William W. Chip
Until very recently, serious conversation about immigration was all but banished from mainstream American discourse. This consensus of silence, imposed by opinion makers who found the topic distasteful or inconvenient, was undone by a number of recent events—including the sudden rise of immigration as a topic in the presidential primaries, a gathering wave of state and local immigration ordinances, and last summer's outburst of grassroots opposition to a proposed federal amnesty for millions of undocumented immigrants.
The result has been a suddenly lively debate about whether our immigration laws are too strict or too generous, how they should be enforced, and whether illegal immigrants already here should be encouraged to leave or invited to stay.
Is there a Christian answer to these urgent questions? For Catholics at least, there are relevant teachings in the Catechism: (1) The “more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able,” to welcome foreigners in search of security or a livelihood; (2) there should be no “unjust discrimination” in employment against immigrants; and (3) the immigrants themselves should “obey” the receiving country's laws. More generally, the Catechism calls on Catholics to love and aid the poor and to act with their fellow citizens in the political and social fields to promote “solidarity and justice among nations.” Presumably, this might include political and social action aimed at changing or even resisting national immigration policies.
These teachings were applied in Strangers No Longer, a Joint Pastoral Letter issued by the American and Mexican bishops in January 2003. The letter acknowledged that each “sovereign state” has “the right to control its borders in furtherance of the common good” and “impose reasonable limits on immigration,” but also that persons who “cannot find employment in their country of origin . . . have a right to find work elsewhere in order to survive.” How are these two rights to be reconciled? According to the bishops, “the current condition of the world, in which global poverty and persecution are rampant,” obligates “powerful economic nations” to “accommodate migration flows” and to receive economic migrants “whenever possible.” The bishops expressed, if you will, a “preferential option” for free migration.
Is the United States meeting its moral obligation “to accommodate migration flows” of unemployed laborers from Mexico and elsewhere? Any such obligation falls to the U.S. Congress, to which the Constitution has committed the exclusive power to regulate migration. Since the 1920s, Congress has enacted statutes that limit the number of aliens who may migrate to the United States and that determine who is eligible to migrate.
Immigration law distinguishes between immigrants, who are expected to reside permanently in the United States, and nonimmigrants, who are expected to return home. Most immigrant visas are “family-unity visas,” awarded to aliens related to someone who immigrated before them. A smaller number of immigrant visas are awarded to aliens who have been offered jobs in the United States, but these “employment visas” are mostly reserved for workers with specific skills. Federal law also provides for the issuance of approximately 250,000 nonimmigrant visas each year to temporary foreign workers, but 150,000 of these “guest-worker visas” are also reserved for skilled workers, who do not typically migrate “in order to survive.” Because federal immigration law reserves relatively few visas for unskilled workers, the immigration policies of the United States arguably fail to meet what the Church considers to be the country's obligation to migrants who “cannot find employment in their country of origin.”
Most unskilled migrant workers can take up residence only as lawbreakers, either by overstaying a visa or entering without one. Each year, approximately 800,000 aliens become illegal residents in the United States. Approximately 300,000 of them will eventually be deported, leave of their own volition, or manage to legalize their status. This net annual influx of approximately 500,000 illegal aliens has produced a total illegal population in excess of 12 million—a population that is growing at a much faster rate than the native population or even the legal-immigrant population.
In Strangers No Longer, the bishops correctly observe that undocumented Mexican migrants to the United States “labor with the quiet acquiescence of both government and industry.” The bishops call on the government to enact a “broad legalization program” for those workers and to establish permanent and temporary visa programs for future economic migrants. According to the bishops, legalization of undocumented workers “would help to stabilize the labor market in the United States, to preserve family unity, and to improve the standard of living in immigrant communities.”
In the wake of Strangers No Longer, the Committee on Migration of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops resolved in June 2004 to make “comprehensive immigration reform, with special emphasis on legalization, a major public policy priority within the Church.” In May 2005, the conference inaugurated the Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform, which calls for “broad-based legalization (permanent residency) of the undocumented” and “legal pathways for migrants to come and work.” At the campaign's opening press conference, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick conceded that, “before we can change our laws, we must also change attitudes, including those of many of our own flock.”
There are some problems here. Approximately one million aliens are permitted by law to settle in the United States each year, mostly on family-unity visas. Strangers No Longer fails to recognize that many of them are, in fact, unskilled and underemployed aliens who are joining their relatives mainly to escape economic distress. A recent survey commissioned by the National Institutes of Health found that one-third of adult immigrants had never finished school in their home country.
