God is good. Our U.S. immigration system is not.

The system we now have is absurd. Most everyone agrees with this view. How to solve the absurdity is what leads to debate. Some want reform that focuses on securing the borders and sends illegal immigrants back to their home countries. Others want reform that focuses on opening up the borders, grants a path to legalization, and prevents dividing families. And, of course, there is every position in between.

Immigration -- so central to our American identity, history, and economy -- is a political hot potato to be sure. It is messy, and the system is broken. Our current policies restrict the number of immigrants that can come to the United States per year per nation. That number is too small to meet (a) the economic demand for workers by U.S. employers and (b) the draw to leave poor nations to come to a rich nation in hopes of providing for families and making a life.

Let me use the example of the Houston metropolitan area, since that is the city in which I live (but you could substitute many other cities in the U.S.). Houston has a large Latino population (in the millions). At least 500,000 are estimated to be in the Houston metro illegally. Most are working -- they staff the nearly 10,000 restaurants in the Houston area, they build Houston’s homes (a successful Houston area construction company president told me that about 90% of the labor building the tens of thousands of new homes in Houston each year are illegal immigrants), they mow the metro’s grass, and they are the labor behind the landscaping industry, to name just a few economic niches. Houston also has a large Vietnamese population. Nearly every nail shop in the region is owned or run by Vietnamese, and again, many of the workers -- caring for the finger and toe nails of hundreds of thousands of Houstonians -- are Vietnamese women who are in the country illegally.

Every so often, the INS conducts a raid on places known to employ large numbers of such populations. They round up the workers, process them, and eventually send them out of the country. Left behind are their American born children and other relatives. Such practices break families.

It is a silly system. Such folks either return to the U.S., or others come in their place, for the jobs they occupy still need to be filled. If immigrants had the choice, they would not choose to come illegally. Many would be willing to come on temporary work visas for example, if we had such an organized system.

Some Americans say they simply should not come. Let their own nations take care of them. But of course, with the current U.S. policies, our economic system demands illegal immigration to supply the necessary labor. And so they come.

About two years ago, the Christian community in the Houston region said enough is enough. They came together to form the Houston Coalition for Immigration Reform. The current system was deemed so morally offensive and unjust that Christians of all persuasions in the Houston area joined forces to lobby elected officials for change, to work with the business community, and to teach our parishioners about the issues. You can find all the details at their website. It is an impressive organization that has brought together the leaders of the many Christian denominations and racial/ethnic groups in the Houston region.

If your community does not yet have such a coalition, I encourage you to be part of forming one. If it does have such an organization, I encourage you to join it, if you haven’t already. A united voice from the faith community will encourage our political leaders to act, and to act in a way that lets justice roll down.

Michael O. Emerson is the Cline Professor of Sociology and the Director of the Center on Race, Religion, and Urban Life at Rice University in Houston, Texas. He is the co-author of “Divided by Faith” and “United by Faith.”