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But it’s not all about money; the immigration debate also has moral dimensions. “Comprehensive immigration reform is a great moral debate,” says Jim Wallis, president and executive director of Sojourners/Call to Renewal. “‘Who would Jesus deport?’ is a fair question.”
Rabbi Steve Gutow, executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, says, “How we treat the 12 million undocumented who are here in many ways colors who we are as Jews. How we react to those who want to enter our borders and become part of our country says a lot about how well we remember our own stories when we were immigrants looking for a safe haven, a place to rest and live and prosper.”
Some environmentalists argue passionately that it’s not fair to simply tell aspiring Americans—some of whom risk their lives and their entire life savings in an effort to cross the border for a better life—that they should simply stay away.
Given the current, highly charged debate, it’s unlikely that we’ll achieve national consensus on immigration anytime soon. But we need to focus here. How big a country do we want to be? What is our country’s carrying capacity, and did we exceed it many years ago? Why do people choose to emigrate, and what can we do to ease conditions in their countries? That’s a debate worth having.