Immigration Reform

This country was built by immigrants (after they stole the land). But on their stolen land, the immigrants and their descendants built a great democracy, the likes of which the world had never seen before. Now, new immigrants are shut out of this country. If they do come, they are treated like pariahs. Is this the legacy we want to be remembered for? I know I don’t. Amidst the shutdown, a bill has been introduced into the House of Representatives for comprehensive immigration reform, HR 15. Sign this petition today to ask that the bill be brought to a vote.


October 5: National Day of Dignity & Respect

On October 5, all over the United States, groups will be marching for immigration reform, and against the deportations of illegal immigrants. You can learn more here:

There are no events planned in the Idaho Falls area at this time. Contact me today if you are interested in holding one.

From the Standing on the Side of Love email I received:

The crisis of record deportations continues to separate families at alarming rates, impacting our communities and congregations in dire ways. Parents are torn from their children, spouses fare separated from one another. The time has come to stop the deportations. Indeed, it is long past time.

Immigrant justice groups of all stripes are putting a call out to people of faith to take action on the National Day of Dignity and Respect on Saturday, October 5th. Will you join us? Click here to find an event near you.

On this day, people in more than 40 cities across the country will mobilize for compassionate immigration reform. I will be at a march near my home in Sarasota, Florida, calling for reform that recognizes the worth of my family and so many others like mine.

The following week more than 200 faith leaders from 45 states, including your own Rev. Peter Morales, will fly to Washington, DC to advocate for immigration reform, culminating in a mass mobilization on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

Thoughts on Immigration, Part Four

This is the 4th part of a series. Read the 1st part. Read the 2nd part. Read the 3rd part.

So now that I discussed the reasons people come to this country, and why that won’t be changing any time soon, I want to talk about what the citizens of the United States can do about this influx of people suffering from injustice in their home countries, in transit, and once they have arrived here.

  1. Nothing. I don’t like this option, as I think it better to do something about injustice.
  2. Try to keep the migrating people out. An awful lot of time and money is already being spent on this option, and it doesn’t seem to be working. It is increasing the amount of injustice the migrants suffer, however.
  3. Help the migrants as they come into this country and try to address injustice they suffer in this country. I like this option better, as it is an attempt to address injustice, but I still find it inadequate. Like the old story of the babies floating down the river, we can’t just save the suffering, we must go upstream to solve the problem at its source.
  4. Solve the problems that bring people to this country, away from their homes and families, to work in miserable conditions for low pay. As I mentioned in passing in each of the preceding 3 parts, these problems are quite complicated, ranging in part from labor law enforcement to the war on drugs to immigration law. I’m sure there are additional complications I haven’t even thought of.

Number 4 is my preferred option, but very, very difficult. To solve it would mean that fewer people are torn from their families to suffer the dangerous journey north, and those who still came would find good working conditions, decent pay, and a life without fear.

Will you join me on this path? What are your ideas for dealing with the injustice of illegal immigration to the United States? Tell me in the comments.

Thoughts on Immigration, Part Three

This is the 3rd part of a series. Read the 1st part here. Read the 2nd part here.

Today I want to talk about the reasons people have for leaving their home countries in Latin America and coming to the United States. Why are they so desperate that they cannot wait for the legal methods (aside from their incredible slowness and wait times of decades)?

The violence in Latin America is shocking. Mexico is the worst, and the one we hear about most, but the other countries farther south, especially Guatemala and Honduras, are just about as bad. What is the source of the violence? Right now, it’s due to the drug traffickers using these countries as a base, as Columbia becomes more able to control its countryside and enforce its laws, and the US Coast Guard has shut down the Caribbean sea route for getting drugs into the United States.

Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras have never fully recovered from their civil wars of the 1970s and 80s. Almost all security in the countryside is from private security companies, not the police. The drug traffickers find it incredibly easy to move their products through these countries, bringing drug addiction and violence with them.

Belize, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Panama, do not find themselves in such desperate straits, but they are still struggling with this sudden influx of violence from drug traffickers.

The drugs, of course, are coming to the United States. The war on drugs is not working, it only moves the violence from our doorstep to the countries farther south. I don’t know if legalization is the answer, but I do know that our current policies are not working. We cannot expect to have limited immigration from our southern neighbors when we export the violence of our illegal drug market to them.

However, drug violence is not the entire story. Even if that problem were solved (thorny as it is) then something would still need to be done about the economies of these countries. Except for Panama and Costa Rica, most of the children do not go onto secondary education. And in Panama and Costa Rica, there aren’t enough jobs for skilled people, so the education they have is not put to work.

The opportunities, even for illegal immigrants, are so much greater in the United States that it is no surprise that people want to live here instead.

Mexico is a slightly different story. The drug violence is increasing daily in Mexico, and it is no wonder that the people would like to escape it. But when it comes to education, the educational opportunities are much better in Mexico. But the economy of the Mexican countryside is almost entirely farm-based, and not very efficient. It cannot provide a living to the entire population.

To summarize, there are several very complicated problems occurring in Mexico and Latin America, all of which will be difficult to solve and some of which cannot be solved by people from outside the affected countries, however well-meaning.

Monday, a discussion of justice and how it fits with these problems and their solutions.

Read Part Four

Thoughts on Immigration, Part Two

This is the 2nd part of a series. Read the 1st part here.

One root cause of immigration to the United States is the basic demand for cheap labor that doesn’t ask for much, if anything, and will work in almost any conditions. Most citizens will not work under those conditions, understanding their rights and the basic conditions that are legally required.

