The Washington Post today carries an article describing the refusal by the National Association of Evangelicals to sign on to a declaration on immigration policy issued by other evangelical organizations as "underscoring divisions among conservative Christians over immigration."
Not wanting evangelicals to be divided on anything of significance, we therefore weigh in at last with the SWNID position on the immigration debate, urging and expecting our brothers and sisters who are uncertain on this issue, and especially those who differ, to adopt a position that is Seldom Wrong.
Here it is:
We need a guest worker program, enforcement at points of employment, and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants that involves reasonable fines but also grants a recognition of the contribution that workers make to the American economy.
We are always delighted when positions that are in the economic interests of many people, including ourselves, also seem to offer benefits and compassion to people in need. So it is here.
There are people who want to work in the United States because they lack opportunity at home. Their work is needed in the United States, where many menial jobs go unfilled because our high rates of employment and education leave us with few willing to work for what such jobs are worth. Letting willing workers come here to work is of benefit to the worker, whose standard of living is raised, his family, who benefit from his income and potentially from present or future residence in a country with better services, and everyone who is served by the worker's labor.
The situation is a delightful coincidence of self-interest and compassion. So the right response seems straightforward enough.
This response is, of course, not without flaws. Some American workers may potentially be displaced by immigrants. However, the evidence is that such displacement will be rare. The fact seems to be that difficult, unskilled jobs are not taken by Americans because they have either (a) skills that qualify them for better jobs, or (b) social and behavioral problems that make employment impossible.
Anti-immigrationists argue that granting a path to citizenship for those who are here without documents shows disrespect for the rule of law. We would agree, were the laws broken of a serious nature that brought direct harm to victims. However, such is not the case with this country's immigration laws. We should no more permanently bar an illegal immigrant from citizenship than we should permanently bar a speeder from holding a driver's license. All current proposals for a path to citizenship involve fines for illegals, hardly the "amnesty" that opponents decry.
Some say that a guest worker program exercises racism in confining immigrants of color to menial jobs. We say that this is not racism but economic reality: people who lack skills must do unskilled labor if they are to do anything that contributes to the general welfare. But our national experience has been that immigrants of color have in large measure demonstrated admirable effort and reliability in such jobs, and have sought education and greater opportunity for their offspring. The result has been a rising tide of productivity from which all benefit.
Guest worker programs in other countries, notably Germany, have been seen by critics as failures. There is much not to imitate in what has happened in the German Gastarbeiter program, but the problems come not in the program itself but in the difficulty of immigrants integrating into the social fabric of any European country. The United States, a nation of immigrants founded on an ideal, is much different from European countries founded largely on culture, language and ethnic identity. We have our race problems, to be sure, but they aren't Europe's.
The economic reality is that people all over the world are on the move to find opportunity. The social and political reality is that nothing can stop them. And the reality of self-interest is that no thoughtful and adaptable person has anything to fear from immigration.
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.