Sunday, December 20, 2015

Trump's Revenge Killings "Unsound"

As if torture wasn’t enough, now we target family members?

It’s interesting (and disheartening) to see the progression of moral arguments on the political level in the last few years as related to national security.  Several years ago, the Bush administration actively tried to hide the fact of torture of captives following 911, and then, when exposed, tried to define what they did as not torture.  Because, after all, who supports torture?

Turns out, in an election season, lots of people do.  Now, politicians routinely advocate the use of torture “to keep America safe,” regardless of how doubtful that proposition is from a cause and effect analysis.

Now, Donald Trump wants to take it a step further.  We should target and kill the family members of suspected terrorists.  He thinks, without any evidence whatsoever, that this will make them think twice about a suicide bombing.  It seems to me to be a little ridiculous that a person about to kill himself and others would think twice about surviving family members.  After all, the San Bernardino terrorists left behind a six month old child.  Does Donald Trump want to kill that child now to show the terrorists that we are serious?  How does that not just inflame more acts of terrorism?

What’s next?  Should we put terrorists’ heads on stakes around the capitol as a warning?  This kind of barbarism is not (or should not be) American.  We want the world to look at us as champions of human rights, not the biggest bully on the block who is willing to violate every ethical principle to get what it wants.  When we present the Donald Trump image to the world, he thinks they will see us as tough and uncompromising.  I think they will see us as hated enemies of human rights and humanity.  Any thought of cooperation from the world community on rooting out terrorism will disappear and Donald Trump will become a poster child for jihadist recruitment.  His policy is not only morally repugnant, it is stupid.

The Donald Trump school of security reminds me much more of a mafia don than a U.S. President.  Or perhaps, Marlon Brandon’s character in the movie, Apocalypse Now, who asks,  “Are my methods unsound?”  Yes, they are, Mr. Trump.  Wildly, disgustingly unsound.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Who Cares about Security?

In the current debate over funding of Homeland Security, both sides are predictably accusing the other of putting the nation’s security at risk by refusing to cooperate with the other side.  Without an agreement, funding for Homeland Security, which guards our borders, processes immigration benefits, etc., will be at unavailable.

But look at what is below the funding debate and ask which path is more secure.  The President issued an executive order deferring deportation for certain non-criminal long term residents without legal status, but with strong relationships in the U.S. or strong equities for being permitted to remain (e.g. immigrants brought here as children without legal status).  Opponents don’t like the executive order granting temporary legal status to those that qualify and won’t pass funding for Homeland Security unless the executive order is rescinded, or at least made incapable of being carried out.  They have also sued to enjoin it from being carried out, and a federal judge in Houston has agreed, although that decision is widely expected to be overturned in due course, and the executive order will take effect eventually.

Apart from the legality of the executive order, which I strongly support (along with over 100 constitutional law scholars across the country), which option makes more sense for the security of the country?  The status quo is a haphazard roundup of whoever may fall into the hands of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the enforcement arm of Homeland Security.   This can be anyone from migrant workers to scientists who have fallen out of status, to parents of U.S. citizens (in the hundreds of thousands) to criminal aliens.  It can be recent border crossers to residents with over 10-20 years of peaceful work in the U.S.  In fact, over half of the 11.2 million estimated unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. have been here 10 years or more.

The agencies all recognize that they are simply incapable of removing every unauthorized alien in the U.S., even if they wanted to.  The costs would be in the hundreds of billions of dollars, and the economic damage would be severe.  There has been untold human suffering already in the over two million persons removed from the U.S. during the current administration.  The destruction that action has caused and continues to cause for immigrant and U.S. families, many of whom have mixed status people in the household, is enormous. 

But would attempted continuation of the current failed effort to remove every unauthorized immigrant make us more secure?  Absolutely not.  A deferred action plan, such as proposed by the President, would require people to come forward and register.  They would be fingerprinted and their criminal histories checked.  Those with criminal history would be ineligible and would likely not come forward or would and be referred to ICE for removal.  The administration estimates about 5 million would be eligible for this temporary relief.  They would be allowed to remain temporarily and receive work authorization while waiting for Congress to fashion a permanent solution.  Enforcement resources could then be directed toward those who do not register and those who do not qualify.  In the President’s scheme, this would be criminal aliens, and recent arrivals, including those attempting to cross at the border. 

With all the focus on giving a temporary reprieve for those mentioned above, it is forgotten that the President’s plan would also shift significant resources to apprehending criminal aliens and those attempting to cross at the borders, rather than the more expensive interior enforcement aimed at settled immigrant communities.

Law enforcement groups widely support this kind of plan, as do a large number of mayors of large U.S. cities.  Why?  Because they need immigrant communities to cooperate with them in law enforcement.  If the immigrant communities fear going to the police, or even talking to them, because they might be turned over to ICE, they won’t cooperate, and crimes will not be solved and criminals will not be punished.  Even persons here with legal status are often afraid to go the police because they have a relative living with them that has no status.  If a significant portion of these immigrant communities are permitted to come forward and get temporary legal status, it will allow law enforcement to focus on those who don’t come forward, and those attempting to enter illegally now.   

The executive action is a more secure situation for the nation, and long overdue.  To oppose the executive action because one simply cannot stomach some kind of "executive amnesty" is to value a random, ineffective, but too harsh punishment of non-criminal immigrants over national security.

To be clear, this is not a substitute for congressional action, but until Congress can find the will to act, the President’s executive action is a perfectly sensible, moral, and more secure action to take on behalf of the country.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Immigration Critics Paint Themselves in a Corner with Cries of “Amnesty”

The President’s Executive Order deferring deportation for millions of unauthorized immigrants who may qualify for his plan is loudly derided by critics as “amnesty” or “executive amnesty” (I love Colbert’s take that the President wasn’t just satisfied with giving them “amnesty” he had to offer them “executive amnesty” – which must mean some special perks.)   

Critics have learned that if they can label something as “amnesty,” it will lose public support.  But when some of those same critics are asked what they would do – take, for example Cong. Tim Huelskamp’s recent awkward and painful squirming when asked that question on Bloomberg News – they have no answer.  They say they don’t support gestapo style mass deportations, but what can they support?  Well, they don’t know yet.  They just know they don’t support amnesty (defined in the broadest way imaginable) and they don’t support mass deportation, so what is left?  Apparently, the status quo, which means about 400,000 deportations a year, including thousands of non-criminal parents of U.S. citizens, immigrant children fleeing persecution and gang recruitment, and untold human suffering and family disintegration.

It isn’t as if critics haven’t been given a chance to do something.  A comprehensive bi-partisan Senate bill was passed over 500 days ago and sent to the House.  The President would have signed it.  The House refused even to allow a vote on the bill (and it had a good chance of passage).  And yet those same people are now saying that the President’s plan fails constitutionally because he won’t work cooperatively with Congress.

Something needed to be done and, frankly, it should have been done long before now.  A bandage was applied by executive action, but it’s Congress that needs to perform the surgery, if only they will. Instead, their plan seems to be to declare the President’s action unconstitutional, while offering nothing positive in return.

Rest assured, the executive order by the President is constitutional.  Without a doubt.   It was also constitutional two years ago when he, by executive order, granted deferred action to childhood arrivals (the “Dreamers”) to stay their deportations.  About 500,000 deserving immigrants benefitted from this.  Two times the constitutionality was challenged in the courts (in Texas and Florida).  Both times, courts found it constitutional, and the program continued.

If lawsuits are filed again, they will fail again.  Fox News commentator, Geraldo Rivera, stated on Fox News that he would stake “his mortgage” on the constitutionality of the executive action.  While I can’t afford that kind of wager, I feel the same.  By the way, there is a good 33 page legal opinion from legal counsel for the White House explaining the constitutionality of the action, and why they didn’t go as far as we might have wanted in the action.

So apart from lawsuits challenging constitutionality, what can critics do?  If everything short of deportation is “amnesty,” what to do?  That’s the problem.  They have said paying fines and staying is amnesty, long paths to legalization (17 years in the Senate bill) is amnesty, etc.  Anything except immediate removal from the country, regardless of how much social and economic damage that may do, is amnesty.   

In 2010, the Center for American Progress studied the effects and costs of mass deportation verses a comprehensive immigration strategy that provided a path to legalization.  The direct costs of deportation were about $285 billion (if it could even be done).  There would be a resulting economic impact in reducing our gross domestic product by $2.5 trillion over a ten year period.  In contrast, a program of legalization could increase GDP by a cumulative total of $1.5 trillion over that same ten year period.  Other studies have confirmed this impact as well.

