The discussion about immigration is not about documented and undocumented immigrants. It is about the very nature of who we are as Americans — our beliefs, our morals and our need to share the unalienable rights our immigrant forefathers bequeathed upon us 238 years ago. The loud lack of acceptance among a vitriolic few diminishes hope in aspiring Americans and undermines the progress we have strived for since our country’s inception. Is this our Christian theology? Are these the values of our Declaration and Constitution? Is this how we raise our children?
Merchants and farmers whisper to me that they need and value their employees as individuals and they are critical to the fabric of a recovering American economy. But these voices must be raised loudly and convincingly in your community, in the papers and with your state and federal representatives. As Dr. King often quoted, "Evil triumphs when good men do nothing." While individual churches and their charities have exhibited great acts of kindness toward many vulnerable families that have immigrated to our country, the leaders of organized religion must collectively demand an end to an unjust system — a system that separates husbands, wives and children for years; a system where getting to the “back of the line” means waiting twenty years; a system that allows a two caste system for workers rights in this country. I am pleased to see young people, particularly in Latino communities, begin to step up like the African-American youth did fifty years ago. Their bravery in stepping up without legislative guarantees, and solely on the president's executive order on the Dream Act, is courageous. They captured America's attention with their votes in this last election. Without Mano y Mano in Woodburn, Oregon, and thousands of youth oriented groups like it across America, we would not be having the discussion of comprehensive immigration Reform today in Congress.
What remains is for Congress is to have our own epiphany. To do right no matter the political cost and march across that bridge despite some vehement opposition at home. As Dr. King said in his letter from his Birmingham jail cell, "Injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere... Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere in this country."
Schrader represents Oregon's 5th Congressional District. He also serves on the House Agriculture Committee.