Saturday 13 October 2007

Refocusing the Immigration Reform Debate - Nationally & Locally

Below you will find an important and nuanced analysis often missing in the current immigration debate - as exemplified by a very well-attended forum I attended this past Monday at Notre Dame University.

I share the piece below with fellow Goshen Ministerial Association members (and others) today because it contributes to the ongoing public discussion and debate within our own community of Goshen -- calling forth the best wisdom and leadership skills that we can muster in a community increasingly polarized by this issue!

This has also become a key campaign issue in the race between our current mayor, Allan Kauffman, a Democrat, running for reelection, and his opponent, Mark Huser, a well-liked Republican candidate who is currently our city's D.A.R.E. program coordinator and an officer employed by our Police Department. (Most think its going to be a very close race.)

Mayor Kauffman is a friend and skillful politician, actually one of my neighbors now -- he and his wife Carol live only two blocks away from where I and my wife Carole Anne now live, in what our neighborhood association have somewhat tongue-in-cheek called "The Best Dam Neighborhood Association!" (The BDNA has gotten into the news a lot lately -- but that's a whole different story!)

His opponent, the DARE officer, I don't know as well -- but his wife is actually has also been a personal friend of mine for years -- as the Activities Director of a prominent local extended care facility now called "The Courtyards." She has called on me from time to time over the years with referrals for spiritual care needs there -- which I've tried to address personally or via other hospice volunteer chaplains on my care team, and the like.

Recently our GMA executive committee has decided to host a forum at our regular monthly meeting, next Thursday noon, when the main agenda will be to listen to and engage in this and other issues with both of these candidates for Mayor.

We plan to start out by asking the mayoral candidates to speak about how they view the churches' role in the community -- rather than just present their 'platform'. It connects with us directly. And while we are eating together at the beginning of our time together we'll be inviting small groupings of pastors (depending on our table configuration) to each decide on a question to ask the candidates. It will be an effort to get our politically diverse group of pastors to talk some together and also offer questions that come from a group rather than just one person.

By the way, there will also be a "Town Meeting" on "the immigration issue" next Thursday evening, (October 18) 6:30 p.m. -- the same day as the mayoral candidates' appearance at the GMA. The location is "Downtown @ 808" (the former Goshen Theater). Mayor Kauffman plans to talk about what he and other city leaders are doing locally, what we aren't doing, then field questions, answers, and discussion. The Police Chief will be there. Also, representatives from Congressman Lugar's, Bayh's, Donnelly's and Souder's offices, have been invited to attend (although confirmation has not been received from any of them by the time the message was sent to me by Mayor Kauffman yesterday.)

Well, I hope this opens a window on how I'm currently trying to engage my own faith and spiritual leadership within the local political "situation" on an issue of national importance, but with great local implications, as well. It involves engaging hearts and minds with key questions such as "What sort of community do we want to become in the future, and how do we best work at fulfilling that vision together?"

Comments are welcome, particularly your response to David Cahn's essay...

-Clair Hochstetler, President of the GMA

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Reynaldo Hernandez <>
Date: Oct 11, 2007 11:32 AM
Subject: Re: Refocusing the Immigration Reform Debate

To all this I can say "Amen!"

The economic forces driving economic migration (which is the primary motive) are a sadly-neglected part of the debate, for the most part. Even at the Forum held at Notre Dame earlier this week, not one word was said about how US economic and trade policy drive the flow of immigrants northward. And this was a forum including such luminaries as Ray Suarez (PBS), a US Senator, the governor of Arizona, the Mayor of Hazleton PA (who wants to lay all the crime problems in Hazleton at the feet of "illegal" immigrants -- let's stick to "undocumented," shall we) and a Catholic bishop.

As if all this was not bad enough, another ND event at the Hesburgh auditorium featured a filmmaker who documented how the maquiladores are part of a system which oppresses primarily women, are related (either directly or indirectly) to the murder of many women, and is implicitly linked to a black market in human organs for transplant.

If the trend is not stopped and reversed, it will simply accelerate the decline of American empire. We are crumbling from within, and oppressive measures offer false hope for shoring up the structure.

Pogo was right: "We have met the enemy, and they are us."

Reynaldo Hernandez
Clair Hochstetler wrote: Here is a thought provoking analysis for those of us who are trying to keep apace with developments on this issue. --Clair Hochstetler, Goshen, IN

September 2007
Refocusing Immigration Reform Debate
by David Cahn

David Cahn is a community organizer with Community to Community Development and a grandson of immigrants. He can be contacted at

Immigration reform died in Congress for a second time this past June and probably won't be approached again on a federal level until we have a new occupant in the Oval Office. Instead of quieting down though, the debate over immigration reform has only intensified and spilled over into cities, counties and states across the nation. The battle over immigration is now down to the local level as Minutemen-type groups are pushing for a variety of anti-immigrant ordinances.

While some elected officials and right-wing pundits have distracted people with talk of individual border crossers being the root of our ills, few people have publicly talked about the much larger and actual threat of corporate border crossers. There is a direct connection between companies and jobs moving out of our country and people doing whatever they can to come in.

When corporations can travel the world looking for the cheapest labor costs and lowest environmental protections, we all suffer. Those on the left and right, Mexican immigrants and Minutemen, teachers, baristas and truck drivers and everyone in-between all suffer. Some want to blame immigrants for problems in our healthcare system, public education or lack of decent paying jobs. It might be easy, but it will not solve anything.

As U.S. citizens we need to learn about the effects of policies like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) before we think we have any solutions to "immigration reform." It is these free trade policies that put the rights of corporations and profits above the rights of people and it is these free trade policies, supported by Republicans and Democrats alike, that need to be part of any debate on immigration today.

(Please click here to read the rest of this good article.)

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