You don't have to be an expert in legal matters to conclude that our current immigration situation is a mess. As I said in my last post on this issue, our current system rewards those who break the law, and sends those trying to obey it back where they came from. Laws that create this kind of environment are, by default, unjust, and we have already heard Isaiah speak poignantly and with resolve to God's views of unjust law. But what instruction can we find in his prophecy that will help us chart a more equitable way forward?
Woe to those who enact evil statutes,
and to those who constantly record unuust decisions
so as to deprive the needy of justice
and rob the poor of My people of their rights
so that widows may be their spoil
and that they may plunder the orphan. -Isaiah 10:1-2
By the prophet's own words, unjust laws:
-remove justice from the needy. With regard to immigration, this would, I think,include removing the opportunity for a better life from one who is willing to work, pay his or her share of taxes, and assimilate into our culture. Yet this is exactly the case for thousands of immigrants who are denied the opportunity to make this better life for themselves.
-robs the poor of their rights. When social services, public education, emergency medical care and other wellfare services are given to those who will, because of their illegal status, likely never pay taxes, the result is that many of our own citizens have needed social services "robbed" from them and given to others.
-widows and orphans are taken advantage of. In other words, an unjust law is one which allows the opportunity for government exploitation of the weak. (For some reason, the lottery comes to mind) Yet immigrants, legal and illegal, rather than having consistent law to which they can refer, are instead constantly subjected to the whims of individual INS agents, whose scope of authority in this regard exceeds that of a federal judge. And frankly, if you throw into that mix the absolute incompetence I have personally witnessed from several who work for INS, the picture is one that would rightly frighten anyone trying to immigrate to the United States. Our current system strips immigrants of the dignity they deserve as human beings created in God's image, and replaces the rule of law with the monarchial tyranny of an INS agent.
The challenge then, is to develop an immigration system that is "just," that delivers justice to those who seek it, grants rights regardless of socioeconomic status, and subjects all applicants for residency to the same rule of law; one that is clear, and treats those subjected to it with the dignity God would expect.
What would such a system look like, and how would we arrive at its adoption? Again, I admit being as qualified to write laws as I am to pilot a nuclear submarine. Nevertheless, I would suggest the following general direction, subject to the scrutiny of those who are more competent that I:
1. Totally dismantle the current immigration system, release all employees of this agency and make them re-apply if they want to continue to be paid with our tax dollars. This includes embassy employees worldwide. Its a radical move, I know. Still, Ronald Reagan's words of more than 20 years ago have never been more true than when applied to immigration. Government isn't the solution to our problem. It IS the problem! While I am sure there are many competent and able professionals who work for immigration, the incompetence I have witnessed has convinced me that this move is neccesary. The raw power INS agents have is scary enough. Mix that raw power with ignorance, and you have a real mess!
2. Design a new system that takes into account the current realities we face as a nation. Such a system would include:
-The ability to concentrate manpower on multiple entry points.
-More deliberate and clear guidelines and policies for INS workers, so that the decisions that affect immigrants are based on law rather than the whims of an agent.
-Expedited processing of immigration requests. Responses from the government taking longer than 6 months would result in penalties to those who work for INS. The one exception to this would be below...
-"Red flagging" of anyone coming from a nation known to harbor terrorists (call it profiling if you want, its the right thing to do. In spite of our culture of political correctness, anyone with half a brain knows the people who attacked our country were not of Latin American descent.) More thorough background checks and longer periods of probationary stay would be required.
-Temporary worker permits to all current residents, whether or not they were legal under the former system. Give them 90 days to secure the permit, and one year beyond that to find gainful employment and pay taxes. If they find a legal occupation, keep it, and learn English, after a certain amount of time they can receive a "green card," and a path to citizenship if they want it which would take no longer than five years to obtain. If they fail to secure the permit, or don't prove themselves productive, or add to our crime problems by their behavior, send them packing pronto!
3. After the new system is in place, build tighter security around both borders (not a literal fence. What a silly waste of time and money, in my opinion) Anyone entering the country illegally after this point is automatically deported, with exceptions granted to those claiming assylum as political refugees.
4. Utilize NAFTA and other legal measures to encourage further business investment in Mexico and Central America. Yes, this would cost us at first. But eventually, a prosperous Mexico would mean few illegal immigration problems for the United States, and subsequently, much less of a drain on our own economy. In fact, the eventual American revenue generated from the likely sale of businesses to Mexican and other nationals would create more prosperity on this side of the Rio Grande as well. Two neighboring, prosperous nations will compliment each other, and help each other build a prosperous future.
Human rights. Human equality. Human dignity. All three are mandated by God's Word to every government to whom He allows continued existence. Re-inventing our immigration system is, I believe, an absolute neccesity for our nation to acheive this end. While I am certain others far more knowledgeable than me could devise much wiser plans than I have suggested above, my hope is, in the end, to see a system that is truly "just."
But just laws alone are not enough, nor are they the first priority for God's people. The church and those who make up its membership have great responsibilities toward our immigrant friends that transcend the legal and political arenas, and we sin if we wait for the legal issues to be solved before we seek to fulfill those responsibilities. I'll talk about these in my final post on this subject in the coming days.