June 29, 2001


Immigration Policy Needs to Follow a Moral Path

By Rev. Robin Hoover, Ph.D.

and Merrill Smith

U.S.-Mexico border policies are fatally flawed. Migrants are dying in record numbers in our deserts, in the canals of California, in the Rio Grande, and on our roads. The Southwest Strategy of the Immigration and Naturalization Service which includes closing down the urban areas of the border with more personnel, fences, and technology has a certain, local logic to it in terms of crime reduction, but it also has tragic consequences. Migrants cross deserts that are both dangerous and environmentally delicate. Closing the urban areas feeds the coyote (human smuggling) industry. Migrants jump fences in the most fortified areas and require expensive, non-reimbursed medical services. All this while the Mexican baby-boomers are working for the U.S. baby-boomers, dramatically fueling the economy and the U.S. tax coffers.

Can the U.S. shut down the border? No. Any serious student of the politics of immigration will conclude that the U.S. has neither the political will nor the financial resources to do a complete interdiction of migrants at the border. To those who suggest it can, I ask, at what cost to taxpayers and at what cost to the economy? South to north migration is an inexorable flow of humanity toward a better life. Employer sanctions have been stopped because of our insatiable desire for cheap labor and the contributions to the American economy.

Humane Borders is an inter-faith nonprofit with members from Los Angeles to New Mexico. We are dedicated to providing humanitarian assistance in the desert for migrants in the form of water stations and dedicated to changing immigration policies. Every few days, volunteers drive up to 300 miles to refill water stations in the desert where migrants routinely stop and refill their jugs on their way to work in the U.S. Federal, state, tribal, county and private land managers are stepping up to the plate to take responsibility for what happens on their lands under their watch. We invite other public administrators and elected officials to join this moral struggle.

Legislation needs to move toward three changes to get migrants out of the deserts, out of the canals, and down from the fences. First, legalize the undocumented in the U.S. as was done through the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Second, introduce a guest worker program designed to avoid the horrors of the Bracero program that led to widespread employee abuse. For instance, issue independent worker visas directly to the migrants themselves so that they are not tied to any one employer or sector of the economy and allow workers to be organized. Third, increase the number of normal visas for Mexican nationals. A person in Mexico has to wait more than a decade in most cases to emigrate to the U.S. legally.

Until the deadly policies are changed, Humane Borders invites individuals, faith organizations, human rights organizations to join and share the joys and costs of saving lives. The life you save may be one of your returning employees, the person who made the last product you bought at the big box store, or the child of your neighbor.

Rev. Robin Hoover, Ph.D., is president, Humane Borders, 740 E. Speedway Tucson, Arizona 85719. Ph 520-628-7753 520-360-7818

Merrill Smith, is the Washington Representative for Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, 122 C Street NW #125, Washington DC 20001. Ph (202) 626-7934, (202) 783-7502 fax, http://www.lirs.org

Comments Return to the Frontpage