Magazine article Cross Currents

The U.S. Immigration Crisis and a Call for the Church's Lifeworld Politics: Why Should Hauerwas Collaborate with Habermas on the U.S. Immigration Crisis?

Magazine article Cross Currents

The U.S. Immigration Crisis and a Call for the Church's Lifeworld Politics: Why Should Hauerwas Collaborate with Habermas on the U.S. Immigration Crisis?

Article excerpt

According to the recent survey report published by the Washington, D.C.-based Public Religion Research Institute, throughout 2013, there has been consistent bipartisan and cross-religious support for creating a path to citizenship for immigrants living in the United States. While 14 percent percent of Americans support allowing undocumented immigrants to become permanent legal residents but not citizens, 63 percent favor providing a way for immigrants who are currently living in the United States without legal documentation to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements.' They also discovered that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that the U.S. immigration system is either completely broken (34 percent) or mostly broken but working in some areas (31 percent). The report also shows that 41 percent of Americans believe immigration policy should be an immediate priority for President Obama and Congress, while roughly as many (42 percent) say it should be a priority during the next couple of years. Interestingly enough, only 14 percent of Americans say it should not be a priority at al1. (2)

Despite the majority of the U.S. citizens favor some sort of comprehensive immigration reform, the Congress has failed to pass a comprehensive immigration overhaul to date largely due to the House Republican leaders, who recently unveiled their principles for an overhaul for the nation's immigration laws. These principles, however, do not clarify whether most undocumented immigrants would ever be able to become legal residents or U.S. citizens, while they would require tighter border security and more interior immigration enforcements. These principles seem to reiterate the problematic anti-immigration mantra to continuously militarize our borders as well as to criminalize undocumented immigrants. The Obama administration has been increasingly criticized in regard to the inhumane deportation of many undocumented people, especially those parents whose children are U.S. citizens. Critiques argue that President Obama has overseen record levels of deportations, with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) repatriating about 2 million undocumented people since he took office in January 2009 (roughly 400,000 a year or 1,100 per day). (3)

Amid the increasing political turmoil relating to the immigration reform, the public media begin to notice that the real winners in immigration control are the prison industry. The Atlantic, for example, reports that since 2003, when ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) was created and government crackdowns on undocumented aliens increased, private prisons have gained business, with industry profits more than doubling. Damon Hininger, CEO of CCA (Corrections Corporation of America), said during a conference call with investors in May 2010 that between 2007 and 2009, when earnings for the S&P dropped by 28 percent, the company's earnings drew by 18 percent. (4) According to The Atlantic, the government spends more than $2 billion a year on immigration detention, while spending only $72 million on alternatives to detention. It also reports that the private prison industry, such as CCA, has spent more than $1 million on lobbying. Although private prisons say that their lobbying efforts are aimed at promoting their services, not shaping immigration policy, immigrant advocates argue that the private prison industry is always lobbying for more detention beds. (5) Given that the cost of detaining an immigrant averages $159 a day and half of 34,000 beds are operated by private prison corporations, it is not difficult to see the connection between the interests of the private prison corporations such as CCA and the Geo Group and the criminalization of undocumented migrants. According to Lee Fang of The Nation, the controversial Arizona SB1070 was developed in consultation with private prison lobbyists through a group called the American Legislative Exchange Council. (6) Unfortunately, as Aubrey Pringle reports, several pending immigration bills would increase the number of incarcerated immigrants even more. …

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