Becoming a Better America

Boston immigration rally, Jorge Salcedo /

Boston immigration rally, Jorge Salcedo /

I am a newly minted American. Four years ago I passed the naturalization test and took the oath of allegiance to the United States. But I had been living as a citizen before I took the oath. Those who do not have the legal status of citizen often act as citizens. They attend PTA meetings, pay taxes, and engage in spirited public discussions about the common good. Citizenship is not only a legal status, but also a moral category and a set of practices.

President Obama recognizes this. Last night’s address described executive actions that will protect up to five million people from deportation and provide them with permits to work legally. People without valid immigration documents will be eligible to stay in the country temporarily if they have lived in the United States for more than 5 years, if they have children who are American citizens or legal residents, and if they register and pass criminal background checks.

Obama is not offering people citizenship, but his address reflected on the meaning of community belonging. “These people” often act like citizens, he seemed to be saying, because they “came to work, and study, and serve in our military, and above all, contribute to America's success.” To those of us who are citizens legally, Obama also had a message: Become better Americans.

Weekly Wrap 11.21.14: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. Everything You Need to Know About Obama’s Executive Action

ThinkProgress breaks down the immigration relief announced by the president Thursday night. Who gets relief and who is left out? What about border security? Your questions answered.

2. Give Thanks; Celebrate Hope!

Offer your thanks and stand behind the new immigration relief measures!

3. The United States of Thanksgiving

Looking for some great recipes for unique holiday cooking? “We’ve scoured the nation for recipes that evoke each of the 50 states (and D.C. and Puerto Rico). [But not Guam!] These are our picks for the feast. Dig in, then tell us yours."

4. WATCH Toni Morrison Completely Schools Stephen Colbert on Racism

The Pulitzer Prize, Nobel Prize, and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient sits down with Colbert to discuss her works. “Racism is … a social construct. And it has benefits. … But race can only be defined as a human being.”

5. Thai Protestors Detained After Using ‘Hunger Games’ Salute 

“The salute, which in the movies is a daring act of silent rebellion, began to appear here in the weeks after the May 22 coup. The authorities warned that anyone raising it in public could be subject to arrest.”

6. A New Image of Black Fatherhood [PHOTOS]

These photos capture "ordinary moments that crush white media narratives and stereotypes about black fathers."

7. The Cosby Show

Ta-Nehisi Coates writes for The Atlantic about his experience covering Bill Cosby in 2006-2007 as he was making the speaking rounds talking about the supposed decline of morality in black communities. At the time, he knew about 13 rape accusations but declined to report on them. Here, he explains what he would have done differently. 

8. The False Gospel of Gender Binaries

"Jesus didn't die on the cross to preserve gender complementarity. Jesus didn't die on the cross to ensure that little girls wear pink and little boys wear blue. Jesus lived, taught, died, and rose again to start a new family in which Jew and gentile, slave and free, male and female are all part of one holy Body."

9. NTSB Rules that FAA Has Authority to Regulate Drones

‘‘It’s a huge win for the FAA, and signals it’s not going to be the Wild West for drones, but a careful, orderly, safe introduction of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.’’

10. Filmmaking a Cultural Battlefield in Iran

A fascinating look inside the politics an propaganda of film in Iran: “As reformists assert their cultural influence on screen and in the arts, conservatives in Iran are looking to a new set of movies and filmmakers to help suppress reformists and eliminate Western influence in Iranian society.”

Evangelicals a Mixed Bag on Obama’s Immigration Move

Noel Castellanos, CEO of the Christian Community Development Association. Image

Noel Castellanos, CEO of the Christian Community Development Association. Image courtesy Adelle M. Banks/RNS.

While Republican leaders blast President Obama for taking executive action on immigration reform, some prominent evangelical leaders are welcoming the president’s plans to keep about 5 million undocumented immigrants from being deported.

Evangelicals are a key voting bloc for the GOP, but on immigration some are taking a pragmatic step away from the party. They include Hispanic leaders such as the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez who say the time has come to manage what has become a “de facto humanitarian crisis” for millions of immigrants.

“This merciful action takes place because for years our government, under the leadership of both parties, failed miserably as it pertains to immigration,” said Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

Rodriguez planned to be with Obama on Nov. 21 in Las Vegas, where the President hopes to rally for his new steps.

President Obama's Remarks on Immigration Action

Editor's Note: Thursday evening, President Barack Obama announced he is taking action to reform pieces of our broken immigration system. See Sojourners President Jim Wallis' recap here. Below are President Obama's remarks as prepared for delivery. 

My fellow Americans, tonight, I’d like to talk with you about immigration.

For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It’s kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities – people not trapped by our past, but able to remake ourselves as we choose.

But today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it.

Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others flout the rules. Business owners who offer their workers good wages and benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less. All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. And undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart.