God's Children Cry Out for Immigration Reform Now

05/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Anita is the president of her congregation in Arizona; she is an illegal immigrant. Mary, a U.S. citizen, age 10, lives in Worthington, Minnesota; her mom is in a detention center across the state in St. Paul. Her father is in Mexico without a visa to get back to the United States. Anju's visa ran out some time ago, but her parents have died back in Burma and her only community there is a man who raped her. This is her home, but she's an illegal immigrant. Simon, who was born in Liberia, came here to escape political persecution, but was not granted refugee status. He is now an illegal immigrant. These names have been changed, but their stories are heard every day by those who work with immigrant communities.

Illegal immigrants have virtually no legal means to change their situation short of leaving this country.

Our immigration system serves no one well: not those of us worried about our jobs and the future of our children, nor the businesses that need labor that complements our own skills, nor those who want a better life for themselves and for their children.

For the kind of working people who built our nation, the door is closed today. For many of us, who came from Irish forebears fleeing famine or Swedish forebears fleeing households with too little land to support their families, or forbears fleeing religious exclusion or political tyranny, this American dream has come to fruition. But an estimated 12 million undocumented workers here who are already part of our nation have virtually way to make that dream legal.

Comprehensive immigration reform is needed now. The current system is broken and confusing. It allows unethical employers to take advantage of hard working, undocumented immigrants -- underpaying them, following unfair labor practices -- which in turn undercuts legal workers. Clearly we need to be fair to American citizens, who shouldn't have their wages and jobs undermined by cheap labor, and we need to be fair to businesses that play by the rules and pay their workers a decent salary with decent benefits.

We cannot afford to let this system remain broken. We need to require those who work hard to become taxpayers so they pay their fair share. The result would be billions of new tax dollars. The Congressional Budget Office estimates $66 billion new income and payroll taxes would have come in if we had dealt with this in 2006.

While there are perhaps 350,000 people in immigration detention right now, most of whom are likely to be deported, the Department of Homeland Security's goal of deporting all of them will cost billions. Aside from that untold cost a Perryman Group study showed that mass deportation would shock local economies, resulting in $1.8 trillion in annual lost spending.

On March 21, thousands of people will be in Washington DC, carrying one message: fix the system. While not everyone agrees on what is needed, there is broad agreement that the system needs to be reformed. Two-thirds of Americans support a path to citizenship for the 12 million illegal immigrants now here and working in the US.

Faith communities all over the map are calling for reform: United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Roman Catholics, the Presbyterian Church USA, Evangelicals, United Church of Christ, and state councils of churches around the country. The National Council of Churches declared:

"As Christians we believe we are called to advocate for policies and mindsets that do not foster hate and perpetuate fear and discrimination. That is why we strongly urge Congress and the President to pass comprehensive immigration reform that upholds the dignity of all people and reflects the principles for which our nation was founded."

So they will gather in DC and walk the halls of Congress, and visit the White House, and as people of faith, as people concerned for their children and grandchildren, and as people committed to preserving the values and traditions of America, they will cry with one voice, fix our immigration system!