While the debate over immigration rages on the national stage, a key piece of the solution may actually be much more American, reflecting the best of the American spirit.
Proposals have been put forward that call for securing the borders and modernizing the legal immigration process — both good steps — but the biggest point of contention remains over what to do with the millions of illegal immigrants and undocumented workers currently in the country.
Ultimately, this problem is of our own making. For decades, the U.S. government has been inconsistent, disingenuous and insincere in enforcing its immigration laws — threatening deportation one minute, offering free health care and education the next.
Some propose, therefore, that we simply grant blanket amnesty to millions people who are in the country illegally. Yet not only does this approach ignore the rule of law and undermine efforts to deter future illegal immigration, it's also insensitive and unjust to those who have waited in line to immigrate legally.
All can agree, that we want to end both inconsistent law enforcement and the "shadow communities" of isolated immigrants living in fear. We all want those who have immigrated to our country to be warmly welcomed and assimilated into our country in an orderly and just manner. This is why it makes sense to put red, white and blue Americans in charge of who gets to stay. In keeping with the American spirit, Americans will embrace, encourage and empower those who make our communities better.
Fortunately, America already has practice with a system designed to produce exactly that.
For years, businesses, learning institutions, and families have all relied on a form of sponsorship to integrate their workforce, to help students achieve, to encourage law-abiding behavior, or to help organizations grow.
Under a sponsorship plan, current law-abiding U.S. citizens would agree to sponsor undocumented individuals currently living in the U.S. through a formal process.
Lawmakers might also negotiate the stipulations of completing the program, such as English language proficiency or restitution payments, or keeping a clean criminal record.
Ultimately, however, sponsorship could be an effective solution because it is a local, community-building approach to integrating immigrants into society. It treats undocumented immigrants with dignity, involves U.S. citizens in becoming part of the solution, and helps build bridges within the communities where immigrants already live, work, shop and send their children to school.
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Instead of the federal government issuing a blanket decree on the status of all undocumented individuals, the sponsorship proposal would empower Americans themselves to solve one of the most perplexing and historic dilemmas of our time. And not only would such a program encourage undocumented Americans to come out of the shadows, but it would also strengthen our communities and enhance our culture like the immigration boom in the early 1900s.
Of course, a sponsorship program can only be implemented as part of systemic immigration reform. Unless our borders are secured and our visa process updated to meet 21st century needs, a sponsorship program would only encourage additional illegal immigration. And any solution's effectiveness requires that immigration laws no longer be wildly inconsistent, but strictly enforced in all jurisdictions.
America's politicians have to stop pretending that granting amnesty or mass deportation will solve the problem of having tens of millions of people living in the country illegally. Instead, we must look for solutions that allow these individuals to come out of the shadows and welcomed into our communities. A community-based sponsorship or mentoring program may be the most effective way of actually accomplishing that goal.
For people of faith, this presents an opportunity of biblical proportions. Just as this is an opportunity for Americans to display the best of America, it also is an opportunity for the church to be the church. Either way, it’s a win/win that relies on the fabric of America, her people, versus the bureaucracy of government.