Immigration Can Be Both Compassionate and Just

Richard’s Note: Steve Schmutz and I decided to collaborate after he glowingly commented about my recent post on what immigration reform will mean for medical tourism and workers’ compensation. Steve is very involved with Workers’ Compensation issues and is the CEO of Claimwire, a workers’ compensation industry service provider.

Author’s Note:  I first wrote this article for Claimwire. It received a good amount of attention and social media commentary. Richard’s blog readers will know that he is deeply involved in immigration issues and how they affect workers’ compensation. His interest lead him to request that I post this article on his site. I have made a few changes since the original, which you can read here.

I spent nearly two years living in Central America in the early 1980s. I lived in Honduras and Belize, but I worked with and became friends with people of nearly every country in the region.

The people I came to know were good, hard working, and honest people. They were people who wanted to improve their lives. Unfortunately for them, the economically depressed and politically corrupt areas in which they lived limited their dreams and ambitions.

That was 30 years ago. Not much has changed. In fact, by many standards, things are even worse today than they were in the 1980s.

We who are fortunate enough to live in the greatest country the world has ever known, must grapple with an issue that has no perfect solution – an issue that strikes at the deepest levels of humanity and justice at the very same moment.

I speak, of course, of immigration.

On the one hand, I find myself filled with compassion for those who wish come to the United States in search of a better life. Fathers and mothers wanting to provide for their children the same opportunities and hopes that I want to provide for mine. Hard workers who want to receive an honest wage for honest work. Families who want to live in a safe community.

Don’t we all want those things? Wouldn’t we try to come to America if we were in their shoes?

I would.

On the other hand, one thing that make this country great is its laws and adherence to those laws. America is a land of justice, a land where no one person is above, or beneath the scales of justice.

Our freedoms, our economy, our safety – our lives as we know them today – are founded on the proper adjudication and application of our laws.

In 1863 my great, great grandfather and his family immigrated to the United States from Switzerland. They left a beautiful farm, friends and family, and even their eldest son who chose to remain on the farm. To my great, great grandfather, America was the land of opportunity and freedom.

Ninety-eight years later I was born.

I was born in Northridge, California as an American Citizen. Not because of anything I did, but because of what my ancestors did. Is that any different than what’s happening today?

Actually, yes.

My ancestors came to America legally. They followed the laws, filled out the paperwork, paid the fees, etc. I know times are different now. Things were a lot simpler 150 years ago.

And that’s just the point.

The deep divide that exists today between those on the side of compassion, and those on the side of justice can be solved.

How?

When the law is reasonable to follow, and fairly enforced, both compassion and justice can be served.

We need to re-structure our immigration laws, and remove the useless and time-consuming roadblocks that keep honest people from obtaining lawful entrance into our country. The process to enter, and the process to stay must be realistic and practical. Much like it was in 1863.

Note that I didn’t say there should be no process at all. I’m not advocating “no borders.” I’m suggesting a reasonable level of requirements for people from other countries to enter, work and live in our country.

In 1776, the signers of the Declaration of Independence penned these powerful words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

All people, regardless of their country of origin, should have equal opportunity to come to America to pursue their rights to life, liberty and happiness. But, only by complying with the law.

I don’t know if we will ever have the perfect solution, but we must have well-crafted, reasonable laws, and they must be properly and fairly enforced.

Then and only then will both compassion and justice be served.

May I add my voice to Richard Krasner’s – we must embrace reform not fight it. We must adopt laws and policies that help those who wish to come, which in turn will help us all.

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