WASHINGTON POST (Blog)
By Rev. Roger Mahony
June 28, 2012
The author is a contributor to The Washington Post's local faith leader network.
Two recent events highlighted the complexity of the immigration debate in our country: the decision by the President to defer the deportation of young people brought to this country as minors, and to allow them to get work permits; and the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Arizona immigration law.
As politicians ratchet up the rhetoric from every possible perspective, and as groups either applaud or bewail recent immigration decisions, there is one group in the country that really "gets it"—our young adults. They are the ones who will eventually take the leadership and make the changes needed in our broken immigration system.
And why? Because they were in high school and college with classmates and friends who were undocumented. They came to know them as brothers and sisters, not as a threat to our nation and our future. Our young adults don’t see an "illegal," but rather, someone with a name, a face, and a story like theirs.
This positive reality was experienced recently at Georgetown University as The American Project (TAP) gathered dozens of young adults from across the country to take a leadership role in bestowing dignity and respect on our immigrant brothers and sisters. The focus was on our individual creation by God, and how God’s commands to care for one another, including the foreigner in our midst, cascade down the Hebrew and the Christian Scriptures. The voice of God could not be clearer nor more consistent, and our young adults really understood that.
TAP’s goals that weekend were to have young adults from various backgrounds meet each other, to discuss from their perspective the plight of today’s immigrants, and to form networks to spread across the country on behalf of immigrants.
This gathering was not about politics, policies, nor programs—the unfortunate quick sand into which most people so readily jump. It was about the faith-based values of the participants, their own deeply held principles, and their determination to promote more civil discourse around immigration—appreciating our immigrants as a real value to our country, not as a threat.
The young people explored many social networking resources in order to link others who are like-minded across the country. They challenged each other to return to their campuses, their work, and their activities as new instruments of understanding for our nation’s immigrant history and the current reality of how so many people view today’s immigrants as a threat.
It is hoped that TAP will help launch many other regional gatherings of young adults, especially those on our college and university campuses, expanding the networks everywhere.
No successful legislative initiatives will result until the emphasis shifts away from political advantage to this or that group, and refocuses on the inherent human dignity of our immigrants as brothers and sisters. It is obvious that the ones to shift hearts and minds down the road will be today’s young adults. Their emerging leadership sets aside pettiness and self-advantage, and approaches this national debate where the focus should be: on the individual human dignity of each person, and the resulting worth of each person.
Our young adults get it.
Cardinal Roger Mahony is the Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles.