The Editors
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On July 1, with the nation’s 234th anniversary fast approaching, President Obama tried to reignite a national passion for immigration reform, correctly noting the cascade of fiscal and civic ills provoked by the creaking status quo on immigration. The president offered a sober reading of the complicated and treacherous landscape around undocumented immigration in the United States.

Perhaps as many as 12 million current U.S. residents are working and living within the nation’s borders without proper legal status. A generation descended from immigrant stock has turned on the nation’s newcomers without much apparent consciousness of the irony of the source and the effect of their resentment and hostility. The undocumented or fraudulent status of many workers allows them to be exploited by unscrupulous employers and fall victim to human traffickers, and billions in tax revenues are not being properly accounted for. Frustration about lawlessness along the border has led to private citizens’ leading their own dubious initiatives and the passage of legislation like Arizona’s SB 1070, which, despite the many assurances by its proponents to the contrary, will inevitably lead to racial profiling and unconstitutional intimidation and harassment of U.S. citizens. While multitudes wait for a chance to cross the border legally, others, driven by lawlessness and poverty and a lack of opportunity in their homelands, overstay tourist and student visas or make hazardous illegal crossings into the United States.

The president reminded citizens that deportation of undocumented residents is not only impractical; it would also subject U.S. civic life to an unacceptable level of intrusion by government agents and break up families of “mixed” documented and undocumented residents. Chest-thumping rhetoric about forcing the federal government to do its job and seal off the border enlivens conservative punditry. The plain impracticality of that notion is seldom noted. Few Americans really want to see a militarized or walled-off border, and such a vast undertaking would be an unworthy use of our limited resources.

We all know the problems. Settling on solutions for them remains the sticking point. Unfortunately the president’s speech, which could just as easily have been delivered in 2004 as 2010, suggests that he has few new ideas, only a faint hope of reviving the process toward comprehensive reform that was abandoned during the Bush administration. His recent address takes us practically no closer to the comprehensive reform the church has long advocated than a no doubt vain attempt to pressure Congressional Republicans to go along with the process. With the president’s popularity slumping and 2012 looming, they are unlikely to respond positively to the president’s overture.

Perhaps, given the complexity of the problem and the public’s waning appetite for large-scale social policy initiatives, immigration reform will be possible only in fits and starts, swallowed and digested in small doses. In his speech the president called for marginal improvements with which few could argue: better control of our borders, more humane treatment of undocumented migrants and their children, more efficient immigration bureaucracy, more aggressive employer sanctions. He also reiterated his support for one such improvement, the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act—the so-called Dream Act.

This act would allow the children of undocumented residents to move forward with their lives in the United States. Many of these children, like their parents, have no official status in this country. They may have no memory of the countries of their birth; they have lived their lives in the United States invisibly, blending in with their legal classmates without comment or notice. But now, as young people who hope to build lives and families of their own, they find themselves in a unique quandary because of their lack of citizenship. Each year 65,000 such young people graduate from our nation’s high schools with little idea how to get on with their incompletely Americanized lives. “We should stop punishing innocent young people for the actions of their parents by denying them the chance to stay here and earn an education and contribute their talents to build the country where they’ve grown up,” President Obama said in his speech.

The Dream Act enjoys widespread support from Americans of all classes and political persuasions. It is eminently sensible. Surely if Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on an overarching policy as campaign-creep begins to warp policy discussions, they can at least agree to initiate a series of small-scale fixes, like this act, that may one day reflect a just, humane and practical immigration policy.

