As the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments Monday on the challenge to some of the Obama administration’s executive actions related to immigration, we must remember the people and communities affected by our broken immigration system.
They should be the focus of the debate – not politics. That’s why I joined fellow Californians across the political spectrum in a friend-of-the-court brief urging the court to allow these policies to take effect.
Too many people, on all sides of the debate, are reading the political tea leaves ahead of the arguments in United States v. Texas and the decision expected in June. That’s if they’re not outright playing the case for political gain.
I have witnessed too many such sacrifices at the altar of political expediency. Our concern should be restricted to the vulnerable people who love their adopted country, but are held back by outdated policies and targeted by hateful rhetoric.
God created every human being in his image. Every person has dignity. As so many try to use this case for political ends, we must look with compassion upon the families whose lives and futures are at stake.
A hard-hearted approach to immigrants and immigration will not help us move toward solutions.
Since Texas and other states filed suit more than a year ago against the Obama administration, the fate of expanded deferred action has been in limbo. But there can be no doubt that our enforcement-focused immigration system treats family unity and God-given dignity, two of our highest principles as Christians, with contempt.
It is fair to argue that the solution must come from Congress – and indeed, eventually it must. But politics’ stranglehold that has blocked legislative solutions is not about to end. In the meantime, we must have a better answer than an indefinite threat of deportation for families trying to build better lives here.
A survey last year found that 76 percent of Americans, including 67 percent of Republicans, supported the idea that parents here without authorization should be able to stay in the U.S. for a period of time if they pass a background check, have lived in the U.S. for at least five years and their children have legal status. Support was similarly strong (68 percent) among white evangelical Protestants.
More recently, data released March 29 indicate that similar percentages in all three groups back a way for these immigrants to earn legal status and/or citizenship, with majority support for citizenship.
The lawsuit has kept temporary relief from taking effect. But now we look forward to a ruling on the constitutionality of the administration’s action.
The Supreme Court’s decision will bring a degree of certainty. But if the administration’s expanded measures are allowed to take effect, they will be temporary.
No matter how the court rules, we need both parties in Congress to step up and agree on long-term solutions. Congress has the ultimate responsibility to provide the greatest certainty in the form of an immigration process that respects individuals and families, strengthens the rule of law, builds our economy and makes us safer.
When our immigration policies allow people to come out of the shadows and fully contribute to our society, of which they already make up a crucial part, we will be on the right track. When we give more new Americans the opportunity to earn legal status or citizenship and reach their fullest potential, America as a whole will thrive.
For the millions of immigrants living in the shadows, we must shake off the yoke of politics, reject oppression and move beyond temporary answers.
I pray that compassion fills the hearts of our leaders in Congress, our president and the Supreme Court justices. Real people’s lives and futures hang in the balance.
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of Sacramento is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. The NHCLC joined a separate brief from faith organizations.