By J. Kevin Appleby
The national immigration debate has generated tremendous, often emotional, discussion about the impact of the growing number of undocumented immigrants on our communities. Heated talk about the economic, social, and enforcement aspects of the issue predominates. We should understand, however, that above all, immigration is a humanitarian, and, ultimately, a moral issue.
Each day in parishes, social service programs, hospitals, and schools the human consequences of an inadequate immigration system are apparent. Families are separated; migrant workers are exploited by smugglers and unscrupulous employers; and human beings, desperate to survive, perish in the American desert. As our nation benefits from the hard work of undocumented workers, we fail to extend to them basic workplace and legal protections. Worse, some scapegoat immigrants for our social ills.
Because of current practices and policies of many
Some argue that undocumented workers and their families should not receive legal status because they live outside the law. Before rendering judgment, we must consider that
Compounding the problem,
We also must consider both the intent and effect of the lawbreaking by immigrants, two mitigating factors often considered in
For example, leaders in the home building industry estimate that if the undocumented workforce left the
Comprehensive immigration reform represents a humane solution to our crisis. It will enable immigrants and their families to remain together and allow them to contribute their talents to their communities without fear. It will also help reduce the exploitation of migrants and the number of those who perish in attempts to come to the
Elected officials must examine the root causes of migration from home communities and work with their governments to create jobs for migrants at home. This is the long-term solution that the erection of a 700-mile border fence will not provide. It is imperative that both parties and both chambers of Congress work hard to produce legislation that creates an immigration system predicated on the rule of law and that upholds values all Americans cherish—hard work, opportunity, and compassion.
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Kevin Appleby is director of the Office of Migration and Refugee Policy, for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops