Human beings are not inanimate objects. During the Republican debate Tuesday night, the candidates continually referred to “illegals.” We need a fence to keep illegals out. We have to get rid of magnets that draw in illegals. Illegals love to work on farms. Heck, Mitt Romney employed some of “those illegals” to mow one of his lawns – until he started running for office, then he told the company he “can’t have illegals for Pete’s sake.” Herman Cain wants to build a fence – it might be electrified – and put boots on the ground to keep illegals out.

We have to uncategorize people.

Human beings are not inanimate objects. During the Republican debate Tuesday night, the candidates continually referred to “illegals.”

We need a fence to keep illegals out. We have to get rid of magnets that draw in illegals. Illegals love to work on farms. Heck, Mitt Romney employed some of “those illegals” to mow one of his lawns – until he started running for office, then he told the company he “can’t have illegals for Pete’s sake.”

Herman Cain wants to build a fence – it might be electrified – and put boots on the ground to keep illegals out.

Has anyone even considered the irony that many of the people who did the actual work to build that fence would probably be immigrants from Mexico? Both legals and illegals.

And don’t even get me started on these illegals who get to pay in-state tuition when they overcome a childhood ensconced in poverty and racism and actually qualify for college.

I am against illegal immigration.

I agree that there could be a national security risk from not protecting our borders. I don’t know how much money it would take to build a fence or some sort of modified border for people wearing boots on the ground to guard.

It isn’t like you can call a home security company and put in an alarm system next Thursday afternoon.

What I am ultimately against is dehumanizing people of any race or religion, make or model.

Yes, illegal immigrants have violated a law to live in America.

But they are people.

The vast majority want to find a way to feed their family. That’s why I came to work today. We have that in common.

I hate calling people “illegals” and calling their children “anchor babies.”

It is equally wrong for the candidates to pander to them by saying how dedicated Hispanic people are to their families and faith. You know, I bet if you compare brown people to black, white and red people from the same religion and socio-economic strata, they would share a lot of similarities.

People are people.

Some are here legally. Some had ancestors who came here to escape persecution. Some have ancestors brought here as slaves. Some have family who snuck across a border that is difficult to secure and took a tough job trying to make ends meet.

They all got here different ways and have very different paths to the present.

But they all share a common humanity. We should punish people for breaking laws. But breaking a law does not disqualify a person from protection of fundamental human rights that our very own Declaration of Independence ascribes.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The Declaration goes on to say that governments are instituted to protect those rights. But the purpose of government is not to turn bigotry into policy.

Our government has prescribed means for people to enter our country legally as immigrants. Millions of people are here in violation of those laws.

But even illegal aliens are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”

What should we, as Americans – the “shining city on a hill” founded on Christian principles – do with these people who have violated our laws to come into our country solely in an effort to feed their families?

The answer is not in black and white - or even brown. This solution will be nuanced.
Increased border security would help stem the tide of people coming across the border illegally. But where will that money come from? We can’t fiscally - or morally - afford to round up millions of people who are already here illegally and send them back across the border.

The border should be secured.

The path to citizenship for those already here and wanting to become productive Americans should be paved.

The politics of immigration should rehumanize those people who have already made it across the border.

It is hard to do that in 60 seconds at a debate. But it is harder to govern effectively when you can’t.

Kent Bush is publisher of the Augusta, Kan., Gazette.