Americans disagree on a lot of things. Taxes, same-sex marriage, climate change, to name a few, divide the U.S. in one way or another.
But immigration is different.
Those who differ on taxes agree on the need for a 21st-century immigration process. Those who disagree on the definition of marriage agree the undocumented should have the opportunity to become citizens. Those who debate climate change agree families must remain united.
Americans are ready for a new immigration solution. Is Washington?
As America looks forward to being a more diverse nation, we return to our history as a nation of immigrants—a history steeped in common values.
Across the political spectrum, we all agree the U.S. is a nation founded on an idea: that all men and women are created equal. That you have rights, no matter what you look like or where you came from.
And how we treat aspiring citizens reflects our commitment to these values that define us as Americans.
We may not agree on everything. But, when our faith, law enforcement, and business leaders ask us to look back on our own journey to America, other issues fade into the background.
How pastor David Fleming of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston welcomes Hispanic immigrants to his ministry defines the word of God for congregants who have been part of his flock for years.
How Police Chief John King of Doraville, Ga., works to build trust with diverse immigrant communities defines public safety for all citizens.
How John Rosenow and his family in Wisconsin value their immigrant workforce defines the future of a dairy farm passed down through generations.
Across the country, leaders who carry a Bible, wear a badge, or own a business have been working alongside new Americans to forge new consensus on the importance of immigrants and immigration in America. Now they are taking the next step, urging the president and Congress to work together to lead the nation forward to a just and commonsense immigration process.
Will the president and Congress meet this call for action?
First, our politicians must deal honestly with aspiring citizens by creating a road to lawful status and citizenship for them.
For immigrants striving for citizenship, the current maze of regulations provides no light at the end of the tunnel, because there’s often no line to get into for becoming a fully participating American.
Furthermore, America needs a just solution for the undocumented immigrants who are currently living here, contributing to our nation’s progress and wellbeing. A solution that brings them out of the shadows stabilizes the workforce and allows all of us to compete for jobs on a level playing field.
Second, Congress must modernize our nation’s immigration laws so that future immigration of workers and families is legal, fair, and orderly.
America is the land of freedom and opportunity and will always attract talented and ambitious individuals. We need a process that celebrates freedom and values hard work, welcoming the engineer as well as the farmworker.
Third, the administration must ensure the safety and security of our border and our communities through the intelligent deployment of resources.
As U.S. citizens, we have a right to expect the federal government to enforce the laws regarding who may cross our borders. Border security is a federal issue with national-security, economic-trade, and domestic-safety implications.
We need legal channels for people to come to the U.S. for legitimate purposes—channels that give us control over the process and prioritize enforcement resources in order to target criminal smugglers.
A new day is dawning, one where the opportunity to create a better immigration process transcends the divisions that stand in the way of so many other issues.
This new consensus on immigrants and immigration cuts across political and geographic lines. Born of dialogue and our common values, it is a national consensus that points toward a competitive and stable nation for generations to come.
It is a consensus on immigrants and America that demands leadership from Washington.
Ali Noorani is the executive director of the National Immigration Forum.
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