Human Values Bring Theists and Nontheists Together against the RAISE Act

Family values are generally defined as the cultural values passed on from generation to generation within families regarding structure, function, roles, beliefs, attitudes, and ideals. Conservatives usually fall all over themselves to support family values, but now they are calling for an immigration reform act that threatens to tear American families apart and discriminate against the less fortunate; all in the name of making America great again.

According to the US Census Bureau data from 2015, nearly forty-three million legal immigrants call the United States home. The majority of these legal immigrants came here for “family reunification” purposes. Parents reuniting with adult children; grandparents meeting grandchildren for the first time; husbands and wives rejoined after years apart. These are the familial realities of legal immigration (and often illegal immigration). However, it’s clear that President Trump, Senator David Perdue of Georgia (R), and Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas (R) have little regard for the family values of non-English speaking, poor, non-white families. Their Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act would not only require immigrants to be educated, English-speaking and skilled, but would also cut legal immigration in half and end priority for extended family members and adult children of US citizens.

The Statue of Liberty, aptly called “The Mother of Exiles” in Emma Lazarus’s sonnet, must surely be crumbling inside. Despite her engraved demand for even “the wretched refuse of your teeming shores,” Trump’s senior policy advisor Stephen Miller blew off her iconic call at a White House press briefing: “I don’t want to get off into a whole thing about history here, but the poem…is not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty.”

Although the American Humanist Association doesn’t have an official position on immigration, the Humanist Manifesto III does state that “humanist values are grounded in human welfare and extend globally” and commits “to treating every person as having inherent worth and dignity.” The RAISE Act’s misanthropic discrimination against the less fortunate goes directly against the foundations of humanist philosophy.

This position is also held by leaders in the religious community. “I express strong opposition to the RAISE Act, which was introduced today in the US Senate by Senators [Cotton and Perdue],” said Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, bishop of Austin and chair of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration. “Had this discriminatory legislation been in place generations ago, many of the very people who built and defended this nation would have been excluded.”

For generations, we have taught our children that the words engraved on the Statue of Liberty mean something; they are the words that have greeted immigrants for more than a hundred years. Have we become so fearful of those who are different, so mesmerized by the reality-TV drama of the Trump administration that we have forgotten who built this country we’re so proud of?

Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It’s a foundational moral that we all, theists and nontheists alike, teach our children: treat others as you would wish to be treated. Which of these phrases would our children deem as empathetic: “give me your tired, your poor… your sons and daughters yearning for their families” or, “give me your rich and your educated, and keep those huddled masses to yourself”?

Immigrants contribute so much to the culture, economy, and ideals of the United States. They are as much a part of our lives as we are of theirs. And as Franklin D. Roosevelt cautioned us, “all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” We are all immigrants and we must not forget it.