The Common Good

Cleaning Up the Toy Room (and Immigration)

Often when I ask my kids to clean the toy room, one of them will sit in the couch, arms crossed, and claim that she has already cleaned out all "her" toys, and the remaining ones are all her brother's. In the annoying role of a parent, I try to point a few things:

  1. The toy room is still a mess;
  2. Who the toys "belong" to doesn't automatically reveal who has been playing with them;
  3. Due to the nature of how toys are acquired, property isn't always a clear-cut affair (i.e. many toys belong to both brother and sister).

When it comes to immigration, the one assertion on which both sides are in universal agreement is that our current system isn't working -- "broken" is the most-used adjective, no matter the perspective. The toy room is a mess. The disagreements, however, arise when we discuss how to clean it up.

However we clean it up, we must recognize some of those same annoying details above:

  1. The system is still broken -- and unlike a messy toy room, its state does threaten the well-being and very life of many;
  2. Where people "belong" (i.e., where their citizenship is) doesn't automatically reveal who has been benefiting from their work and labor. When it comes to many of those who work in the United States without proper documentation, both their countries of origin and the United States have and do benefit from their labor;
  3. By the nature of being human, "belonging" isn't always a clear-cut affair -- the vast majority of those who are undocumented are related, fall in love, or are otherwise connected to both immigrants and citizens who are documented in the United States.

We are deeply interconnected and must always remember -- as the discussions get heated -- that we are talking about human beings.

Rev. David Vásquez is a campus pastor at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. He recently completed a yearlong sabbatical exploring how biblical stories of migration can shed light on the current debate over immigration policy and reform.This blog was originally posted at Migrating Faith, a project with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

+ CCIR: Sign up for "On the Move" on August 12, a webinar with Rev. David Vasquez on immigration stories and ministry.

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