Congress is making a genuine effort to find answers for our broken immigration system, and we in the faith community must make sure our voices are heard. After all, immigration brings love of family and love of country together.
And the faith community is mobilized. Across the country, evangelical Christians are joining others in praying for reform that adheres to biblical principles, including more than 60,000 who have signed up as prayer partners in this summer’s “Pray for Reform” campaign.
Fixing the broken immigration system matters not only to the faith community, but also to business, law enforcement and agriculture leaders. On Wednesday, Sept. 4, I was proud to join them at the First Amendment Center in Nashville to discuss immigration reform.
It was clear that we all share several basic priorities: The system must be fixed across the board, border security is a priority, and we support a process that emphasizes legal immigration and accountability — not blanket amnesty.
It is not realistic to think that we can send everyone here illegally “back home.” Aspiring Americans are part of our communities and our economy, and we need solutions that honor human dignity, promote family unity and are fair to taxpayers.
Action is urgent, and lawmakers must move immigration reform forward as soon as possible. We cannot continue with the system we have.
A couple in my congregation opened my eyes to just how badly broken it is.
The husband and father of two followed the rules, returning to Mexico as the first step in becoming a legal resident. It took nearly a year and a half, while his wife and children waited, for him to be able to return home to his family. Most immigrants, like this father, wanted to do the right thing.
We need a common-sense system that allows immigrants to come out of the shadows and apply for documented status. We need a system that encourages undocumented immigrants to do the right thing. Our present system discourages it and now I understand that discouragement as I have walked through it with this family.
We love our country, and we place a high premium on American citizenship. We cannot make it easy to stay here permanently. Reform should require immigrants who want to stay to go through a rigorous process, including payment of taxes and fines. They should be accountable for what they have done.
But when a family man takes personal responsibility, tries to work within the legal lines and becomes trapped by the immigration system we have now, something is wrong with the system.
God-given dignity and respect for the rule of law are not mutually exclusive. Nor are family unity and border security. We need a new and broad immigration process that balances all of these values, restoring respect to the rule of law by ensuring that better law is the rule.
Scripture makes it clear that we need to look out for orphans, widows and immigrants. Jesus said that when we “do for the least of these,” we are serving him. Support for immigration reform transcends politics, and for many of us, the Bible has guided us toward just, humane reform.
Immigration reform legislation will create a process that is fair to all of us, and we must demand that our members of Congress move reform forward.
No matter how Congress proceeds, just reform must include the core elements that reflect the values of the faithful by creating the opportunity for aspiring Americans in our midst to come out of the shadows and eventually earn citizenship — alongside strong border security, family unity and a coherent legal immigration process.
The religious community should exemplify the best in our community. Immigration reform gives us an opportunity to do that, united by our common humanity as a nation.
(Editor’s Note: This guest “Viewpoint” has been written and submitted by Eddie Poole, lead pastor at MJLifeChurch in Mount Juliet.)