What Do Bibles, Badges, and Businesses have in Common?
“If you hold a bible, wear a badge, or own a business, you want a common-sense solution to the immigration system,” said Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, when I interviewed him in Washington D.C. at his organization’s event “Leading the Way: A New Approach to American Immigration,” to discuss immigration policy solutions that will best serve the interests of America. Over 240 faith, law enforcement, and business leaders convened at the event to support a constructive approach to immigration reform.
As Noorani explained to me, each group of leaders has their own reasons for endorsing immigration reform. “From a faith perspective, you see that it is a responsibility to welcome the stranger, but also operate within a nation of laws,” he reasoned. As a Conservative Christian myself, this was clear cut and sensible argument. We know that in the Bible, specifically in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, The Lord reminds his people who were in bondage at the time that they were once strangers, and to treat strangers as if they were native born.
I remember one of the first lessons I learned in Sunday school was that all humans are created in the image of God, and that we are to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. As American Christians, is it not our obligation to appreciate the many blessings we have received but also to share those blessings with the less fortunate and those that are in need? A recurrent theme throughout the scripture is that we are to look out for the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the immigrant, because God knew they would be the most exploited populations in a world with many evils. In Texas, a large portion of the immigration we receive is from south of the border. A large percentage of this population is hardworking, family oriented, Pro-life, socially conservative, and religious, just like us! Politically, I believe a majority of those people would support the GOP if given a chance.
Noorani then explained that “From a law enforcement perspective, yes, we need to have law and order, but we also want to make sure that law enforcement is getting the information they need from victims of crime who may be immigrants.” This was an interesting point that was hard to grasp at first. However, while at the event in D.C. I also had the opportunity to meet and talk with Houston Chief of police Art Acevedo, who explained this reasoning pretty well. He told me that the recent rhetoric surrounding immigration and laws like SB 4 have “created the perception in immigrant communities that police officers are more interested in their immigration status than they are in bringing victims and witnesses to crime out of the shadows and forward… and what we saw from the first quarter of the year was that overall reporting of crime went up, but when you look at Hispanic names, reporting went down.”
Acevedo explained that “We have created a perception that these folks are not wanted, they’re not valued, we don’t care about them, all they are is property to be used until we no longer need them and then we can deport them, and we’ve seen a chilling effect on people cooperating with the police in Houston. If the estimated 1.6 million undocumented immigrants in Texas are afraid to give information to investigators that could lead to the apprehension of violent criminals, those criminals will be free to commit more crime that could affect any Texan.” If the Houston Chief of Police wants immigration reform, and he has data to show that it would make Texas safer, then I am on his side.
Noorani also reasoned that “From a business perspective, we want to make sure that the American worker and their family are prospering because of immigrants and immigration.”
In addressing the vast number of undocumented immigrants currently working in America, Noorani pointed out that “the only person that is winning is the crooked employer because they’re pushing down the wages of the undocumented worker, the legal immigrant worker, and the American worker, and the only way to end that is to make sure that everyone is on a level playing field.” But how do we level the playing field for ethical American workers and businesses? “Frankly the only way to do that is to make sure that undocumented immigrants earn a path to legal status, they’re passing criminal background checks, they’re paying the proper income taxes; and therefore, crooked employers are not underbidding and undermining American workers, much less businesses who are trying to play by the rules,” he replied.
We have a situation in the U.S. where many undocumented immigrants are being taken advantage of by corrupt employers who list them as independent contractors and pay them in cash to avoid paying income and employment taxes. In Texas, it is estimated that over 40% of construction workers are misclassified as independent contractors, and that about 50% of construction workers in Texas are undocumented. We need to be a nation of law and order, but we cannot just “deport them all,” because the continued growth of the United States’ economy has become dependent on the labor undocumented immigrants provide. They have been filling in labor shortages in our growing economy for 30 years, and at our current unemployment rate of 4.2%, there are simply not enough Americans available or willing to take those jobs at the rate our economy is expanding.
The only solution to stop this payroll fraud while meeting the dynamic needs of our economy and benefiting the everyday American worker, consumer, and business owner, is a system to ID and tax all the undocumented immigrants that are working in America today. By issuing the undocumented IDs and taxing them a higher rate than American citizens for a certain amount of time, American workers would be at a competitive advantage while the undocumented would have the opportunity to earn legal status. This would also free up immigration control resources to focus on targeting any dangerous criminal undocumented immigrants looking to do our country harm. ID and tax is the only solution for the problem of 15 million undocumented immigrants in America that will maintain law and order while benefiting all Americans and American businesses through the trickledown effect of economic stability and growth.
Based on the reasons discussed, shouldn’t anyone who considers themselves a faithful believer in the Bible, a true backer of law enforcement, or a hardworking capitalist and patron of American businesses, therefore be open to and supportive of a common-sense solution to the immigration system?