Immigration reform and the Declaration of Independence

Our forefathers understood the very nature and need for our nation to replenish itself through future immigration. It is at the very foundation of our national DNA. It is who we are. We are, and hopefully always will be, a Nation of immigrants. We are told by our founders that we must endeavor to encourage migration to our exceptional nation. That is part and parcel of what we are celebrating this week, as we celebrate the anniversary of our Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1776.

Congress now has the awesome responsibility and extreme challenge of endeavoring to fix our nation's outdated and broken system of immigration. They must rise to this challenge and legislate solutions that, as our founders advised, do not obstruct the naturalization of foreigners, (the "pathway to citizenship"), and encourages future legal immigration.

I would argue that the Senate has done their part. While not perfect, their recently passed bill accomplishes the objectives as enumerated by our founders, and fixes problems that were perhaps beyond the scope that our founders could have reasonably foreseen over 200 years ago. However, the Senate got the basics right; they have legislated a solution that brings the large undocumented population out of the shadows - allowing for a fair yet rigorous pathway toward citizenship should they so desire. Further, they have legislated a modern, smart, and streamlined process for future legal immigration that will both unify families and meet the future growth needs of our economy - something that our forefathers certainly understood and built into our system of government.

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Additionally, the Senate bill goes a long way toward legislating remedies that will prevent future illegal immigration - the doubling of our border guard, the construction of a lengthy border fence, and serious interior enforcement of our immigration laws. They have done a thoughtful job of insuring that our nation will not have to revisit this issue again for a long, long time.

Now all eyes are in the House of Representatives. Will they rise to the challenge? They must build on the fine work that was accomplished by the Senate, and not shrink from their responsibilities, and, as our forefathers admonished against the King of England, obstruct "the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither."

The House faces a very serious responsibility. They have the opportunity to take the Senate bill, and legislate ways to improve upon the Senate's work constructively, and not destructively. Perhaps they can improve upon the Senate's ideas in ways that will further insure the wise and prudent future flow of legal immigration, and discourage the future flow of illegal immigration. Hopefully they will build upon the Senate's thoughtful and welcome concepts for bringing the undocumented who are currently living desperate lives in the shadow of the American Dream, and will legislate mechanisms and guidelines for allowing these people to get on a pathway allowing for their attainment of that dream.

I would note that our Nation was founded by our forefathers on a bedrock of Judeo-Christian values - the values that we now know as our American values. Central to these values is the concept of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Therefore, I urge the members of the House to pursue immigration reform with these core principles in mind. While of course they must treat the currently undocumented strictly, they must also treat the undocumented compassionately. They must afford this large population an earned opportunity to qualify for the chance to pursue their own American Dream. This is not an amnesty. This is a compassionate opportunity to serve a lengthy probation, and to get right with the law. Congress must respect the rule of law, they must respect the law of God, and they must respect the signers of our Declaration of Independence, who wisely advocated for the naturalization and future flow of foreigners to our great nation.

Gittelson is the president of Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform and vice president for Governmental Affairs at the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.