People of faith and immigration activists around the country have their eyes fixed on Congress this month as both houses take up immigration reform. The bipartisan proposal being considered in the Senate would bring hope and opportunity to 11 million new Americans who aspire to be citizens, doing much to fix our broken immigration system.
While the path forward will be difficult, there is some good news this week that will influence the way policymakers think about this issue.
Conservative lawmakers have long been worried about the future costs of immigration reform, which they predicted would come from federal programs designed to help the poor such as Medicaid. They asked the Congressional Budget Office – a non-partisan government agency tasked with evaluating the cost of all legislative proposals – to give them a report far into the future to make sure that these costs were not hidden in their analysis.
In reality, the CBO found that bipartisan immigration reform in the Senate would trim nearly $1 trillion off the federal deficit, while spurring the economy and creating jobs.
Sure, those opposed to immigration reform can try to take issue with the report’s numbers, but it’s a tough case to make given the multitude of studies on the economic benefits of the roadmap to citizenship.
This is good news for those of us who seek to answer the biblical call to welcome the stranger. With the budget argument out of the way, the conversation on immigration reform should focus on the moral issues that are at the core of this debate.
We’ll be able to focus on a single mother struggling to bring opportunity to her children, on church communities torn apart by deportation raids, on families separated by unjust barriers. We’ll be able to focus on Jesus’ iconic statement in Matthew 25, “For I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.”
If those opposed to immigration reform ignore these moral and religious issues, that will be their choice. But, thanks to the CBO’s analysis, they can no longer do so while hiding behind arguments about the federal deficit.
Janelle Tupper is Campaigns Assistant for Sojourners.
Image: Piggy bank with money sticking out, Kinetic Imagery / Shutterstock.com