The Edmond Sun


December 5, 2012

'Immigration reform' is just the beginning

BALTIMORE — Suddenly, everyone is courting “immigration reform.” The 2012 elections unveiled the changing face of America, and this new sensation is causing quite the stir. What a spectacle to see the starry-eyed suitors scramble, now that the long-scorned outcast is revealed to be the belle of the ball.

But let’s not be under any illusions about some politicians’ newfound ardent desire for immigration reform. Their talk show chatter bespeaks the danger of fickleness. America needs deeper change if immigration is to be a love match and not a marriage of convenience. That’s why immigration reform, by itself, is not the answer.

True, the time has certainly arrived to come together and create a fair and just immigration process. Reform must include a legalization program for undocumented immigrants living in America. It must also allow families at risk of being separated to stay together; safeguard refugees and asylum seekers in the United States; and treat all migrants with fairness, justice and dignity.

I stand with all who are looking to our leaders, both Democrats and Republicans, to deliver these common-sense and humane immigration laws. We will speak out for that type of reform and hold our elected officials to account. But a great deal more is needed for this country to put aside bitterness, truly make peace with immigration and restore our long tradition as a country of immigrants that lifts high a torch for all those “yearning to breathe free.”

Better laws are critically needed but insufficient; we need to rediscover our roots to fundamentally reform the way we think about migrants and immigration. In short, we need to redefine the welcome that we give to new Americans.

True welcome means more than allowing individuals to legally cross our borders; it means embracing new Americans in a way that plays to all of our strengths. For that, we must begin by remembering our own immigrant roots and connecting our own story to that of others. Once again we can be a people who want immigrants to be our new neighbors, and recognize how they enrich our lives and communities. We know that, when given an authentic welcome, immigrants have become successful entrepreneurs and drivers of economic growth. That’s why Baltimore has rolled out the red carpet to thousands of immigrant families and aims to attract more. I am proud to say that my hometown is redefining welcome.

We can accomplish this welcome all across this land. America has proven over the centuries that greatness, even world leadership, is within the grasp of a nation of immigrants. While the Old World powers were scoffing at us as upstarts, we were busy building what would be the world’s pre-eminent example of strength through diversity. These are the traditions that unite us and define us, and they can breathe life into whatever reforms might emerge in 2013.

So I say, let the courtship proceed, so that everyone has a chance to be seen with immigration reform on their arm. Let new laws be drafted that embody our proud heritage of liberty and justice for all. But we are called upon to do more: to embrace immigrants in ways that fulfill the promise and possibility of those new laws.

What is meant here by “embrace”? Besides the welcoming attitude the word implies — which can only really take root when individuals adopt it — that embrace takes concrete form at the community level. Cities around the country would do well to follow Baltimore’s lead by setting explicit policies that welcome immigrants and make it easier for them to settle down.

Congregations can make a difference, too: There’s great value in dedicating a few intentional moments of a service or study time to encouraging people to connect with their immigrant neighbors. School systems and curricula have their own pivotal role. From universities to kindergartens, teachers of tolerance are vitally needed. Making wise policies by approving in-state tuition for hard-working young undocumented immigrants who meet certain criteria can help increase this tolerance.

In short, we need not just comprehensive federal immigration reform but also an embracing attitude to match. Then we’ll have true welcome and true reform.

LINDA HARTKE is president and CEO of Baltimore-based Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. She wrote this for The Baltimore Sun. It was distributed by MCT Information Services.

Text Only
  • Instead of mothballing Navy ships, give them to our allies

    A bitter debate has raged in the Pentagon for several months about the wisdom of taking the nuclear aircraft carrier George Washington out of service to save money. The Washington, at 24 years old a relatively young vessel, is due for a costly refit, a routine procedure that all of the 11 large carriers in service undergo regularly.

    April 18, 2014

  • The pessimist’s guide to grizzly bears and Earth Day

    This coming Friday, to “celebrate Earth Day,” the Walt Disney Co. will release one of those cutesy, fun-for-all-ages, nature documentaries. “Bears” is about grizzly bears.
    The trailer says, “From DisneyNature comes a story that all parents share. About the love, the joy, the struggle and the strength it takes to raise a family.”
    Talk about your misguided “Hollywood values.” I previously have acknowledged a morbid, unreasonable fear of grizzly bears, stemming from a youth misspent reading grisly grizzly-attack articles in Readers Digest. This fear is only morbid and unreasonable because I live about 1,500 miles from the nearest wild grizzly bear. Still. ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Digging out of the CIA-Senate quagmire

    Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., voted to declassify parts of its report on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program. The White House, the CIA and the Senate still have to negotiate which portions of the report will be redacted before it is made public. But this is an important step in resolving the ugly dispute that has erupted between the intelligence committee and the intelligence agency.
    The dispute presents two very serious questions. Was the program consistent with American values and did it produce valuable intelligence? And is effective congressional oversight of secret activities possible in our democracy?

    April 15, 2014

  • Los Angeles Times: Congress extend jobless benefits again

    How’s this for irony: Having allowed federal unemployment benefits to run out in December, some lawmakers are balking at a bill to renew them retroactively because it might be hard to figure out who should receive them. Congress made this task far harder than it should have been, but the technical challenges aren’t insurmountable. Lawmakers should restore the benefits now and leave them in place until the unemployment rate reaches a more reasonable level.

    April 14, 2014

  • Many nations invested in Israel

    Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Yoram Ettinger recently spoke to a gathering at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Learning in Oklahoma City. The event began with a presentation by Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, who told the attendee that the  upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover was an occasion for them to embrace the children of God, which is all of humanity.

    April 14, 2014

  • Coming soon: More ways to get to know your doctor

    Last week, the federal government released a massive database capable of providing patients with much more information about their doctors.
    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the government agency that runs Medicare, is posting on its website detailed information about how many visits and procedures individual health professionals billed the program for in 2012, and how much they were paid.
    This new trove of data, which covers 880,000 health professionals, adds to a growing body of information available to patients who don’t want to leave choosing a doctor to chance. But to put that information to good use, consumers need to be aware of what is available, what’s missing and how to interpret it.

    April 14, 2014

  • HEY HINK: Hateful bullies attempt to muffle free speech

    Hopefully we agree it should be a fundamental right to voice criticism of any religion you wish. And you should have the right to sing the praises of any religion you choose. If criticism of religion is unjust, feel free to make your best argument to prove it. If criticism is just, don’t be afraid to acknowledge and embrace it. If songs of praise are merited, feel free to join in. If not, feel free to ignore them. But no American should participate in curbing free speech just because expression of religious views makes someone uncomfortable.

    April 11, 2014

  • Putting Oklahoma parents in charge

    Oklahoma’s public schools serve many children very well. Still, for various reasons, some students’ needs are better met in private schools, in virtual schools or elsewhere. That is why two state lawmakers have introduced legislation to give parents debit cards, literally, to shop for the educational services that work best for their children.

    April 11, 2014

  • Israelis, Palestinians are losing their chance

    Developments in the Middle East suggest that prospects of success for the Israeli-Palestinian talks, to which Secretary of State John Kerry has devoted countless hours and trips, are weakening.

    April 11, 2014

  • Teens might trade naked selfies for mugshots

    Will teenagers ever learn? You think yours will. Maybe so. But it's likely that was also the hope of the parents of children who were so shamed by nude photos of themselves that went south - how else can they go - that they killed themselves.

    April 11, 2014


Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

     View Results