue in a way that respects the rule of law and assures the security of our fellow citizens, our families, and ourselves. We are offended by the willingness of anyone to flaunt our nation’s laws—those who are here illegally and know it. Furthermore, many of them are working with false identification materials19. Those who have chosen to overstay their visas are equally troublesome—they agreed to the terms of their te