That’s the economic impact of a “no amnesty” stance.  The social impact is much worse as families are torn apart and exploited.  Neither our economy nor our national character can take a hit of this magnitude.

Yet we all know that amnesty is unacceptable, or is it?

A wonderful friend from church told me once that he loved immigrants, but could never accept amnesty.  And I said, “why not?” “What is your problem with forgiveness?”  I’m still wondering that.  Christians believe in forgiveness (and if we don’t, then we don’t have much to offer the world).  “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  “Trespass” is an appropriate word to use in the Lord’s Prayer in this context.  Apparently, we have a really hard time forgiving those who trespass over that which we have trespassed before them.

Whatever flaws there are in the executive action (and it’s certainly no complete or lasting solution to the immigration issues), Congress can supersede the President’s action by enacting positive legislation in the area. 

Congress, it’s time to grow up and work on a solution that recognizes the dignity of the good people that work among us, marry our children, and worship with us, while setting future policy that meets the needs of families, workers, and employers in the U.S.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Pity the Children; Pity the "Patriots"

It’s hard to stomach some of the reactions I am seeing to the 50,000 or more children appearing at our borders since October and seeking help from the US.  The question we should be asking over and over in this is, “what is the right thing to do with these children?”  If the answer is not to show compassion and humanity to them, then we have truly lost our way as a nation.

Unfortunately, the way Washington and much of the rest of the country wants to deal with this follows a familiar pattern.  They are most concerned with these questions: “Who is to blame for this?” and “How can I make the most political points out of this and hurt my political opponent?”  The children then become merely yet another political pawn in part of our never ending game for advantage.

This is truly a humanitarian crisis for the children and when I see some of our reactions here, I realize it is also a crisis of our own humanity in the US.  We are in danger of losing our souls, our own humanity, over our lack of compassion in the situation. 

First, let’s consider what this situation is not.

1.  It is not a failure of border security.  I see some analysts do a pretty good job of looking at the reasons the children are coming, and then conclude that the solution is more troops, guns, drones, etc. on the border.  These children are not sliding through the border undetected.  Our border security has had massive increases in personnel, tools, and spending over the past several years. 

These children are looking for officers and presenting themselves to them to be taken into custody.  They are seeking refuge.  If the answer is more border security, then does that mean they think the kids should be shot or repelled as they approach the border? 

2.  This is not an invasion.  Yes, they are appearing at our border.  They are not here to destroy Twin Towers, or anything else in the U.S.  They are not here to bring disease – one Congressman is even repeating the demonstrably false claim that they may be bringing ebola, a virus found only in Africa.

 They are seeking refuge.  Interviews have taken place with large numbers of the children, and the message that appears over and over is that they came to escape gang recruitment, drug wars, and extensive violence in their countries. 

In 1939, 937 German Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany sailed on the MS St. Louis and were denied refuge in Cuba, the U.S. and Canada before sailing back to Europe.  It is estimated that about one quarter of the Jews aboard later died in German concentration camps.  No one thinks that this was a proud moment of U.S. morality in their rejection of these refugees.  And now we have the specter of flag waiving pseudo “patriots” trying to block busloads of children from getting to facilities to care for them.

There is a very real possibility that many of these children would be killed if returned to their home countries.  The law currently in place (signed by Pres. George W. Bush) requires that unaccompanied children entering the US (and not from contiguous countries – sorry, Mexico) should not be summarily returned, but should first be turned over to Dept. of Health and Human Services for a determination of whether they are victims of trafficking, have asylum claims, etc.  This is the law that many of those legislators who originally voted for the law, are now trying to repeal so that we can expeditiously deport children. 

So does this mean compassion and due process are only relevant concerns when applied to small numbers of children coming to the U.S., but not large?  If it was moral in in 2008 for us to give special consideration to children arriving at our border, why do we sacrifice that now in the name of expediency?

3.  This is not an undue burden on our resources.  I’m tired of the people that argue we can spend trillions on weapons systems and to support unnecessary and unjust wars, even beyond what our own military request, and corporate welfare, but can’t afford to take care of children, or the poor, widows, or orphans.  We could easily absorb into this country ten times that many children and not strain our resources (and we would be a lot better off in our national character for it), and I can pretty much guarantee that there are plenty of Americans willing to take responsibility for the great majority of these children if our legal system will permit it. 

