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The newest research from the Pew Hispanic Center, released this spring, suggests that the immigration system in the United States is going to be nearly impossible to fix. This is an important realization; with a weak economy and high unemployment rates, few leaders are enthusiastic about tackling the complex problems that undocumented immigrants face. Immigration reform has stalled in Congress since 2005, and extremist rhetoric on both sides of the debate has only exacerbated the stalemate.

While Pew reports that the number of illegal immigrants has slowed to a trickle, there are now nearly 12 million illegal immigrants in the country. The undocumented population's issues go far beyond residency status. These individuals have lower incomes, are less educated, and have poorer health than the typical American.

How can churches best respond locally? While the Feds have control of our borders, Christians still have a powerful voice, by which we should call on political leaders to

  1. substantially improve border security and require law enforcement to use humane enforcement methods;

  2. provide better means for employers to check potential workers' status without violating privacy, and better prevent illegal recruitment of migrant workers;

  3. amend laws to end the backlog of immigration applications, provide viable pathways for otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants to resolve their residency status, and establish stronger family reunification programs; and

  4. create regional pilot programs for guest workers and their families with enforceable, market-sensitive guidelines.

Policy changes are good first steps. But there are more direct action steps a few churches may wish to take. As Ruth Melkonian-Hoover, a Gordon College political scientist, ...

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June 2009

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