Comments

Sophia G | 8/23/2011 - 4:24am
This seems the start of Dream Act. I agree with the idea of cracking down illegal immigrant criminals. This is another way of protecting the community. Several of the nearly 300,000 illegal immigrants now facing deportation will be allowed to remain and will be given the possibility to apply for work visas.Those with criminal records or could possibly be a threat to public safety will be weeded out, claims the administration.All cases will be reviewed individually. Resource for this article: New deportation policy allows some undocumented immigrants to stay
 
Kathleen O'Brien | 7/23/2010 - 7:06pm
I personally know the need for the DREAM ACT.  One of our active Catholic teens graduated number 2 in her class.  She is undocumented.  She was not elligible for most scholarships and had to listen to the huge amounts others received while she only had $1700 in private scholarships.  She dreams of being a pediatrician.  She graduated from high school already having about 24 college credits.  She cannot get a driver's license.  She cannot work legally.  She has to pay double tuition though she has lived in the same location in the US for almost all her school years.  She will go to college as her friends and family will see to that but will be unable to work as a nurse or enter medical school without a change in the laws.  This young woman has faith and courage and will keep trying.  What of those who see no hope for the future and are recruited to gangs, drugs and violence because they have no hope.  We are dealing with the lives and future of young people who have energy and gifts to offer.  Jesus who himself was an immigrant always reached out to the ones in need.  These are the needy today.  We desparately need rural doctors and nurses and import them from all over the world.  What about giving these kids a chance?
JUDE HUNTZ | 7/21/2010 - 11:35am
For those who want to know what the bishops teach on immigration, that is easy enough to find on www.justiceforimmigrants.org 
Only one rancher has been killed to date and that by a drug gang, not the immigrants who are fleeing the lawlessness and hopelessness that is Mexico. 
Regarding poll numbers, sadly most Catholics do not agree with the Church on this issue, but that does not prove anything.  Most people oppose the Church's teaching on contraception and the Church still holds to her position because it is based not on public opinion polls but on Gospel.  Thank God for that.  Sadly, most Catholics also supported segregation in the South and were it not for the bold leadership of the bishops who denied communion and excommunicated Catholic politicians who supported such racism we might still have the sad practice of segregation with us.
John Siegmund | 7/20/2010 - 6:14am
The "Dream Act" is an interesting idea, but really it is a closet draft for the military industrial complex to fill its ranks.  To gain the vaunted path to citizenship you must go to college or join the military.  Well most kids in that group will be unable to afford the ridiculously high prices charges to get residency and citizenship, so they will be forced into the military out of economic necessity.  That si why citizenship should cost no more than $20.00 and we should close the borders and we should put a foot in Mexico's rear end concerning the way they purposely skew the economics of the country making their nothern provinces weak.  Also we need to end the tyrannical drug war by legalizing and taxing marijuana.  There are a number of issues driving so called illegal immigration and many of them start in our Congress with their servitude to the corporate dollar which is driving a modern slave trade in illegal underpayed workers who put hemselves in that position becasue a compliant Mexico makes the economic conditions so bad that these people have to come here just to eat.
David Smith | 7/18/2010 - 11:04pm
An incremental approach to the immigration problem is likely, I think, to do little more than provide some political cover for some politicians.  You can't solve a large problem by fiddling with tiny bits of it here and there.  Don't fall for that - don't let your favorite politicians convince you that they just can't do any more at the moment.  Defeatism is not the same as realism.

Throughout the world, immigration is a response to human need.  It's convenient to think of it as a purely economic problem, because that makes it look susceptible to purely technical fixes.  There's an economic side to it, of course, just as there's an economic side to everything else.  Everything can be quantified if you're inclined to quantify everything.  But these twelve or twenty million people are first and, really, solely human beings.  What's threatening them and injuring them every minute of their lives is a bad legal environment.  That's what needs to be fixed first, immediately, before anything else is done.  Stop persecuting these people now, all of them.  No excuses.

Then, deal with the rest of the issue - the borders, the development conundrums, the international political and economic and police and labor problems.  Deal with them seriously, honestly, openly.  But now, right now, please stop the cutting and the bleeding.  First things first.
THOMAS FARRELLY | 7/18/2010 - 8:05pm
A problem with the Dream Act - and by the way the assertion that it "enjoys widespread support from Americans of all classes and political persuasions" is simply untrue - is that it provides another incentive for illegal immigration; just as the Amnesty of the Eighties, without any effective control on illegal immigration, provided additional incentive for it.  Real, effective measures to prevent illegal immigration,through border control, employer sanctions, and other means, must come first.  If this is ever achieved, against the wishes of Hispanic pressure groups, Bishops, and Editors, then it will be time to consider something like the Dream Act.
Charles Erlinger | 7/17/2010 - 1:23pm
I don’t remember who first articulated the following idea, but I thought it was reasonable when I heard about it.  It goes like this:

Embark on a multipath program that includes securing the borders, streamlining the process of granting work visas for specific jobs or contracts, enforcing laws aimed at preventing or discouraging employers from hiring illegals, and setting up an expedited process for granting those illegals who have been in the country working and haven’t committed crimes (other that the illegal entry) a legal residency and employability status with a path to citizenship.

