By the looks of things, it seems that compromise on the contentious issue of immigration is unlikely, if not impossible. The House’s position has been hard-line: We have to stop illegal immigration before we even consider ways we could process illegal immigrants into America properly. Some members have even demanded the wholesale deportation of all illegal immigrants, which would virtually stop the American economy in its tracks.
The Senate has taken what’s regarded as a more moderate approach: securing the borders and establishing a guest-worker program so that people who have been here for a while can establish their residence. President Bush’s position on the debate has been, in my opinion, comprehensive and responsible.
Yet here we are in July, and instead of ironing out their differences, the House and the Senate are holding dueling hearings across the country.
While getting agreement is hard to imagine, the basis for a good compromise exists. It addresses the important issue of border security while also offering a humane way of dealing with illegal immigrants already living in the United States. It even has a role for Christians who, after all, are commanded to care for the strangers in our midst.
The author of this compromise is Representative Mike Pence (R) of Indiana. I have known Pence for several years and regard him as one of the brightest young stars in the House. He is a serious Christian who is committed to integrating faith and public service.
What Pence is proposing is a two-step process. The first step is to secure the borders. His proposal would include the enforcement measures passed by the House last December.
Once the Secretary of Homeland Security certifies that the borders have been secured, illegal aliens will become eligible to apply for guest-worker visas. Pence’s proposal requires them to leave the country and apply for these visas at what he calls "Ellis Island Centers."
These visas entitle them to work in the United States for six years. After the six years, the worker “must decide whether to return home or seek citizenship. But he will do so under the normal rules and regulations of our naturalization laws.”
Pence wants Christians involved in the process and is proposing some faith-based programs so the churches can help people with their paperwork, can teach them English, and integrate them into the communities.