By Contributor on January 30, 2013

By Orson Aguilar

It’s heartening that Congress and President Obama are addressing comprehensive immigration reform, something that’s long overdue. But everyone involved needs to make sure that any legislation really moves us toward a better, fairer system.

Politicians must avoid the temptation to sign off on a bad deal just to be able to say they did something about immigration.

So what makes a good deal? Four principles are essential:

First, immigration reform absolutely must include a clear path to citizenship for hard-working individuals and families who came to this country to work, contribute and build a better life.

Overwhelmingly, undocumented immigrants are people who have been working, paying taxes and building communities — to the extent that we’ve allowed them to. These folks are the American Dream incarnate, and we should not put so many obstacles in their way that their path to citizenship exists in name only.

Second, we should not create a group of second-class citizens through a guest-worker program. When immigrants come here in such a program, their lives are tied to their employer. If mistreated, they have virtually no ability to bargain, look for another job, or join a union — much less seek redress through our political system — making them easy targets for exploitation.

Third, we must make family reunification a priority. Current rules can force families in which just one partner is a U.S. citizen to separate for years, and it’s even harder for same-sex couples, who in most states cannot marry and whose marriages aren’t recognized by the federal government.

Finally, companies that want more visas for highly skilled workers should be required to submit annual, comprehensive plans to Congress showing how they plan to expand opportunities for people who are already here, especially women, Americans from underserved communities, and returning military veterans.

Silicon Valley firms, in particular, want to import highly educated tech professionals from abroad, and they should be able to get the help they need. But this industry, which is notoriously lacking in diversity, should also find ways to open doorways to lucrative tech careers for people already living in this country who haven’t had the opportunities they need and deserve.

The politics of immigration reform will be tough, and the passions on all sides are high. But a fairer system — one that’s good for all Americans as well as those seeking to come here — really is possible.

Orson Aguilar is executive director of The Greenlining Institute, www.greenlining.org. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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