I am writing this letter to you today, to represent the Latino population that I serve. Nothing sparks a more hotly contested public debate and is a more highly politicized issue than immigration reform. I too want to serve those under my watch.
As CEO of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) I need to share my concerns and those of the 40,000 churches, the dozens of community agencies and the millions of its members regarding the millions of immigrants caught in the inefficient system of immigration of our country.
As people of faith, NHCLC supports lawful legislation that is just and righteous. We also stand in favor of “the stranger” amongst us, according to Scripture. NHCLC’s role is one of an “insider-outsider.” It stands for righteousness and justice.
I was born in New Mexico of a mother, whose ancestors came from Spain prior to the Mexican American war, and of a father, who migrated from Mexico. I learned most of my U.S. history as I helped my father become a U.S. citizen. Discussions about “the border” were common. I have witnessed the transition in this country’s policy change from migrants (circularity) to immigrants and the change of our attitudes from workers to terrorists, albeit 9/11. I continue to live in a Latino community to listen and experience the fruits of immigration past and present. The most heart-wrenching stories are those regarding the affect and effect this issue has on families.
Here are but a few other concerns I hear in the community:
Administration Inconsistency: This nation’s immigration policies have extended special and unique immigration benefits to Canada, Cuba and has failed to extend similar privilege to those of the other American, especially Mexico. This favoritism is commonly heard in our neighborhood conversations.
The Quagmire: As Americans we are taught “to play by the rules.” What are the rules? The answer is: “the law, and everybody must respect it.” To Mexicans, primarily, this is an American fiction. People stand in line in consular agencies or a U.S. Embassy abroad only to find out the rules and/or the laws have changed, count-less times. Moreover, the “rules” are different from the “laws”. So which is it? Today’s law or yesterday’s rules? Theprevailing message is, there are rules and laws for others and those for Mexicans. There are laws that have alternately authorized and prohibited immigration and there are rules that have always allowed and encouraged immigration. Expediency allows us to look the other way!A Conflict of Interest. We understand the greatest challenge stems not so much from a quantitative expansion of the flow of migrants as their metamorphosis from seasonal migrants to permanent settlers. On the other hand, every administration has told us of the need for foreign labor at home and yet our major corporations are going elsewhere hiring workers in foreign nations. What the world sees is Americas’ version of “Wanting to eat its cake and having it too?”
The Elephant in the room: The fineness and disguise of the Bush administration decision to “bleed” the undocumented into legal status through the temporary-worker program. The American economy needs foreign labor but those who are here unlawfully should not be rewarded. And those who do come should go home when they finish their work. So which is it??? Not withstanding his “turnstile theory”, George Bush’s attitude and discourse on immigration (his broken Spanish) made inroads in a traditional democratic electorate. This was for a short term until the contradiction was perceived, i.e., the several monkey wrenches thrown into the McCain-Kennedy machinery, largely as a result of Bush’s lackadaisical attitude and reticence to spend political capital on the issue.
As members of Congress, you represent the largest racial and ethnic constituencies in the nation and you have the best opportunity to have greatest effect on the lives of people here in California, across the nation and Puerto Rico. I urge all of you to vote toward expediting the Immigration reform bill. Please stop the“kicking the can down the street!” Ya basta! Enough is enough!
Dr. Jesse Miranda, CEO
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference