The following article is reprinted from one published in the Light Omega Newsletter in January, 2006. It is as relevant today as it was then, and may be helpful in holding the current immigration debate in a broader perspective.
What do we take in? How do we protect what’s inside? What are boundaries for?
The national debate concerning immigration looks at external factors that relate to economic enhancement or economic deprivation caused by the inflow of immigrants into this country. Some hold the view that wages that are taken by illegal immigrants could go to American workers. Others hold the view that our economy benefits from hiring those who are willing to take substandard employment. The question of immigration, however, is not an economic one, but a spiritual and moral one. It relates to the picture we hold of what our country is about and what its purpose is. The economics of immigration policy need to stand behind our moral commitment to fulfill the ideals of a nation whose founding charter included a vision of a republic that was open to all, where men and women could work for a living and better themselves, irrespective of what skills they possessed or where they came from. This human betterment — the giving of liberty of choice and opportunity to as many as lived within her shores — was and is the destiny of America.
It is both the factor of economic restriction caused by a shrinking American labor market that is willing to work at low wages, combined with the factor of a class of wealthy entrepreneurs who want to make increasing profits from their corporate enterprises, which cause the loud debate over immigration — over the amount of dollars that illegal immigrants take out of the national economy in goods and services that others provide.
In reality, the wealthy of this country take much more out of the national economy than the relatively poor. The wealthy are more responsible for usurping a higher portion of national wealth that could be redistributed in an equitable way than the poor, however great their numbers. The wealthy, even if they make up only the top 1% or 2% of the population, use up a far greater portion of national resources, dollars, goods and services that others provide, than the very poor.
The policy of opening our borders and our hearts to others is not just about economics. It is also about the value of human life and the promise of this country in its founding vision to support and enhance each human life. This promise is accompanied by an equally strong conviction, upheld throughout the history of judicial involvement in this area, that the rights of minorities would not be violated no matter what the reason for that violation.
Additionally, the policy of opening our borders and our hearts to others is not just about economics. It is also about the value of human life and the promise of this country in its founding vision to support and enhance each human life. This promise is accompanied by an equally strong conviction, upheld throughout the history of judicial involvement in this area, that the rights of minorities would not be violated no matter what the reason for that violation. It is for this reason as well, that the rights of those who have been compelled to enter this country illegally, must be protected.
America is a vast country and it is founded on a vast vision. Part of the erosion of principle that we see so greatly pervading the ideological landscape today, also occurs within the immigration debate. To reduce the issue to a matter of economics reconfigures it so that the issue is no longer about peoplebut about money, and not just about money, but about the desire of the very rich to stay in the same relationship with the pyramid of wealth as they have in the past. This pyramid needs to be addressed, more than does the immigration policy of the United States need to be changed. Opening our borders to immigrants who seek a better life will not limit the progress that American workers can make in their own lives, economically or in any other way. What limits this progress is the greed that is rampant at the top of the economic pyramid, and also, as part of that greed, the increasing amount of outsourcing of labor that is taking place to markets abroad that offer very cheap labor pools. Rather than reject those who have arrived within America’s shores to seek self-betterment and betterment for their families, it would be better to look at the economic issues involved with greed and outsourcing of labor as intimately connected with why this debate about immigration is happening at all. The desire of the wealthy is to continue the practices that keep them wealthy while minimizing the risk that anything will need to be changed. This is not the America of the founding fathers. This is an America that has grown out of technological advances which placed it at the head of developing countries in terms of what it could produce. It is an America in need of a recommitment to its founding vision.
See also: http://www.theodora.com/debate.html In Focus: The Immigration Debate, A Project of the Institute for Policy Studies and the Interhemispheric Resource Center(1997).