The rubber hits the road tonight when President Obama unveils to the nation his plan for immigration reform he intends to implement with executive orders. The s&^t has already hit the fan with proactive war cries for impeachment or lawsuits made by some elected officials on behalf of their enraged constituents. Despite the non-pedestrian nature of the charges, the major broadcast networks have decided not to carry the President’s speech. Rather than citizens, they answer to their viewers and already have the polling data they need: 74% on average across both parties support immigration form. An even larger majority wishes that reform could be done with Congress. We all clamor for tangible piece of hope that partisan gridlock has not totally stymied the nation’s capitol to exhibit anything resembling legislative functionality.
A little housekeeping. The Senate Immigration bill passed with bi-partisan support on June 27, 2013. It was never brought up for a vote in the house nor would Speaker Boehner guarantee it would come up in the new congressional session beginning this January. It’s been rather like watching a messy custody trial where neither parent should win.
The game of procedural football notwithstanding, the real issue, the Constitutional one of the validity of the President to make immigration reforms has a long history dating back President Eisenhower and used by every President since. When President Reagan signed the last major immigration bill, Immigration Reform and Control Act, a.k.a. The Simpson-Mazzoli Act, in 1986, it was the culmination of a decade long battle in congress. The bill itself had a serious flaw: the way it was written resulted families being split apart. Attempts to fix the bill legislatively through congress were unsuccessful. President Reagan in the end patched up some of the holes with executive orders due in part, to the urgings he was given personally by Pope John Paul II in stressing the humanity of not breaking up families in US immigration policy. Neither this Pontiff, nor this President, were the last to have this exchange.
His Holiness hosted President George H.W. Bush twice in Vatican City and is said to have been instrumental in the President’s “family fairness” to extend and expand President Reagan’s policy to stop deportations from separating families. Pope John Paul’s dedication to immigration policy extended through the Clinton years and their four meetings together into the George W. Bush presidency. It was the Pontiff’s successor, who championed the cause even more.
Pope Benedict XVI arrived at the White House on April 15, 2007 with immigration being on his first topics. Speaking directly to President Bush, his message was on the moral imperative of protecting immigrant families, not dividing them. This did not stop when both offices had new residents.
On March 27, 2014, Pope Francis and President Obama had a fifty minute private meeting on religious freedom, life issues, and once again, immigration and its importance in keeping families together as a corner stone of the Judeo-Christian ethic.
Preserving the sanctity of the family is one of the reasons used against gay marriage and while that that is not the issue at hand, that argument becomes stripped of it’s validity when reluctance to reform our immigration policy results in the deportation a 1000 sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, aunt, uncles and cousins a day.
Perhaps we have gone too far down the rabbit hole to be able to separate party and policy but one thing is for sure, the sanest voice on US immigration reform does not come from Washington, DC, it comes from Vatican City.