A great country needs a wise immigration policy

op frBy Doug Wingeier • Guest Columnist

In a previous letter, I described how devastating to human beings our current immigration system is. The flaws are many and obvious. But disagreement arises as to how to correct them. I believe that a just system can only come about through legalizing the status of all immigrant workers and their families, and providing a smooth, transparent road to citizenship. This reform should include:

(1) Recognition that migrations of disadvantaged workers, refugees and asylum-seekers result from an unjust global economic system that benefits transnational corporations at the expense of common people. Immigration results not only from the “pull” of economic opportunity here but also from the “push” of economic inequality and exploitation in developing societies. The “push” must be reduced by regulating the power of corporations and empowering workers and farmers both there and here.

(2) Appreciation for the fact that, according to a recent study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, in the first decade after the immigration bill is implemented, the net effect of adding 10 million new legal residents/taxpayers would decrease the federal budget deficit by $197 billion, and in the following decade (2024-2033), the cut in the deficit would be a whopping $700 billion — a nearly $1 trillion reduction in the federal deficit during the next 20 years! 

(3) All who contribute meaningful labor deserve full membership in a democratic society. Immigrant workers cannot fight for rights on the job and against exploitation by employers without having full legal status, political rights, and a pathway to citizenship. Threats of deportation and second-class status in “guest worker” programs restrict the capacity of workers to organize and improve their situation.

(4) Militarization of our borders, indiscriminate detentions and deportations, and the resulting forcible breakup of families — so hypocritical for a society professing to be family-friendly — must be replaced by policies that reinforce the values of family unity, hard work, fair compensation, compassion, and “liberty and justice for all.”   

Only such an immigration policy will be worthy of a nation that likes to think of itself as “great.” Let’s demand that our representatives in Washington recognize the benefits, put aside partisan wrangling, rise to the occasion, and pass such a policy.

(Wingeier is a retired college professor and Methodist minister who lives at Lake Junaluska.)

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