Strangers No Longer also conflates the undocumented Mexican immigrant population with laborers who “cannot find employment in their country of origin” and need “to find work elsewhere in order to survive.” That may describe some undocumented migrants but probably not the majority. Mexico is not Sudan. The official unemployment rate in Mexico is not very different from the unemployment rate in the United States, and a survey by the Pew Hispanic Center discovered that an overwhelming majority of undocumented migrants were employed when they left Mexico.
Still, the bishops are not wrong to remind us that, for many would-be immigrants, a denial of admission to the United States is a denial of their best chance to escape poverty and have their children educated beyond grade school—and possibly any chance of decent health care for their families. Any Christian who opposes their admission ought to have good reasons.
When Christians call on America to shoulder its moral obligation to would-be economic migrants, on whose shoulders will this burden actually fall? Even though most illegal immigrants are Catholics from Mexico and Central America, the Catholic Church in the United States does not promise them a free education in Catholic schools or free treatment in Catholic hospitals, for the simple reason that the Church could not afford to keep such promises. Once we acknowledge that any Christian call for the welcoming of immigrants as a means of alleviating their poverty is mainly a call for someone else, primarily government agencies, to pick up the tab, we must add to the question of moral obligation the practical question of whether government agencies are capable of managing the consequences of mass economic migration without neglecting their other responsibilities.
The question answers itself. The federal, state, and local governments are plainly incapable of caring for tens of millions of poor immigrants while also fulfilling their ordinary duties to the rest of us, not to mention their special duties to America's own underprivileged citizens.
Not the least of those duties is to foster a social and economic environment in which every young American, even one not good at schoolwork, can earn a living that permits him to keep a family. Amid the current outcry of the Democratic presidential candidates against the outsourcing of American jobs to foreign factories, we should not forget that importing cheap foreign workers depresses domestic wage levels in exactly the same way as does importing products manufactured with cheap foreign labor.
Strangers No Longer does caution that any legal pathway for migrant workers “must employ labor-market tests to ensure that U.S. workers are protected.” The workings of the labor market, however, guarantee that the interests of U.S. workers cannot be protected from the impact of a large, continuing influx of foreign workers. The evidence of this impact is manifest, especially in the construction industry. The building trades once afforded American boys not bound for college their best opportunity to earn a middle-class living; anyone my age has witnessed in his own lifetime the collapse of many of these trades into low-wage, no-benefits, day-labor jobs.
A 1997 study by the National Research Council confirmed statistically that labor migration reduces the wages of the Americans who compete for the same jobs while benefiting more privileged Americans who buy the products and services they produce. An earlier General Accounting Office study related how in less than a decade nearly the entire unionized, predominantly black janitorial workforce of Los Angeles had been replaced with Mexican immigrants. In 1994 and 1995, the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, based on this sort of evidence and several years of deliberation, recommended that Congress reduce overall levels of immigration and reject proposals for a guest-worker program.
The claim that Americans won't do the jobs taken by immigrants is more of a cruel joke than an argument. What job, for example, is less pleasant and affords less prestige than collecting someone else's garbage? Nevertheless, in the city where I live, garbage collection is a municipal service performed by unionized sanitation workers. Their wages are not generous, but they cover rent and car payments, and there is health insurance if a family member gets sick. After a lifetime of collecting my garbage, the worker and his wife are allowed a small pension to endure their old age with dignity. The city has no difficulty filling these jobs, almost entirely with African-American citizens. In some of the surrounding suburbs, garbage collection is outsourced to private contractors who routinely employ immigrant workers, many of whom are probably undocumented. Needless to say, their wages are paltry, and if the immigrants become too sick or too old to work, they are out of luck and simply replaced with other immigrants.
Some might argue that a modest reduction in the wages of working-class Americans is a morally acceptable price to pay if even greater numbers of immigrant workers are thereby rescued from dire poverty. Before asking working-class Americans to carry the burden of “solidarity and justice among nations,” however, we should first ask whether admitting some tiny percentage of the Third World's underemployed workers as immigrants, and providing their families with First World public services, is really the most suitable way to alleviate global poverty.
Arguably not. Ten years ago, the National Research Council estimated that the net annual fiscal cost of public services to immigrants stood at $15 billion to $20
billion, a figure that must be substantially higher today. Might we do more good for the Mexican poor by focusing these resources on what Mexicans need to thrive in their own country rather than on our own need for maid service?
