When people tell me, “I've just got a feeling that…” I usually ask them to stop and tell me why. Feelings have their place, but when left unquestioned, they rarely stick around long enough to mature into personal, lasting convictions — the stuff of leaders.
Today I'm the one with the feeling, so I'd better tell you what, and why.
It feels like this: today will be a turning point in America for immigration reform.
And I'll tell you why. The local rallies of weeks past, the one in Los Angeles in particular, set the stage for the magnitude and political force of what we will see today.
The protests and boycotts of May 1 will not affect visible change, just yet. But something big will happen today. It will happen in our minds. As Americans watch images of millions of people protesting with a red, white, and GREEN flag, chanting in a tongue we don't understand, we will change our minds. The urgency of immigration reform will go from political theory to social crisis.
And that's when things get done.
What should be done? Believe it or not (and I know you don't), I think we will all agree, if not on everything, on a whole lot more than any Republican or any Democrat would dare let on. Let's take it step by step. I'll number my affirmations “1, 2, 3,” and so on. We'll count to 10. Shout when you no longer agree.
1) The rule of law (legality) is a good thing. Its regular violation breaks down social order and creates an environment for criminality and abuse (see, we do agree).
2) Something has got to change. The status quo is bad for Americans and bad for illegal immigrants. It is a hypocritical system of use and abuse. The best way to protect the human and civil rights of hard-working Mexicans, and at the same time assure our national security, is to restore law and order.
3) Our most urgent task is to halt the influx of unregulated immigration. The second is to establish a system of legal immigration that corresponds to free market demands.
4) Mexicans will keep crossing the border illegally as long as two conditions remain intact: 1) they think they have a good chance of making it across, and 2) they think they can find a better life on the American side even without legal documents.
5) If we eliminate one of these conditions, Mexicans will stop crossing illegally. In other words, if illegals knew they had no chance of making it through ultra-tight border security, they wouldn't attempt the frightful journey. Or, if Mexicans knew they couldn't get a job in America without viable papers, there would be no attraction to leave their homeland. (See? You haven't even yelled yet!)
6) Logistically, it is easier and less expensive to penalize employers who hire illegals than to build and maintain an impenetrable wall 2,000 miles long (Did I lose some of you here? Don't scream. Think about it some more while I go on).
7) I also believe it is more ethical to go after employers who willingly disregard the law, than to go after the undocumented workers. In our current system, illegals have good reason to believe the United States isn't serious about the laws on the books, and therefore the meaning of the law itself is put in doubt. (You don't have to agree with me on this one. Keep going.)
8) Relatively quickly, through the use of digital technology, federal, state, and local governments could clamp down on the illegal hiring of undocumented workers, if they so wished. They haven't wished (neither Democrats nor Republicans), because a large portion of their constituents believe cheap, illegal labor is good for business.
9) Eliminating undocumented workers will put major sectors of our economy in temporary crisis. The alarm bells will sound and Congress will act. They will pass emergency legislation to allow temporary work permits to a limited number of undocumented workers who can show proof of a clear criminal record and a verifiable job offer. The number of temporary permits will fluctuate with the market demands.
10) Those without this proof will have no interest in staying in the United States.
The choice is now ours, and after what we have seen today, I think we'll change our minds. Cheap, illegal labor feels good today, but as the protests grow larger we should ask ourselves how it will feel tomorrow.
Today's immigration status quo is as hypocritical as it is dangerous, for immigrants and for our national security. “Come, but don't come” is a policy that works only for a short time.
A final word to politicians: Keep an eye on your constituents. Our minds may be changing. And if our minds change, you won't need to choose between national security, the protection of human rights, and the interests of big business.
Remember, May Day is D-Day for immigration reform.
What do you think? Did you shout? Is this a practical and just solution?
God bless, Father Jonathan
Write to Father Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org.