The economics of values (On Immigration)

On Sunday I hit the road with my daughter Shachar, Jonathan Klein (the Executive Director of CLUE-LA), and Gina Palencaar (Campaign Communications Director at LAANE). We drove up to San Francisco to bring a message to Senator Feinstein from the Jewish community. We were joined at the Senator’s office by Rabbi Heather Miller who had done much of the organizing and was representing Beth Chayim Chadashim representatives of the JCRC of San Francisco and Bend the Arc. We had a rally outside the office building and then met with the Senator Feinstein’s representative.1015309_769222180442_1723029976_o

At the rally and again at the meeting we demanded that the Senator stand strongly on immigration reform which included a clear pathway to citizenship; that the bill value people over economic value—which translates into valuing the unification of families in the manner that visas, entries, and the possibility of citizenship are decided, as much as PhDs and other skill sets. Some of the language of the pending legislation moves the law away from unifying families and gives more “points” to people with skills that are necessary for certain industries. Trying to benefit from the skills that immigrants bring is all well and good. However, it is equally important to value individuals for their own worth as people, as being created in the image of God.

We also stressed the idea that compromise with the Republicans is tricky. In the debate over gun control, compromise was used by the Republicans as a smoke screen in order to kill the bill. At the end of the day we want a bill with a clear path to citizenship; which does not raise security concerns to the point where they are unattainable as way to subvert reform; which values family unification. Compromising around the edges is the price of politics. Compromising on core beliefs is just not worth it.

The message we got is that the politics are difficult and the struggle is tragically close despite the shellacking the Republicans got amongst Latinos in the last election.

One idea was clarified for me.

Our national discourse has moved from economics to economism. We have deified the economic bottom line so that it has become a value in and of itself. The leadership that we need—nationally, of course, not only, or even especially, in California—is leadership that reminds us that people are valued for their own worth, for fulfilling the responsibilities of citizenship—debate and discussion, helping to build communities of obligation, showing responsibility towards one another. Economism is the rhetoric of the bottom line which is used to mask a discussion of values. We need leadership which dispels the fog of faux economics and says firmly and loudly: the path towards a more just and perfect union is the path of greater inclusion, of a larger embrace of the undocumented who live and work among and with us. The bottom line that is important is the quality of the lives that make up this country.

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