Consider that a Mexican-born woman living in Los Angeles County will, on average, have three or four children. The annual cost of educating each of them in the Los Angeles public schools is over $9,000 per annum, or a total of $27,000 to $36,000 throughout their school years. According to figures from the Mexican Secretariat of Public Education, it costs $1,500 a year to educate a child in Mexico, meaning that the money used to subsidize the American schooling of one Mexican immigrant's family would have educated more than eighteen of the children who remained behind.
Is a country that cannot handle its responsibilities to its native workforce in the face of massive economic migration at least capable of fulfilling its moral obligations toward the migrants themselves? Data from reliable government sources indicate that we are manifestly incapable of ensuring the successful social and economic assimilation of the enormous numbers that are actually arriving today.
Not surprisingly, the native-born offspring of undocumented workers lack their parents' enthusiasm for performing society's dirty work, but too many are not equipped by our conflicted public schools with the means to do anything else. According to the Department of Education, Hispanic students are dropping out of high school at twice the rate of non-Hispanic whites and at a higher rate even than that of non-Hispanic blacks. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that 49.9 percent of Hispanic children in the United States are born to unwed mothers and that teenage pregnancy is three times higher among Hispanic girls than among non-Hispanic whites (and, again, even higher than among non-Hispanic blacks). Since inadequate schooling and an absence of fathers are held by many to be a chief explanation of extraordinary crime rates, we should not be surprised that Hispanic men are entering prison at three times the rate of non-Hispanic whites.
Comparisons between the fate of today's illegal immigrants and the ultimately successful assimilation of long-ago Irish and Italian immigrants are not helpful. Those earlier immigrant waves had a beginning and an end, yielding breathing space for assimilation and preventing the formation of permanent ethnic ghettos. Moreover, when the unschooled European farm and factory workers were arriving en masse, most Americans were also unschooled farm and factory workers. The economic and social advancement of the immigrants' descendants was part of a larger story of industrialization that raised up the entire American working class. Given the extreme difficulty of preserving high-wage American jobs in the face of global competition, let alone creating new ones, it is hard to foresee the great economic wave that will raise up the descendants of today's immigrant laborers.
These are inconvenient truths, and to introduce them into a public debate over immigration policy is to invite accusations of immigrant bashing and worse. Indeed, to label worry about immigration as “hate speech” has become a leitmotif of immigration advocacy and has even found a sounding board in the Church. Cardinal McCarrick devoted much of his opening statement on the Catholic Campaign to condemnations of “anti-immigrant fervor,” “racist and xenophobic attitudes,” and the “temptation to scapegoat.” Last December, Roger Cardinal Mahoney, archbishop of Los Angeles, urged Democratic presidential candidates “to replace verbal attacks on immigrants with a focus on policy solutions,” while Bishop John C. Wester, chairman of the Committee on Migration, editorialized in the Salt Lake Tribune that “political venting toward immigrants” was diverting attention from “meaningful reform.”
No Christian could fail to condemn verbal attacks against immigrants, to say nothing of actual hate crimes. Those eager to find examples of “anti-immigrant fervor” can probably find them somewhere, but only by tendentious interpretations can they find them in the campaign literature of any major candidate for public office or on the website of any nationally recognized immigration-reform group. Far from exhibiting “racist and xenophobic attitudes,” ordinary Americans, even when protesting illegal immigration, regularly go out of their way to express their support and welcome for legal immigrants. Their “venting” is directed not against the undocumented workers but at the self-serving employers and negligent government agencies whose “quiet acquiescence” in widespread lawbreaking has allowed the problem to grow and fester.
When Cardinal Mahoney and Bishop Wester refer to “policy solutions” and “meaningful reform,” they mean the legalization of prior flows of illegal immigrants through a broad-based amnesty and the legalization of future flows through a guest-worker program for unskilled foreign workers. The logic behind this “comprehensive immigration reform” is that barring or trying to expel economic migrants whose services are demanded by the economy is simply not possible without resorting to tools that are morally unacceptable in a democracy.
The flaw in the logic of “comprehensive immigration reform” is its assumption that the current flow of undocumented workers is a meaningful measure of the economy's demand for such workers. Our experience with the more transparent phenomenon of offshore outsourcing teaches us instead that the appetite of employers to hire lower-paid workers is practically unlimited. No matter how many guest workers are admitted, the companies that compete with their employers, in order to stay in business, will have to demand guest workers of their own or else recruit undocumented workers. A guest-worker program, whatever its other merits, would have only a modest impact on the flow of new illegal immigrants.