But there is an increasing mentality in our country that “not one dime of my money should be spent for anything unless it benefits me personally.”  And then they waive flags and tell us how patriotic they are.

This is not patriotism.  Nativism is not patriotism.  The people waving flags and terrorizing busloads of children are not being patriotic.  They are being pathetic in their narcissism.  And please don’t suppose that our constitution endorses this.  Remember the opening lines of the Constitution?  “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”  Oppressing refugee children that show up on our doorsteps certainly fits no biblical definition of establishing justice.

Yes, this is a humanitarian crisis in more ways than one.  The children need protection from the violence in their countries and our political intervention should aim at solutions for that – not just shutting our doors and pretending the problem doesn’t exist because we somehow kept it out of our country.  But there is also a humanity crisis in our own hearts when we despise children in need.

“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister [or child] in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”  I John 3.17

We should have pity on these children and find solutions that go beyond merely keeping them out of our backyards and returning them to lives of death and destruction.  That decision would also certainly come back one day to haunt us.  But I also have pity on those who think this is some kind of solution.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Champion the Cause of the Stranger

This was an article I recently wrote for Preacher Magazine.  Expecting publication some time in the Summer.

Champion the Cause of the Stranger

I was reading from Job recently and came across a section in chapter 29 where Job makes a defense of his righteousness (with the conclusion that he doesn’t deserve to suffer as he is), and saw some revealing things about the ethic of that ancient people.  We see the usual items, “I delivered the poor who cried, and the orphan who had no helper. . . I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy. . . . I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame. I was a father to the needy . . . “   And then he says this in the NRSV translation, “I championed the cause of the stranger.

I like the phrasing of the NRSV here.  It occurred to me that now is a great time for the church in the U.S. to champion the cause of strangers.  There are over 37 million foreign born in the U.S.   Of those, recent estimates indicate that about 11.7 million are not authorized to be here.  Who are they?  They are our neighbors; they live among us, work with us, marry among our families, and worship with us.  About 63% of the unauthorized population has been here ten years or more.  They are irretrievably embedded in our society.

The Job passage, however, is no isolated proof text.  The Hebrew scripture uses the word for “stranger,” ger, some 92 times and abounds with instructions to care for them, show them hospitality, and treat them as you would the native born.  See, e.g.   Ex. 23:9; Lev. 19:33.  As in the Job passage, many texts in the Hebrew scripture link immigrants with the widows, orphans, and poor – those singled out for protection by Israel.  God is on their side, and the prophets condemn God’s people for, among other things, the way they abused these groups.  See, e.g.  Zech. 7:9; Mal. 3:5.

As an immigration lawyer, I spend much of my time working to keep foreign nationals right with the law and help those who aren’t to get there.  Sometimes it’s an impossible task because of the harshness and inflexibility (and sometimes injustice) of our immigration laws and the agencies that enforce them.  For many of our unauthorized neighbors, they are here without legal status simply because there is no legal way to come or to stay here, despite the presence of family and offers of employment.

But from a biblical perspective I see absolutely no difference in how we should treat immigrants based on their legal status in the country, and I find nothing inherently immoral about crossing a national border to escape persecution, or work and care for one’s family.  They may immigrate for various reasons, but all are subject to the abuse that can come from being among the most powerless members of a society.

Pity the unauthorized worker in the U.S.  Abused by ruthless bosses.  Afraid to show their faces in public and seek assistance.  Afraid of the police and those we put our trust in to protect us in hard times.  Families travel constantly together for fear of separation.  Children are given instructions on what to do if Mommy and Daddy don’t come home from work that day.  In a six month span of 2011 alone, we deported over 48,000 parents of U.S. citizens, most of whom had no criminal record.  Children are orphaned and permanently separated from parents because of unforgiving and unmerciful laws.

And the harshest cut of all to unauthorized strangers must be the rejection by their brothers and sisters in Christ, harboring some misbegotten notion that they are morally unfit because of their legal status in the U.S. 

Certainly, I do not advocate lawlessness with respect to our immigration laws, but neither do I advocate passive acceptance. Appeals to Romans 13 are inadequate to me.  In the U.S., we have a privilege not afforded to the early Christians – we can actually work to change unjust laws for the “least of these” immigrants among us.

