On April 5, 2018 in Bean Station, Tennessee, one hundred and sixty (mostly) American children lost a parent or significant member of their family. Ninetyseven immigrants working in a meat packing plant were corralled at gun point, before noon, and arrested. In the gym at Russelville Elementary, where the families waited for news of those arrested, I witnessed the dismemberment of our community, one family member at a time, in an agonizingly slow process that lasted well into the night. Fifty-four were immediately processed for deportation, and 37 were released pending further legal action. Of these 97, ten had previous immigration charges against them and one had state charges⁽¹⁾. Our church became the crisis center for these families and I witnessed the results of a cruel, heartless, and callous American value, a value we cannot disown.
American Values, "and the republic for which it stands."
Historically we have been cruel to immigrants. Nevertheless, as a country, we proudly hold and understand that most every brick in the foundation of this nation was laid by an immigrant who, at great risk to himself and his family, heeded the call, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” Slaves however, did not come here "yearning to breathe free," but they had something in common with our most recent immigrants. Slavery existed for economic reasons. Slave traders tore men, women and children from their families, and traveled across oceans to sell them for profit to plantation owners. We justified this cruelty by labeling Africans as subhuman, being without the God-given, unalienable right to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the white man; and we believed it. That was an American value, an American law. It is our history. It is also part of what we individually acknowledge when we place our hand on our chest and say, "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands."
We also ended slavery. We found a better way to be a nation and we are again called to rise above our shame.
We can no more separate slavery from our American heritage than we can separate the cruelty of our current immigration policy from who we are as Americans today. The next time we put our hand on our chest and say these words, “to the republic for which it stands,” let's be proud that we fought to end this practice that is both cruel and cowardly.
Nobody hires someone they don’t need. In America we employ 8 million ⁽²⁾ undocumented workers. There is no getting around the fact that undocumented workers are here because they are an economic need. Fulfilling this need is not a problem for America, it is a solution that we all benefit from. Like our justification for slavery, the dehumanizing of undocumented workers is a callous attack of privileged groups preying on a people who cannot defend themselves. It blinds us to this simple issue; low-skilled workers are here because we need them. This so-called illegal immigration problem is fabricated by Americans who are disingenuous. Demonizing a people who cannot defend themselves is a cowardly act. Yet, this act is the will of the American people. If we can elect Barack Hussein Obama president and immediately thereafter Donald J. Trump, then we have the power to radically change the direction of our politics. They both are representatives of, “one nation, under God,” and a reflection of our choice; mine and yours. Stop pointing fingers. We are accountable by both the strength of, and the weakness of our choice.
Why Illegal Immigration Is Not a Problem
We want our children to go to college, get a degree and start their career at the highest possible pay scale. It is the hope of every American parent that his or her child does better than the parent; so we don’t encourage our children to be drywall installers, tomato pickers, plumbers, or roofers. Nevertheless, these low-skilled jobs fulfill a real need in our society. Plumbing is such a skill, but clearing a sewer stoppage for a family, of say six, can be an act of heroism for the occupants. If we continue to raise children to enter the job market above these wage scales, then we need low-skilled workers to do these jobs. We can accomplish this without being cruel.
The Simple Approach.
Since we have a low skilled worker need in this country; let's clarify what it is. Remember, no one hires someone they do not need. There are already a number of undocumented workers in the country doing the jobs necessary for a stable economy. For argricultural employer there are unlimited H-2A visas issued every year. Other low-skilled employers get only 66,000 H-2B visas issued each year, yet they employ 8 million. This is the political fight we need to have. How to fill the need of small businesses. The employer is the magnet that the immigrant is drawn to⁽³⁾, the part of the problem we Americans own. We get the illigal employers out of the shadows by allowing them to apply for work permits for these illegal immigrants? Every immigrant that came to this country, legally or not, and has been employed is entitled to a work permit. Nothing more, nothing less. That we employed them is on us, therefore it is on us to legitimize that employment. We owe them this one thing, a work permit.
The employer broke the law, but if his business is legitimate and above board in other ways then we need to take that into account. If he is not, then we need to also consider this. Again, employers do not hire people they don’t need, so we must take that in account when punishing the immigrants that are fulfilling an American need. A complex system of norms, laws, interpretations and application of the laws makes us a uniquely free society. We cannot make the law an end all. That is not who we are. We need to change laws and show some empathy when writing new laws.
Welfare in America.
Too many people are on welfare. That also is an issue we need to address. But to suggest that in a year or so we can replace the existing immigrant workforce with able-bodied welfare recipients is simply a fallacy. It is an honorable endeavor to solve the welfare issue in our country, but it is not, going to replace the extraordinary, courageous and productive workforce of immigrants “yearning to breathe free.”