Although comprehensive immigration reform remains a pipe dream, two small victories can be declared this summer. In Arizona v. the United States, the Supreme Court struck down three out of four provisions of the Arizona immigration law of April 2010: (a) the provision making it a crime for undocumented immigrants to apply for a job or hold one, (b) the provision making it a crime for an immigrant to fail to register with the federal government and (c) the provision authorizing warrantless arrests if the police have probable cause to think a person has done something deportable under federal law.
Days before that court ruling, President Obama issued an executive order lifting the threat of deportation that has hung over young immigrants brought to the United States before the age of 16. Those 30 or younger who have lived in the country for at least five years, are in school, are high school graduates or are military veterans and have no criminal records will no longer be deported. And they will be eligible to apply for a legal work permit, renewable every two years. Unlike the Dream Act, a bill proposed repeatedly in Congress but not passed, this executive order offers immigrants no path to citizenship. Still, it allows some 800,000 young immigrants to remain in the United States and work with legal status.
We hope that the young immigrant activists, or “Dreamers,” who have worked for reform are inspired by these small wins and that fairness in the form of more far-reaching immigration reform will soon prevail.
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
Jobs are clearly the number one concern of voters this election year. But whether or not there is a change of occupant in the White House, people are beginning to grasp that more than the government investment or tax breaks the candidates are offering will be necessary to once more give American workers a stake in the U. S. economy.
Like the piano players who lost their livelihoods to the player piano, every day men and women are being disloged by the digital revolution from productive roles in society. In their new book, Race Against the Machine, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee show how computerization is hollowing out the American middle class, with everyone from ticket agents to tax preparers to draftsmen, journalists and even lawyers losing jobs to machines. Unemployment and underemployment are threats not just to our standard of living, but even more to the dignity of workers. For, as Blessed John Paul II reminded us in his encyclical letter “On Human Work” (1981), labor is essential to our identity as human beings.
Whoever wins the White House, the challenges of re-engineering the economy will be enormous. Government, business and higher education must work together to promote an economic renewal that places greater worth on workers. The raw-meat capitalism of the last 30 years must be replaced by a more responsible economic system. Germany’s social market model demonstrates that capitalist systems that minimize inequality and let workers benefit from growth are feasible. An economy in which productivity and profitability grow but employment and wages shrink is neither politically nor economically sustainable.
Saying We’re Sorry
Why did it take so long for the United States to formally express regret for air strikes in November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers? Partly, at least, because the Pentagon believed it had firm evidence that NATO forces were responding to a sustained and organized attack by the Pakistani military—where no apology was in order. But sometimes we say “sorry” to break out of a stalemate between proud wills in the interest of better relations. That is what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did on July 3. By saying sorry, she gave a face-saving way out for Pakistan to allow the United States transit for crucial supply convoys to Afghanistan and to keep routes open for the drawdown of U.S. forces from that country in 2014.
Learning to say we are sorry is becoming increasingly necessary in U.S. foreign military policy. The apology on July 3 was an outlier precisely because the Pentagon believed the November attack was a lawful defense, not a taking of innocent life. But in an era of cross-border terrorism and counterterrorist drone warfare with noncombatant casualties, the question of how to say sorry for military errors will remain a difficult one for global leaders.
Many innocents have already been caught in the crossfire of the war on terror. If the United States seeks to wage warfare from afar, then it should be clear about the damage incurred and should take responsibility for its mistakes in judgment that result in civilian deaths.
The art of apology is a delicate one. Global leaders may reasonably differ on how it should be applied. Sometimes a call to offer condolences may be preferable to a formal apology. Saying sorry should not be seen as a sign of weakness, but as an inescapable element of statecraft today.