Although the Catholic Campaign's call for a “broad legalization program” is rooted in Christian charity, legalization as a component of comprehensive immigration reform has not been sold to the public on the grounds of compassion, or even of economic necessity, but rather on the grounds of practical necessity. Again and again, we are reminded by pro-amnesty newspapers and politicians that the government lacks the means to arrest and deport 12 million people and that the public would not tolerate so massive a roundup were it possible.
The specter of mass arrests and deportations is a red herring. Approximately 500,000 aliens legally cross the border every day. They come to shop or to sightsee, to attend university, to conduct business, to work for an embassy, or to fill a temporary job. If we are to enjoy the benefits of these international visits without being overwhelmed by overstayers, it should be obvious that we cannot depend on the “hard power” of arrest and deportation except as a last resort.
We depend instead on the “soft power” of allowing legal visitors the means of a comfortable but temporary stay (including free emergency medical care if they cannot afford to pay for it) while withholding from them the means of taking up a comfortable permanent residence. Denying aliens who are not eligible for permanent residence the opportunity to hold a regular job, to drive a car, to draw nonemergency public benefits, and so forth is such an effective deterrent to breaking the law that 99.8 percent of aliens who enter the country each year return home of their own accord.
Admittedly, soft power has not been an effective deterrent to aliens who are willing to perjure themselves by submitting false Social Security numbers to those employers (apparently the majority) who insist on having one for their tax records. (More than 200,000 aliens are using 000-00-0000.) Knowledgeable participants on both sides of the immigration debate are aware that most undocumented workers would lose their jobs and be forced to repatriate themselves if the government were simply to investigate on a regular basis payrolls that exhibit an abnormally large share of invalid Social Security numbers. That is why the government's sporadic efforts to do just that have been fiercely resisted by immigrant-rights groups and chambers of commerce.
Stricter immigration-law enforcement is often associated with building stronger fences along the border. Although border security will not reduce the number of visa overstayers, experience with heavy fencing in Southern California proves that physical barriers do indeed deter unlawful entry. Strangers No Longer, however, calls on the United States to abandon any plans to blockade the Mexican border, arguing that barricades would funnel desperate economic migrants into even more dangerous entry routes.
Although the terrorism threat probably mandates a barricaded border, I share the bishops' concern about the physical safety of migrant workers who attempt to breach the barricades. No Christian society should entice its impoverished neighbors to wade rivers, evade armed guards, trek across deserts, and put themselves in the hands of criminal smugglers in order to keep down the price of lettuce and landscaping. Before building the barricades, let us first make clear to employers of undocumented workers, and to the well-off consumers whose interests they serve, that the party, for them, is over.
Michael A. Scaperlanda
Deriving its understanding from revelation and reason, the Catholic Church teaches (1) that persons have a right to emigrate in search of a better life when poverty, hunger, unemployment, unrest, and similar factors greatly hinder human flourishing; (2) that states have a right to limit immigration when the common good of the society requires it in due consideration of such factors as national security and the domestic economy, but not out of inconvenience, selfishness, or minor cost; and (3) that “more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin,” as the Catechism puts it.
Not surprisingly, Catholic teaching on transnational migration coincides with such older legal theorists as Francisco de Vitoria, Hugo Grotius, Christian Wolff, Samuel Pufendorf, and Emmerich de Vattel. The notion that states have the right to exclude all aliens is a recent development. Only with the rise of sovereign absolutism in the nineteenth century did the nation's authority to control immigration take on an unqualified character.
The question, of course, is how to apply religious principles to the modern immigration debate. How are we to reconcile the individual's qualified right to emigrate with the United States' qualified right to restrict immigration? William Chip's disagreement with the Church (and me) is not over faith or morals but over economic analysis. I read him as suggesting that we are not prosperous enough as a nation to offer sanctuary to many of the millions who have risked their lives to journey north across dangerous deserts in search of economic stability. He also seems to suggest that the flow of foreign workers into the United States threatens the public treasury as well as the economic security of those on the lowest rungs of American society.
To see whether he is correct, we ought to examine the impact of large numbers of low-skilled immigrants. Do low-skilled immigrants take jobs from or depress wages for native workers? Do low-skilled immigrants receive much more in public benefits than they contribute in taxes? Disentangling the effect of immigration from the effects of other factors can be difficult—particularly since the fiscal impact of immigration cannot be assessed at one point in time but only over generations.