It sounds to me like a reasonable solution, but a description of it would be difficult to encase in a sound bite, which, I suppose, is why no politician of either party will touch it with a ten foot pole, even if he or she understood it.  It seems that the current standard for supporting or opposing a bill is to avoid reading it first.  Admittedly selling such a program to voters would take a lot of preparation and effort, and partisan extremists of all stripes would try to outdo each other with willful misinterpretations.

Oh, well.
Tom Maher | 7/16/2010 - 11:30pm
I have to strongly agree with David Patton, Penny Blake and Michael Collins once again.  It is a scandal not to have our borders secured.  The lack of will to secure our borders is the result of political pandering.  However the resulting open borders allows  dangerous criminals to repeatedly come into this country.  It is known that criminal illegal immigrants are arrested and serve time in state prisons  after which they are deported.  But they then return again across the unsecured border and commit additional violent crimes.   Open border allow anyone to enter the country including criminals.  Open borders are resposnible for a crime wave of criminal illegal immigrants many of whom have been previously arrested and convicted of felonies.  The failure  to secure our borders is a disgrace that is not acceptable and must be corrected. 
MICHAEL COLLINS MR/MRS | 7/14/2010 - 8:02am
Prior to attempting to enact "Immigration Reform Legislation" it might be beneficial for the Federal Government to show some "good faith" by enforcing existing laws.  What is the purpose of reforming immigration laws if they will be ignored as evidently are existing laws?  Whatever reform is achieved will almost inevitably irritate someone.  In order to have any chance of success with compromise, the feds must show that they will enforce what is enacted and they must start with keeping the borders as safe as we can reasonably keep them.
THOMAS FARRELLY | 7/13/2010 - 10:38pm
Please do not tell us what the Church has advocated.  The Church is not the Bishops and the editors of America.  No one has asked the laity their opinion, and unless all polls are wrong, the Catholic laity, like the rest of the country, overwhelmingly approves of the Arizona legislation and demands control of our borders.

What is "broken" about the system is the failure to enforce the laws on immigration, through employer sanctions and border security.  The fact that millions of Mexicans want to come here and are not welcome does not equate to a broken system.
Our wretched southern neighbor has an almost unlimited capacity to produce impoverished, unskilled, and frequently criminal people.  It is NOT our obligation to absorb them, and repeating the silly cliches about "nation of immigrants" and
"people in the shadows"  will not convince anyone that it is.

And please do not tell us what "few Americans really want". You don't know, and obviously you ignore the polls.   Your latest rant, which insults everyone who disagrees with you, is a boring repeat of arguments that the American people simply do not accept.  Give it a rest.
1343594 | 7/13/2010 - 9:29pm
Your article is so dishonest it's almost criminal! Ranchers in Arizona are being murdered by these "hard working illegals". Girls are being raped. Community services and educational resources are being drained and all you can say is these people are being exploited by unscrupulous employers. Oh, and let's not forget these children have no future! Their fate was determined by their parents not by American citizens. 
Check the polls Editors. By far Americans are in favor of using these limited resources to stop these lawbreakers at the border.   
Mike Evans | 7/12/2010 - 7:38pm
So because one party is unalterably opposed to any solution proposed by Obama or even resurrected from the Bush administration, we should abandon all attempts to fix this terrible system? That's like telling people health care can only be for the healthy. Our collective religious leaders, thoughtful political leaders, and stakeholder groups like employers and families of immigrants can be connected to work together on a sensible solution set to these issues. To do only minimal things, or to do nothing serves no one and lets the party of 'no' control the agenda.
 

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