Another grownup has stepped up.
Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich stated the matter bluntly last week when, in a panel discussion with local Republican leaders, he said that blocking President Obama’s executive actions to prevent deportations is not “an adult way to deal with this issue.”
We say this all the time. As do most Democrats. As do plenty of Republicans and most Republican-leaning business groups.
It is not enough, the grownups say, to simply say no. Saying no requires coming up with a better plan for what to do about the millions of illegal immigrants who live among us, a plan that makes sense in the real world.
But to hear this message so forthrightly from Archbishop Cupich, our city’s most influential religious leader, is a welcome development. Comprehensive and compassionate immigration reform is a job that begs for powerful moral leaders.
“Let’s be honest,” Cupich said during a discussion hosted by the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition. “Our country benefits from the toil, the taxes, the purchasing power of a large number — an estimated 8 million — undocumented workers. Yet we do not at the same time offer them the protection of law. We can’t exploit and use these people without honoring their God-given rights.”
Cupich scolded House Republicans for failing to take a vote on a balanced and bipartisan immigration bill that cleared the Senate in 2013. If we are “really a representative government,” he asked, why was no “up or down” vote allowed?
Because the bill might have passed. That’s why. Significant numbers of Republicans, though cowed into inaction by right-wing absolutists, might have signed on.
American sentiment is moving toward the view that undocumented workers should be afforded a path to citizenship — right now — even as we beef up our borders to slow illegal immigration. Fifty nine percent of Americans favor future citizenship for illegal immigrants, according to a poll last month by the Public Religion Research Institute, and another 19 percent of Americans favor granting permanent legal status.
The United States can’t just ship 8 million to 11 million people — estimates vary — back to where they came from. Rep. Aaron Schock, who was on the panel with Cupich, cited a conservative think-tank study that estimates it would take 20 years and up to $600 billion to deport every undocumented immigrant. Not to mention the horrific human toll.
Keep it up, Archbishop Cupich. Speak out loudly on this great moral issue of our day. We are a nation of laws, yes. But we are also, or so we say, a nation of goodness and decency.