Despite these difficulties, a wealth of data exists. Last year, the President's Council of Economic Advisors issued a report entitled “Immigration's Economic Impact.” Lumping together legal and illegal immigration, the council made three key findings:
(1) On average, U.S. natives benefit from immigration. Immigrants tend to complement (not substitute for) natives, raising natives' productivity and income. (2) Careful studies of the long-run fiscal effects of immigration conclude that it is likely to have a modest, positive influence. (3) Skilled immigrants are likely to be especially beneficial to natives. In addition to contributions to innovation, they have a significant positive fiscal impact.
Examining other studies, the CEA found that “natives benefit from immigration because the complementarities associated with immigrants outweigh any losses from added labor market competition.” Finding that 90 percent of natives experience wage benefits from immigration, the CEA estimated that total annual wage gains by native workers due to immigration is somewhere between $30
billion and $80 billion.
Looking specifically at the effect of competition from immigrants on low-skilled native workers, the Council of Economic Advisors concluded that the evidence is mixed. Harvard economist George Borjas' study shows that immigration depressed the wages of native-born high school dropouts by 7.4 percent between 1980 and 2000. Other economists put the figure at around 1 percent. Recognizing that “the difficulties faced by high school dropouts are a serious policy concern,” the CEA noted that “immigration is not the central cause of those difficulties” and concluded that “sharply reducing immigration would be a poorly targeted and inefficient way to assist low-wage Americans.”
To evaluate the fiscal impact of immigration, the economic advisers turned to the National Research Council's (NRC) 1997 assessment. That study showed that the average immigrant and his or her descendants would have a net-positive long-term fiscal impact of $80,000 (in 1996 dollars). This ranged from $198,000 for a high-skilled immigrant to a negative $13,000 for a low-skilled immigrant. The CEA concluded that “the positive fiscal impact tends to accrue at the federal level, but net costs tend to be concentrated at the state and local level”; and, since the “fiscal effect of immigration” is relatively small, “immigration is unlikely to cure or cause significant fiscal imbalances.”
Examining the immigrants who enter the labor force, the Council of Economic Advisors made several observations. As expected, large wage differentials between the United States and the sending countries drive much of the immigration. Wage ratios adjusted for cost of living “ranged from 6-to-1 to 2-to-1 in favor of the U.S.-based workers” over workers in Mexico. The council found that labor participation by immigrants is higher than that of their native counterparts, their unemployment rate is lower, and they are more entrepreneurial. Although immigrants make less, “they do fairly well in comparison with natives who have similar levels of education.” Contrary to popular perception, “immigrants have lower rates of incarceration compared to natives.” And their children assimilate, learn English, and attain more education than did their parents.
In concrete ways, migration, including transnational migration, can lead to cultural and economic renewal and transformation. In a 1988 report, the General Accounting Office concluded that the presence of illegal immigrants had significantly depressed the wages of janitors in Los Angeles as nonunion Mexican immigrants replaced a predominately black and unionized workforce—but also concluded “that the effects of illegal workers on the wages and working conditions of native or legal workers are not automatically in the direction of depressing these conditions, and that those effects depend on a number of factors, of which illegal status of the workers is one.”
Anti-immigrant advocates tout the Los Angeles janitor example because it seems to present a clear example of depressed wages and worker displacement. The reality, however, is much more complex. Did an available supply of immigrant laborers cause de-unionization, lower wages, and a shift toward an immigrant workforce in Los Angeles, or were other factors at work? Nearly a decade after the General Accounting Office report, another study said that “the immigrant influx coincided with [union] troubles, but it would be misleading to suggest a casual link. The building services industry recruited immigrants in virtually every city where they were to be found, but with quite varying consequences for both wages and union shares.”
A comparison of building services in Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco during the 1980s fleshes this out. Immigrants in the industry in New York made $7,000 more a year than their Los Angeles counterparts. And, despite having nearly the same percentage of immigrants in its janitorial workforce, that segment of New York's labor market did not de-unionize. Similarly, wages and union density in San Francisco did not suffer the same fate as in Los Angeles despite increases in the immigrant labor force.
