Welcoming the Undocumented Out of the Shadows
An undocumented immigrant in North Carolina. The U.S. Senate recently proposed a bipartisan immigration reform plan that would allow legalization of undocumented immigrants provided they pay back taxes and a fine. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.
By Ricardo Moreno
Behind every person is a story, and it's no secret that the vast majority of immigrants who come to the United States are escaping hunger, poverty, and political persecution. Like all human beings, immigrants want better opportunities for themselves and their families. At Bread for the World we have always been concerned with the poorest people, whether they live on another continent, in another country, or right next door.
Yesterday, as I listened to President Obama's speech on immigration at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nev., I kept thinking about the impact of his words. The president's call for immigration reform, along with a similar push in the U.S. Congress, could positively affect the roughly 12 million undocumented people living and working in the United States. As I sat in the auditorium at Del Sol, I could see in the faces of the multicultural crowd the hope that our country is finally taking seriously the situation of the undocumented in our midst.
There is no doubt that the topic of immigration ignites passionate debate and that it is an issue that is politically exploited by many people. Past attempts at immigration reform have been blocked by small, well-organized groups, even though most public polls indicate that a majority of U.S. citizens favor reform of our nation's immigration laws.
Recently, a group of eight Democrat and Republican senators published principles that will serve as the basis for possible immigration legislation. President Obama has also presented his ideas on what should be included in rewritten immigration laws. In a Congress that has been so polarized around this and other issues in the past, it is encouraging to see that bipartisan talks are taking place and that an agreement is on the horizon.
Yes, undocumented people violated our immigration laws, but they can’t forever be condemned to live in the shadows of our society. Deportation of millions of people is not practical and is not in consonance with the moral values of the United States. I welcome the leadership of President Obama on this issue, and I welcome the initiative of the bipartisan group of senators. I am looking forward to public discussion, debate, and specific proposals in Congress to reform our immigration laws.
I encourage you read my colleague Andrew Wainer's writings on the root causes of unauthorized immigration. And as we, as Christians, continue to tackle and debate this issue, I invite you to ponder and reflect on the words of Jesus Christ as described in the Gospel of Matthew: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”Ricardo Moreno is Bread for the World's national associate for Latino Relations.
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