Written by Staff
This is a historic moment for our Texas delegates to the U.S. House of Representatives. They have before them the opportunity to support the neighborhoods, congregations, and businesses that make up the greater Dallas area by passing a fair, commonsense immigration reform bill.
To truly strengthen our economy and community, the bill must offer real border security; provide fast access to work permits for those seeking to labor here legally; offer a path to legal residency for those already here (including, if appropriate, a roadmap to citizenship); and grant citizenship to those who were brought here as blameless young children.
Of course, if it were that simple, it wouldn’t have taken all these years to fix our broken immigration system. As pastor of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Irving, I’ve observed that part of what’s holding up solutions is that the immigration debate tends to magnify perspectives and judgments at the extremes.
But extremism neither solves problems nor reflects American values. Once we permit ourselves to wander into the borderland at either extreme—either the extreme that fails to recognize the need to protect our citizens from those who intend to do harm, or the extreme that vilifies people simply for who they are and where they were born—we showcase the worst of the democratic process. Thankfully, these extremes did not stop the Senate from passing just and compassionate immigration reform, but extreme rhetoric continues to lead to pain for real people every day until reform becomes a reality.
So where should the debate focus? On preserving the welcoming values that made us who we are. America is composed almost entirely of immigrants. The Statue of Liberty’s inscription reads, in part: "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."
We believe in being a place where people can come and live free and make a contribution. This has been a welcoming land that allowed our ancestors to live and prosper. I believe that this position of “welcoming the stranger among us” is held high by Holy Scripture. We can do this even as we protect our borders from those who would harm us.
I make these observations as someone who’s shared the pain of people harmed by this broken system. In the congregation I serve, we have seen families split apart. These include the young son of one family, who was brought here without papers as a child. He graduated from high school here, but when he was stopped for a simple traffic violation, he was deported to a country he hardly knew. This action ripped apart a family. The pain felt by him, his loved ones, and for those that cared for them was unbearable. Countless people like them live with fear and sadness.
All of us—in Dallas, our state, and our nation—suffer when our neighbors suffer, and all of us can benefit from reform. Right now, we invest huge resources in policing, rather than proactively celebrating, the blessings God has given to us in these neighbors. Imagine what things would be like if decent, hard-working people did not have to live as criminals simply because they were compelled to cross the border to feed and shelter their families! The blessings to us and to these “strangers among us” would free us to focus our energies in positive directions and allow us to continue to be the beacon of hope to the world. Democracy would be lifted up as a just and compassionate system of governance that truly honors God and the neighbor.
As our representatives debate in Washington, D.C., I hope they’ll hear from my fellow Texans what I’m expressing today: It’s time to fix the immigration system, in a humane way that’s good for families, businesses, congregations, and communities like Dallas.
Rev. Eloy S. González