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Forum focuses on immigration policy

Speakers gather at Concordia to debate worker programs, Christianity's take on immigration. Councilman Keith Curry helped organize the event.

October 12, 2012|By Bradley Zint
  • Newport Beach City Councilman Keith Curry speaks during an immigration panel at Concordia University on Friday. He also serves as director of the school's Center for Public Policy.
Newport Beach City Councilman Keith Curry speaks during… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

A trio of speakers with contrasting views on American immigration policy spoke Friday afternoon in a forum organized by Concordia University's Center for Public Policy.

Teresa Hernandez of the Lincoln Club of Orange County, Tim Celek of the Crossing Church in Costa Mesa and Ruben Navarrette Jr., a nationally syndicated columnist and CNN contributor, talked to a capacity room in the Irvine university's Grimm Hall.

Hernandez, whose advocacy organization favors limited government and securing civil liberties, presented a three-pronged approach to immigration policy reform: implementing border security; creating a guest-worker program that leads to legal residency, not citizenship; and then instituting enforcement and support.

"We should find ways that are fair, humane, economically sound, meet the needs of the free market, do not take advantage of loopholes, and will grow the economy and not be a drain," she said, adding that the Republican Party should lead the issue.

She referenced the Bracero Program, which began in 1942 and ended in 1964, as an example that counters any assertion that guest-worker programs do not or never can work.

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She said before that program, there was an estimated 1 million illegal crossings into the country every year. Once the program started, that number dropped to 45,000 a year.

"Whatever you feel about the Bracero Program, which definitely had its flaws and issues, it did work," Hernandez said.

Celek stressed the humanistic side of the immigration debate, that letting people somehow stay in the country is a biblical "no-brainer."

"As a Christian, I think we ought to be more concerned about the dignity of human beings than we are about our economy," he said.

"This isn't primarily a political or an economic issue," he added. "This is a biblical one, friends, and at the core, it's about the dignity of each person made in God's image. It's about the unity of families.

"I want to make sure any guest-worker program — which, again, isn't a bad idea, depending on how it's executed — truly protects the rights of workers, not just the rights of employers."

He expressed unease about any path to legal status that can never lead to citizenship.

"I'm very concerned, and so should you be, about establishing a whole class of people who won't ever be allowed to be U.S. citizens," Celek said. "In other words, an entire class of human beings that'll never be allowed to participate in our democracy."

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