July 16, 2013

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has been working to get an immigration bill through Congress [“Ryan quietly pushing for an immigration package,” news, July 11]. In November, he encouraged Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.) to renew his efforts to that end.  Mr. Gutierrez reports that Mr. Ryan said, “You’re a Catholic; I’m a Catholic; we cannot have a permanent underclass of Americans exploited in America.” That would be even stronger if the final clause were amended by adding two letters: “we cannot have any permanent underclass of Americans exploited in America.” It would speak more broadly and with greater conviction. 

If Mr. Ryan and Mr. Gutierrez can get their colleagues to pass a decent immigration bill, this quibble can wait. If they cannot, the disappointment will sting, but the issue cannot and will not go away. Regrouping might require a radical simplification along these lines: “We are all human. We can have neither an underclass nor exploitation in the United States.” It is not who we are. The liberty the Founders claimed and propagated portends dazzling realities even they could hardly imagine. Our challenge is to imagine them and to find a way over every obstacle in the path.

Gerald Patrick Coleman, Washington

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