Do not make the mistake of equating our civil immigration law to something brought down by Moses from Mt. Sinai on tablets of stone.  Space does not permit me to list all of the harshness and injustice of our current immigration laws, and in the past 12 years, the injustice has dramatically increased.  Our immigration laws are often unforgiving, unmerciful, indifferent to human suffering and basic notions of right and wrong.    But . . .

The Lord works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed.. . . The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (Ps. 103:6,8)

Jesus the Immigrant

I think it is helpful for us to consider Jesus the immigrant and the Christian journey as an immigrant path.  First, we see that Jesus’ family fled, as immigrants, to Egypt to escape the wrath of murderous Herod.  Many of the immigrants here also came fleeing persecution in their native lands.  Many came in illegally because that was the only option available to them.  If we turn a deaf ear to them, the scriptures suggest that God may turn a deaf ear to us when we cry.

But I also see Jesus in Matthew 25, the story of the sheep and the goats, the righteous and the unrighteous.  Judgment is predicated on how those suffering were treated by the people of God.  The righteous fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, and visited the sick and the prisoners, and welcomed the foreigner (xenos) in.   The unrighteous did not.  Moreover, Jesus, the King in the story, puts it in the first person and says, “I was naked; I was hungry; I was in prison; I was a stranger, and you welcomed me in. . . .”  Both the righteous and the unrighteous are ignorant of who they were either helping or ignoring, and Jesus tells them, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (vs. 40)

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews  tells us “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”  Heb. 13:2.   God so identifies with the poor, the widow, the orphan, the immigrant, that our help to them is a service to Him.

Lastly, however, I see the incarnation of Christ as an immigrant story – one that we imitate as Christians on our journey.  He left his home above, as the only beloved of the Father, and “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  John 1:14.  But his kingdom was “not of this world” and he looked forward to the day when he would return to the Father and prepare homes for us.  He was willing to humble himself and journey to his own.   But rather than seeking a better life for himself, he came that we might have life abundantly.

Similarly, as Christians, we recognize that this world is not our true home.  We are, as Peter says, to “live out our time as foreigners here in reverent fear,”  (I Pet. 1:17)   and “admit we are foreigners and strangers on earth.” (Heb. 11:13), recognizing that our true home is elsewhere.  We are the ones who are “longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called [our] God, for he has prepared a city for [us].”  Heb. 11:16.  I am blessed to be born in the U.S., but my true home lies far beyond these borders.

Yet we don’t deserve this calling to a home prepared for us by Christ.  In the kingdom of heaven, we are all illegal aliens – someone had to help us over the wall (to paraphrase Shane Claiborne).  As Paul  says, at one time, we were “foreigners to the covenants of the promise” and “separate from Christ.”  Eph. 2.  Once we were not a people, but now we are the people of God, brought near by the blood of Christ. 

If, therefore, we have received mercy on our immigrant journey to a better country, how can we fail to show mercy to those who have journeyed to this country and are in need of our compassion.  When it comes to immigration reform, it amazes me that some Christians act as if the concept of forgiveness is totally foreign to them.

God says to his people in Exodus, “You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. Ex. 23.”  Yes, we were aliens also.  This is my prayer --  that God’s people would know the hearts of the aliens among us.  In doing so, we can show them the mercy that God has shown us and be “champions” for their cause.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Grover Norquist and the Senate Immigration Bill

Like Grover Norquist?  I don’t particularly, I have to admit.  At least I don’t share his political views on most things (e.g. his goal is to shrink government to the size that it can be “drowned in a bathtub.”)  And I haven’t appreciated his “no tax increase under any circumstances” pledge that has been wrung from members of Congress and the immense power he appears to wield there.   I think government, any government, has a role to make its citizens safe.  It should protect the weakest and give opportunity to everyone, not just the ones with means.   This isn’t to argue for big or small government; only good government.
Nevertheless, I have to applaud his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee as an economist on the subject of comprehensive immigration reform.   We often focus on the moral aspects of immigration law in the U.S., but Mr. Norquist reminds us that the economics of immigration reform are really quite stark in the contrast between a roadmap to legalization for unauthorized immigrants (such as is being considered by the Senate), and an effective enforcement only policy. 
 He cites the Cato Institute study of 2009 which indicated that the incomes of U.S. households would increase by $180 billion per year if a legalization plan like that being considered by the Senate were adopted.   Another study  done for the Cato Institute shows a  $1.5 trillion growth in our gross domestic product over a 10 year period for adoption of a Senate type reform plan.
In contrast, studies have shown that an effective enforcement only model  would cause a $2.6 trillion decrease in GDP growth over the same decade.  Mr. Norquist also cites Douglas Holtz Eakin, former director of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, who conducted a study which concluded that significantly increasing legal immigration would boost GDP by .9 points annually.  Economists also estimate that deporting 11 million people would cost the government about $206 billion over 5 year period.   That’s the direct governmental costs of deportation alone.  The damage to the economy of an enforcement only program is much greater if we consider the effect on the GDP as described above. 
Mr. Norquist also pointed to some state examples.  Georgia passed a strong immigration enforcement bill which drove undocumented immigrants out of the state and left crippled the agricultural industry.  He cited $140 million in agricultural losses from one season, with crops left unpicked and rotting in the fields (with some 11,000 agricultural jobs left unfilled).  Georgia even tried to employ ex cons to pick the crops, but that didn’t work either.  Alabama suffered similar results with its (largely unconstitutional) enforcement laws.
In fact, studies show that immigrant workers are not competing with US workers at either the high end or the low end.  Their jobs complement the U.S. work force, and raise productivity and wages across the board. 
Now consider this.  Just a few days ago, more than 100 conservative economists signed a letter from the American Action Forum calling on Congress to approve an immigration overhaul, which includes a roadmap to legalization, highlighting the economic benefits to the country.
You may not like the moral implications of giving opportunity to those who came here without authorization.  I would argue that there is a higher moral calling to allow families to remain together and show hospitality to strangers and compassion for our neighbors.  We might disagree on this issue, but on the economic benefit to the U.S. of a better immigration policy, which includes a roadmap to citizenship for those willing to jump through the prescribed penalties and hoops, the conclusion from an economic perspective is inescapable.  Reform is better in every respect for America.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Boston and Immigration Reform

Like all Americans, I grieve for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.  I also grieve for what it does to the American psyche as terrorism once more raises its ugly head.  But as an advocate for immigrants, I also worry about how this incident will be used by immigration restrictionists to try to kill much needed immigration reform.  Xenophobia, like racism, is embedded deep in humanity (which is not at all to excuse it or commend it).  When American men gun down a congresswoman and her supporters, or shoot up a Colorado movie theatre full of people, or a Connecticut elementary school and its beautiful children, people think about mental illness and gun control.  When immigrants (no matter how long they have been here) commit an act of terror, we withdraw into xenophobia.  Forget the fact that statistically, the foreign born are much less likely to commit crimes in the U.S. than the native born.  Forget that even among criminal immigrants in the U.S., immigrants who have been here longer are more likely to commit crimes than more recent arrivals.  Once an immigrant commits a crime, we hear calls to shut down the border, as if anyone or any law can predict what somone admitted to the U.S. as a child refugee will do 10 years from now.  We demonize immigrant communities, even though those are the ones that can most help to solve these kinds of crimes. 

I saw it happen in 2001.  We are still recovering from the wave of anti-immigrant fear that covered the nation following the horrible events of 9/11.  Much of the problem in the current immigration system stems from Congressional refusal in the wake of 9/11 to re-authorize section 245(i) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA), coupled with terrible, misguided 1996 legislation that created enormous bars to admission to the U.S. for visa violators, regardless of their relationships here.  Section 245(i) permitted non-criminal immigrants who had overstayed visas or entered illegally, but who were otherwise eligible to immigrate based on family or employer sponsorship, to pay a substantial fine and complete the immigration process.  Without that law, they were unable to regularize their status in the U.S., even though they had the relationships that we have recognized as warranting permission to remain here.  With no way to get right with the law again, they resorted to remaining here illegally.  Gladly they would leave, pay fines, and do whatever it takes to get legal status in the U.S., if there were a roadmap they could follow.  But Congress did not fix the legislative problem and they stayed, grew, and became part of an enormous underground culture.

Now we are on the cusp of fixing those legislative problems to create a better system of immigration to the U.S.  A fix that increases security, but also increases the possibilities of enormous benefit to the U.S. that comes from a better immigration policy.  We can’t let fear once more take over and keep us from doing the right thing.