In a dynamic turnaround, less than a decade after the General Accounting Office report, the union had regained it strength, thanks in large part to the efforts of the immigrant workforce. Employers may have tried to use immigration to break the unions in the 1980s, but by the 1990s the unions had come back. Although the number of native-born blacks working in the private sector of the building-services industry in Los Angeles declined from approximately 3,780 in 1980 to 3,500 in 1990, those remaining in the industry benefitted from a rejuvenated union bolstered locally by the foreign-born population.
One year, back in the 1960s, my siblings and I received fewer Christmas presents than usual so that the children of a migrant family would not go without any. This family didn't cross the border; the border had crossed the family in the nineteenth century. But, demographically, these farmworkers were similar to today's Mexican migrant families. This particular year, that family had decided to stop the annual cycle of farm migration and settle down in our town. They had almost nothing. For a time, this family lived in the furnished basement of a fellow parishioner. After a short while, they opened a small Mexican restaurant in town. Forty years later, the family operates two restaurants and several other businesses, and the children and grandchildren are college educated, some earning degrees to prepare them for the family business.
I know of a Catholic parish in Oklahoma that was overwhelmingly Anglo a decade ago. As Hispanics moved in, many established families resented the presence of the newcomers who spoke Spanish, desired a separate Mass in their native language, and lacked the financial resources to contribute much to the parish's operation.
Some speculated—perhaps correctly—that immigrant contributions failed to cover the increased costs associated with their presence in the parish. Part of this reaction reflected a natural mourning for a community that had been but was no longer and the anxiety over what it would become. The newcomers knew that the way to the heart was through the stomach. To the delight of the old-timers, every year now the Hispanic parishioners host the rest of the parish for a dinner of tamales, rice, and beans accompanied by Hispanic song and dance at the parish hall after Mass on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This past year, around sixty Anglo parishioners spent their Tuesday nights learning about the Hispanic culture and practicing Spanish. The learning goes both ways, of course, as this parish continues to experience growth and renewal.
My anecdotal stories of success can be matched, I realize, with other stories of failure and even horror, but it does suggest the dynamism of cultures and economies. Based on the hard data—the studies—done to date, William Chip has failed to persuade me that America's economic fortunes have fallen so far that we cannot afford comprehensive immigration reform similar to that passed by the Senate two years ago.
In fact, the bishops do not advocate open borders or further streams of illegal migration. Given the realities of the current situation, the bishops of Mexico and the United States in their joint pastoral letter Strangers No Longer, seek a multifaceted solution to the current immigration crisis. As San Antonio archbishop José Gomez recently said: “The Church is not a political party or interest group. It is not the Church's primary task to fight political battles or to be engaged in debates over specific policies. This task belongs to the laity. Our job as pastors is to help form our peoples' consciences.”
As part of that laity, Chip and I struggle to articulate solutions that are consistent with church teaching and that coincide with the realities on the ground. If I am correct in my assessment, America continues to be one of those prosperous nations with an obligation to welcome the stranger journeying here in search of economic security. Toward that end, I would propose a six-part plan:
1. We should apply prudent pressure on and assistance to Mexico and other countries to encourage economic development and to reduce migration.
2. We ought to support family reunification by clearing backlogs that keep spouses and children separated for up to six years.
3. We should create a path to legalization for most of the millions who already reside among us.
4. We need a guest-worker program that protects the U.S. labor market, meets the demand for labor, eases the demand for migration, and safeguards against employer exploitation.
5. We must effectively close future streams of illegal immigration by mandating that employers use the
“e-verify system” to ensure that every worker is authorized and follow this up with audits and heavy penalties for noncompliant employers.
6. Finally, we should mandate a fiscal transfer from the federal level to state and local levels so that the fiscal benefits and costs of immigration are shared equally by all.Many who oppose comprehensive immigration reform are motivated by legitimate concerns and not by racism or xenophobia. But the ugly specter of racism and xenophobia inevitably rears its head in some quarters—as it did last year in Valley Park, Missouri, where the mayor, discussing illegal immigration, said: “My main issue is overcrowding. . . . You got one guy and his wife, . . . and before long you have Cousin Puerto Rico and Taco Whoever moving in.”
As Christians, no matter what our assessment of the facts on the ground, we must strive to see the human face of those who plead—often at risk to their own lives—for access to our resources. We must see them as brothers and sisters and not as thieves, a means to cheap labor, or mere lawbreakers.
William W. Chip, an international attorney practicing in Washington, D.C., is an adviser to several national immigration-reform organizations. Michael A. Scaperlanda holds the Gene and Elaine Edwards Family Chair in Law at the University of Oklahoma College of Law.