Friday, November 21, 2014

"Let Your Heart Be Your Guide"? - Thoughts on an Impassioned Immigration Speech

What is among the best of America is our compassion that applies to strangers in need. However, we are at our worst when we let emotion trump what is right. To justify emotionally-charged actions, the heart can get embroiled in anger or revenge. That can lead to murder, as police records show increasingly.  Or,  the heart can get caught up in fear or hate and make other very bad decisions.

In listening to President Obama tonight on the topic of immigration reforms I heard his moving examples of compassion and, to a point, of reason. However, what stopped me from buying into the stand he would like me to accept is that the good plans--and I agree, in principle so far, with what he proposed--are not backed by good-enough strategy or reason. The strategy to go around the law does not convince me, because I've learned that presidential actions such as the one taken tonight must be attached to existing law as an extension of it. What the president proposed falls short of that standard.

The heart can get caught up in humanitarian love and lead to breaking immigration law, as this personal story shows: 

I once investigated sponsoring someone from another country from a poor background. She wanted to come to the U.S. to study. I had this idea that she could live with our family, perhaps have a part time job, and pursue what she had told me was her main goal, to become a pharmacist and return to her home country.

My feelings got caught up in how such a move to the U.S. might change her life for the better, for she was struggling. But I had to stop there and explain why she could not do that, when I learned that she could not legally study and work on any visa. She would have to come claiming to do one or the other for a limited time. Even with a guaranteed place to live and a job, helping in our home or outside, immigration law for a visa would not allow her to come if she also took college courses. To do so would be to break the law.

We might have been able to go around the law. It happens all the time. But we knew we had to honor and obey the law as unhelpful as it was, for what we wanted to do for the young woman. That was that. I think our president should do no less and not try an end run, as I was for some seconds tempted to try in this young woman's case.

Apparently, the president could have raised or lifted one or more caps on immigration numbers in special categories, such as certain skills. Why, I wonder, did he not do that and bring in more legally sponsored immigrants right away?

I think that the president's focus is his deal with illegal workers in the U. S. Yet, he introduced the wrong approach, in my view, by ignoring more rounds of congressional talks. Surely no president lacks confidence in the proven skills of influence,the making of convincing arguments. That's why I am not pleased that the president chose an easier way, to "create" new terms unattached to any law, and to do it by fiat, the stroke of that famous yet limited pen of the Office of the President. 

Every president should solemnly and with awe do what he or she swears solemnly to do, to uphold the laws of the land, to be faithful to them, including those that irritate or may take decades to change. Every legal fight for solemn opportunities has been costly in frustration as well as work. Every important thing must be tested, put through the fires, so to speak. But when they do pass the tests, how sweet and lasting is the victory. It is worth waiting for if it is good. Not easy, but worth it.

We definitely need immigration reform now, is my view. I hope members of congress will not get caught up in chasing the president because they do not agree with him, his actions, or his proposals. I hope they will pay attention to the need for reform now. I hope they will forgive when threats or something else uncomfortable leads them into finally doing something. I hope they will let the law, above their emotions and desire to help, be their main guide as they work it out. The way it is done must be as defensible as the end goal that is achieved. That's my take on it.

No comments:

Post a Comment