The labor laws in this country are meant to provide for basic safe conditions, a minimum wage, and safe workplaces. However, in many dangerous industries, those laws are often enforced patchily, usually only after a worker dies. The agricultural industry has also won itself many exemptions to those laws through lobbying. Those exemptions made a lot more sense when most farms were small, family-run outfits, but most agriculture is now owned by corporations who could easily afford the added expense of compliance.

Making labor laws apply to all industry, and uniformly and strictly enforced, would increase the numbers of native-born people willing to work in those jobs. They currently don’t, as they are better educated and know their rights, and are confident of finding a safer job.

The agricultural industry insists, for example, that paying minimum wage would make the price of food go up. (I know there are many farmers who do pay minimum wage, but this discussion focuses on the industry in aggregate.) I am sure the price of food would go up, but I would pay more if I knew that I was supporting minimum wages for the harvesters.

My main objection to, say, a more expensive apple versus the cheaper one at the store down the street, is that I don’t know why the expensive apple costs more. If I knew, from a sign in the store, that the expensive one is paying for better working conditions for the apple pickers, I would be much more likely to buy it. This would mean a revolution in how apples are packed and shipped, but I think it would be worth it.

There will always be dirty jobs that only those who can’t get better will do, but if we could make the pool of jobs smaller, then fewer people would come to the United States to do them, making it easier to manage the numbers and reduce the backlogs (of course also dependent on the laws being reformed, as I discussed yesterday in part one).

Tomorrow I will talk about the reasons in their home countries that cause people to want to leave for the United States.

Read Part Three; Part Four.

Thoughts on Immigration, Part One

I have been thinking about justice and immigration lately. I think that justice is not served by having huge numbers of people coming to this country illegally, working in terrible conditions, and worried about being deported. Justice means more people staying in their home countries, with their families and their history, while earning a decent living there, and a decent living without fear in this country for those who still come here. This is going to be a multi-post series, looking at the root causes of immigration injustice, and how we might begin to fix them in a quest for justice. This quest will not be easy, and the causes so intertwined with each other and other issues that it may seem impossible to unpick them and begin to find justice. But we must try, or know that we are also guilty of the injustice.

Many people in the United States don’t want to think about immigration, as witnessed by their reflexive call to close the borders to all but a very few people. Other people don’t want to think about the root causes of immigration, as witnessed by their focus only on dealing with the immigrants crossing the border, helping them in the desert and then once they are in this country. I don’t really blame either group. The world is much simpler when you look at it in black and white.

The first problem is the immigration laws that intentionally make it difficult to come to this country to work. There is huge resistance to changing them, but as long as it is too hard to get here legally, then people will be coming illegally. However, this won’t solve the reasons why people come here. Even if waiting lists and periods were shortened and the backlog of legal immigrants dealt with, there would soon be even more people trying to come here. There aren’t enough people in this country to hire to deal with the number of people who want to come here, and soon we would be right back where we started. (And I don’t believe we can return to the days when there were no controls at all over who moved here — we live in a world where there are people who wish to do us great harm, and we gain nothing by ignoring that fact. Countries very rarely, particularly in modern times, exert no control over who crosses their borders.)

Tomorrow I will discuss the role of labor laws in creating demand for illegal immigration.

Read Part Two; Part Three; Part Four

Back from Summer Hiatus

Good news! The UUCIF Social Justice blog is back from its unplanned summer hiatus. I’m sorry I wasn’t posting regularly, I got overwhelmed with some other stuff going on this summer (including an overflowing inbox in the email account that sends me my justice news).

Anyway, onto the social justice news:

Breaking News:

Correction: There will be a delay of a week while motions are filed with the appeals court. If the court does not take it up, gay marriage will resume. The judge in the Proposition 8 case in California has decided not to approve a stay of his motion while appeals are heard, so gay marriage is legal again in California!


UUA President Peter Morales was arrested, along with 28 other UUs, on July 29th in Phoenix for civil disobedience in conjunction with the Day of Non-Compliance with Arizona’s new immigration laws. Learn more at

College students brought to this country illegally as children often face deportation. The DREAM Act would change that, but first it has to pass Congress. Learn more and sign the petition at Citizen Orange. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram had an excellent editorial on the subject.

Mountain-Top Removal:

Appalachia Rising, September 25-27, 2010, in Washington, DC: People from Appalachia and from across America will join together in Washington, DC, in an effort to ban mountain-top removal mining. Learn more at the Appalachia Rising website.

Rhode Island Infected with Arizona’s Resentments

As you know, Idaho narrowly escaped passing some bills similar to Arizona’s illegal immigrant bill this past legislative session. Now, Rhode Island is the latest state to be infected. Read about it here:

The only logical way for laws like this to not involve racial profiling is to make everyone show identification, which I seriously doubt is going to happen (and I hope not, too).

Bills in Idaho’s Legislature Now

There are a few bills in Idaho’s Legislature right now that have social justice implications. House Bill  497, an anti-immigrant measure, is stuck in committee and won’t pass. However, two other bills, Senate Bills 1271 and 1303, are in the Senate and may still pass. Both these bills want to increase penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants and on illegal immigrants who try to find jobs.

The final bill is Senate Bill 1353 and would allow medical professionals not to perform medical procedures that they have moral disagreements with.

Find out more information about the bills by clicking on each bill’s number above. More information from the American Civil Liberties Union in Idaho, including the legislators on each of the relevant committees, is here:

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