Webster’s dictionary defines “amnesty” as “a general pardon for offenses, especially political offenses, against a government, often granted before any trial or conviction.” Unfortunately, far too many others define it as the only possible thing anyone means when calling for “immigration reform,” as Focus on the Family did this week.
The emotion behind the assumption is understandable. Immigration reform remains a hotly contested issue that stirs up a great deal of passion on all sides. At Focus on the Family, we have a wide range of perspectives as to what might solve what is clearly a problem in the way we treat and ought to treat non-citizens within our borders, and none of them involves “amnesty.”
Too often those who offer a biblical perspective have in mind only the compassionate “welcome the stranger” passages. But the New Testament also recognizes the rule of civil law, and we draw from both perspectives, sharpened by our ministry calling to protect and nurture the nuclear family.
Therefore, our principles are these:
1. Strive to keep families together as they comply with entrance requirements. Wait times for proper documentation ought to minimize separation of immediate family members. The delays now are unconscionable, and are a source of tremendous stress on families.
2. Be fair to taxpayers. Laws should be enforced against those who hire workers unlawfully in order to avoid paying taxes, offering adequate workplace conditions, and properly compensating workers.
3. Appropriately match immigrant admittance with our nation’s ability to absorb and respond to labor needs. We urge that visa processing be made to work so that workers who wait in line can do so in a line that actually moves, giving them incentive to abide by the law.
4. Commit to protect the border with resources, human and technological, that are adequate to the task. We believe that points 1 through 4 comprise the best methods of protecting our borders, by reducing incentives for illegal crossings.
5. Create a path to legal status for those who are here without proper documentation and who are willing to come forth, identify themselves, and pay appropriate fines for having transgressed our laws.
Let me pause on that last point. Pastors who minister to Hispanic congregations tell us that breadwinners here without legal status would be more likely to face the music, had they only this assurance: that they wouldn’t be immediately arrested and deported, leaving their families destitute.
What does that mean? Citizenship? Of course not. Amnesty? See paragraph one. Get in the “back of the line”? Almost certainly. What we espouse are principles, and they are a long way from legislation. Many long and hard discussions lie ahead.
But I hope everyone will agree that breaking up families will only throw more dependents on the welfare system and weaken the institution that is the backbone of our society. The folly of doing so is abundantly clear.
— Tom Minnery is senior vice president of government and public policy for Focus on the Family and executive director of CitizenLink, Focus’s sister organization.