The Common Good

Bibles, Badges, and Business: Forging Consensus on Immigration Reform

Editor's Note: The following is a statement by Jim Wallis given at the kickoff of the National Strategy Session — a gathering faith, law enforcement, and business leaders who are reaching consensus on common-sense immigration reform. Throughout the week, the group is calling on Congress to create a road to citizenship for immigrants contributing to our society. You can follow a live stream of the press conference and strategy sessions HERE.

It’s quite an accomplishment to get Bibles, Badges and Business together all in one room and agreeing on something this big. This reminds us all that Christmas and the holiday season really is a time for miracles. It’s enough to make you believe there is a God! The country is hungry to see our political leaders work together and find a bipartisan solution to an issue of this magnitude. I have faith that comprehensive immigration reform is that common ground. And if we do this, who knows what else it might lead to.

Things change when people recognize two things: the moral issues at stake AND what makes sense. Most social movements are based on both moral imperatives and solutions whose time has come.

There have been two invisible signs up at our Mexican border. One says “No Trespass” and the other one says “Help Wanted.” Eleven million vulnerable people have become trapped between those two signs — all across our country.

They live in fear and danger in the shadows, even though they are a potentially stable work force that we need. Our utterly broken immigration system enforces unfairness and injustice — and it literally is separating families from one another. Our safety, security, sanity, and, literally, our souls are all compromised by this broken and cruel system.

Those who hold the Bibles know this breaks God’s heart and disobeys God’s direct commandments on how we are to treat “the stranger.” For Christians, the further acceptance of our present immigration system is a direct violation of the teachings of Christ, who reminds us that how we treat the stranger is how we treat him. That has converted us. Plus, the immigrants, even undocumented immigrants have become part of “us” in the body of Christ. They indeed are the largest growing community in our churches. We have come to know them and to love them and when we see how the law breaks up families, especially, taking mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters away from each other; we can’t tolerate that anymore. We are here to stand for their families and to say they are now a part of our family.

Those who own business have seen these immigrants become central to their work, vocation, and success. They literally sustain businesses, start businesses, grow and harvest our food, service and strengthen our economy, and support our way of life. We are dependent on their labor and their lives; but we have not shown them the respect they have earned and deserve. They are vital parts of and participants in our communities. They help stabilize our work forces and our neighborhoods and it is time we made their presence among us legal and welcome.

Those who wear badges have better things to do than pursuing 11 million people who daily contribute to the nation. To pursue and capture law-abiding people, except for their legal status, makes no sense. And it is wrong not to protect their safety and security instead of making them afraid to ever call upon those with badges to protect them too. And we would all be safer and more secure if law-enforcement officials could focus on the real and dangerous law-breakers and criminals, and help forge safe and legal channels for people to come and work and contribute to America.

So the Bibles, Badges, and Businesses have come together today to make A Call.

We call upon the political leaders of this nation, Republicans and Democrats, members of the House and Senate, and the President of the United States and his White House — to all stop accepting this broken, dysfunctional, and, yes, morally corrupted system. It’s time to put old and ideological politics aside and do the right thing. Bring people out of the shadows, stabilize our workforces, support good work, reunite our families, make our communities safe for all, and create a path to legal status and citizenship. Do it because it makes good economic sense. Do it because it makes our political life inclusive of us all. Do it because this is what our God tells us to do, and our hearts tell us is right. Do it because the nation needs to see political leaders stop blaming each other for problems, but rather work together to solve them. Do it for the common good. This issue that has divided us now brings us together. Today we represent common ground for the common good.

Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery, and CEO of Sojourners. His forthcoming book, On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned about Serving the Common Good, is set to release in early 2013. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

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