Archbishop José Gomez's book, "Immigration and the Next America: Renewing the Soul of Our Nation" is a personal, passionate and practical contribution to the national debate about immigration. He outlines a clear understanding of what immigration really is, examines immigration within the history of our nation and of the Church, and lays the groundwork for planning for the future.

The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of the book.

"As I write, the president and Congress, for the first time in years, seem committed to working for a comprehensive reform of our immigration policies.

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This is very encouraging to me. Immigration is a national issue. It's about our national security, about who we allow into our country and why. This should not be a matter for individual states to decide. But the states have been forced to act because for too long the federal government has abdicated its duties. The lack of courage and failure of leadership on immigration has been widespread and cuts across party lines.

It's no wonder people are frustrated. There has been no meaningful movement at the federal level since comprehensive reform legislation failed in Congress in 2007. The costs of inaction have been cruel and ongoing — for the millions of illegal immigrants and their families, and for millions of ordinary Americans, especially those living in border states.

We say we are worried about the long-term social costs of illegal immigration. If we are, then we should be looking for every way possible to integrate the undocumented into our economy so that they do not become a permanent underclass of dependent people. Our policy today, unfortunately, is only helping that underclass grow in numbers. The underclass grows every time we break apart a family by deporting a working father and leaving women and children behind in poverty. We are creating the very conditions that we claim to be afraid of — a generation of people who can’t assimilate and who don’t have the education and skills to contribute to our economy.

So I am hopeful the president and Congress can come together to create a principled policy that welcomes newcomers who have the character and skills our country needs to flourish and grow; a policy that secures our borders against illegal crossings and lets us keep track of those who are already living within our borders; a policy that includes a just solution to the questions raised by those who are here in violation of our laws and produces a path for them to make restitution and become citizens; a policy we can enforce with fairness and mercy.

Reforms in these areas would make a big difference in the lives of millions of people. We need these kinds of reforms if America is going to compete in a global economy at a time when our domestic workforce is shrinking and our population is aging. But immigration reform is about more than finding technical solutions. If immigration was only about fixing a broken system, the system would have been fixed already.

That's why I decided to write this little book in the middle of this debate: Because immigration is about more than immigration.

I'm concerned that the deeper issues at stake in this debate are being ignored and will be left undiscussed, while politicians, labor unions and businesses focus on forging the compromises needed to address the political issues. If this turns out to be the case, it will be more than a missed opportunity. I'm convinced that unless we address these underlying issues, any reform enacted may be only partial and unsustainable, leading to even more injustices and resentments down the road.

If the promise of immigration reform is to succeed in the long run, then we should make this debate a time for soul-searching — both for our nation and for each one of us as citizens. So in the pages that follow, I want to try to think through some of these deeper issues. I believe the question of immigration goes to the heart of America’s identity and our future as a nation. We can’t truly resolve the political issues of immigration unless we have some common agreement or shared understanding about our country’s identity and purpose."

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Jennifer Rey is the web editor of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing.