July 4, 2010

The Pursuit of Happiness

This Independence Day, I’m thinking about those who preceded us. The founders who forged a nation of laws, not men. The indigenous peoples who chose to fight no more forever. And the immigrants who came -- and still come -- yearning to breathe free.

My great-grandfather Harry came from England in 1922 and settled in Detroit. Being an auto worker in Detroit was better than being unemployed in Cornwall.

As much as I’d like to believe every immigrant longs to come to America because of the democratic foundation of our great republic, the simple truth is, many come because in their homelands, they were unemployed.

Amnesty is the flashpoint at the center of the immigration reform. Are we willing to forgive those who don’t have proper documentation? For years, I’ve resisted this idea. If Grandpa Harry could go through proper channels, so can others.

Arizona has drawn a lot of fire for its immigration law, even though it mirrors federal law. Kirk Adams of the Arizona House of Representatives answered concerns that "law enforcement can simply walk up to a person and say, "'Can I see your papers?'" in this article. An excerpt:

…officers can only attempt to determine a person's immigration status during "lawful contact," which is defined as a lawful stop, detention or arrest. Any "reasonable suspicion" can be derived only through the investigation of another violation or crime.

I cannot blame the huddled masses for pursuing happiness here, though I do wish they’d go about it properly. And if a person is suspected of one crime, surely it makes sense for the police to see whether he committed any prior crime -- including that of entering the country illegally.

But many illegal immigrants have been living and working here for years, with no other criminal charges against them. The Apostle Paul instructs us to forgive as we have been forgiven. Although complete amnesty seems excessive, I’m inclined to allow a path to citizenship for those without proper papers, if they’ll admit their wrongdoing and pay their back taxes.

The more I think about it, the more I become convinced that the problem isn’t the undocumented workers. The problem is the employers. Which is why I was pleased to see the Arizona law also targets those who do the hiring. If no one were giving undocumented workers jobs, they wouldn't be here.

We are a nation of laws, and the laws we have deserve enforcing. But the sentence need not be deportation for those who scrub our floors and pick our vegetables, even if they did jump our sea-washed, sunset gates.

No comments:

Post a Comment