Every report in recent weeks confirms that at least on our southern border the northern flow of people is down to a trickle. And it's my hunch that these are primarily folks involved in illegal activities, such as drug trafficking and other illegal activities.
There is virtually no flow of people north for three reasons: work opportunities in this country are not plentiful, the birth rate in Mexico has dropped from 5.8 babies to 2.3 babies, and Mexico's GDP was 5.6 last year [in comparison to 2.2 for the USA].
Over the past several years many in Congress have stated repeatedly that job number one is to secure our borders, and until that happens, we can't turn our attention to the 11 million undocumented people living here in our midst.
Some have espoused an "attrition through enforcement" policy so that people would voluntarily choose to return to their country of origin. Through voluntary departure and forced departure, over one million people have left our country in the past year.
I suspect that we have seen pretty much the end of such attrition. Why? Because of the remaining 11 million people, virtually all are in "blended families," that is, some members have documents, while others do not. These families are not going to split up--especially when they know that current family reunification processes means separations of 10 to 15 years--maybe even longer. Parents do not want to leave their children, and family members do not want to be split up.
We cannot afford to leave these people locked into an undocumented status where there is no path forward towards legal status. It is not good for our country nor our economy to have so many people living in the shadows of our society. We need to call them forward and begin an earned process towards legal status [notice that I am not saying "citizenship"].
Our Church has advocated for several years that an earned path towards legal status be put in place requiring among other things: registering with the federal government, paying any back taxes, paying a fine, learning English, learning USA history, continue to be free of criminal activity, and start paying all employment and other taxes. That, my friends, is not amnesty--it is an arduous and earned path forward.
Upon registering, such persons would be given a card whereby they could legally be employed in our country and begin paying all related taxes.
Citizenship? In the coming years when these people have completed all of the above requirements, they would then get in line behind all others around the world who have petitioned to become USA citizens. This is not amnesty.
Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney:
Both of you have an obligation to spell out in detail your vision and plans on how to deal with the 11 million people in our midst who need to be brought out of the shadows.
Please, no cliches, no rhetorical phrases. Give us a plan that begins with the positive aspects of our immigrant history, and which has particulars and time-lines.
Use your moral voice to influence all the members of your own political party, both elected and voters. Help replace myths with facts. Help put a human face on our immigrant brothers and sisters.
Step forward boldly to help change minds, hearts, and our badly broken immigration system. Help forge a consensus on moving this vast population out from a shadow existence and economy.
Recently I heard a commentator on the radio who was never known for any compassionate view of undocumented peoples in our country. He finally admitted: "What we are doing now to deal with the 11 million isn't working. Let's get this population in a line--any line--that will help us move forward towards an earned legal presence among us." I was astounded, but he finally figured it out. Human dignity and our long history favors positive steps, not going backwards with punitive actions.
Please press all Congressional candidates for office, as well as Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney, to step forward with a bold and detailed action plan to help end the long-simmering immigration stalemate that is helping no one.