Reader's View, immigration: Don’t forget love, fear components in reform equation

August 14, 2013 

My spiritual mentors have taught me that there are two basic impulses that move us through this life, the impulse of love and the impulse of fear.

These are our two most primal and base instincts, feelings that undergird every major action we take and decision we make. As we contemplate major decisions, whether as individuals, families, or as a nation, one of these impulses becomes the dominant voice in the conversation. When we are unaware of these two impulses, they quickly and easily take over our lives — our nation.

Our current immigration system, it is one that is built on that impulse of fear. Largely, I believe, it is a fear of scarcity — fear that we simply do not have enough resources to share with those that were not born in this country. Fear that there are not enough jobs, that we do not have enough food, that we do not have enough land; fear we do not have enough health care facilities, social services, or homes.

But, the truth is, we live in the most prosperous nation in the world. The truth is that in this country, we have six times more vacant homes than people who are homeless. The truth is that we do not even eat 40 percent of the food that is grown in our country.

In this country, we have more than enough if we use it wisely. I long for the day when we as an American people can live primarily by the impulse of love and not the impulse of fear. People of faith, I urge you to live by the impulse of love, not that of fear. State representatives, I urge you to govern primarily from the impulse of love, not the impulse of fear. For God is love.

There is little we agree on as our country becomes more and more polarized, yet we are at a rare time in our country’s life when the majority of citizens agree that the time for common sense immigration reform is now — almost 70 percent of Idahoans are ready for comprehensive immigration reform. Still, we seem to somehow lack the political will and competence to make this happen.

This reform, stemming from that impulse of love, must include a pathway to citizenship, a pathway that can be earned for those who are already here. This reform, built on the impulse of love, must keep our families together. It is fear that detains and deports parents and sends children into an overburdened foster care system. It is fear that separates husbands and fathers from wives and children — love does not do this. We must stop tearing families apart, for they are the building blocks of our nation — the primary place we learn to live by love and not by fear.

In this country we spend almost $100 a day for every person we keep in an immigration detention facility. While in Idaho, we spend less than $40 dollars a day per student on public education. We spend two and a half times more per person to detain an immigrant than to educate our students — that is a system that is broken and must be comprehensively altered. A system built on fear.

The time for reform is now. A reform that keeps our impulse of fear in its right place, something we pay attention to, but not something we allow to rule our lives.

May we look to our impulse of love as we consider comprehensive immigration reform in our country.

Marc Schlegel is pastor of Hyde Park Mennonite Fellowship of Boise.

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