The ongoing national debate over the fate and status of undocumented immigrants is an extremely noisy phenomenon. I mean, if you listen to the talk shows and lots of media interviews, you might get the feeling that the entire nation is ready to remove the inspirational inscription from the base of the Statue of Liberty!
I've decided that the majority of Americans do want to see the borders secured and the law, whatever its requirements, obeyed.
What is being overlooked, I believe due to the rumble and chaos of most reports on the debate, is that most of us would like to see new, fair policy put in place that would allow immigrants from Mexico and other nations south of our national borders remain in the country permanently.
A recent Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg Poll reveals this, in fact, is the case with the majority of U. S. citizens.
Sixty per cent (62% of Republican voters and 64% among Democrats) of those polled favor allowing the undocumented who have not committed crimes to stay in the country and become citizens if they pay fines, learn English and meet other requirements.
Forty-six percent believe that undocumented immigrants should be able to receive emergency medical treatment in our hospitals. Forty per cent agreed that immigrant children should be allowed to attend public schools. Almost one of four felt that some sort of limited driver's license might be a good idea.
Listening to a CNN report on the findings of this poll, I noted that most who called in or emailed opinions were vehemently opposed to the majority opinions expressed by those who took part in the poll. Out here in inner city communities where a growing number of immigrants reside, work and raise their families, we see the problem much differently than the angry callers who just want to "pack 'em up and send 'em back" to wherever.
Even the headline in my Dallas Morning News spun the data negative ("Many would deny illegal migrants social services," 14A, Thursday, December 6, 2007) in spite of the fact that most respondents favored more welcoming treatment of the undocumented.
A couple of weeks ago I opened my morning paper to read a front page story of a woman who I've known for years here in Dallas. She attended a Park Cities church for years and that is where I met her. She had organized an entire movement of "concerned citizens," many of them from local churches, to stand against the horrible threat of law-breaking, criminal immigrants and their deplorable children.
Disappointing, indeed, at least as I reflect on how my faith informs my heart regarding my response to immigrant residents of my city and my neighborhood. (Sorry, but the whole "what would Jesus do" question crosses my mind just here, as well as my father's stories about hard working Mexican farm hands drawn from his memory of experiences over 60 years ago.)
The recent poll gave me some new hope. Maybe most loyal Americans look at the issue much differently than my old friend from church.