President Obama has announced that his administration will not deport illegal immigrants who were brought by their parents into the U.S. absent the commission of some non-immigration criminal offense. This announcement was made in the heat of the election season, presumably to appease that sector of the electorate which was hoping for what is euphemistically called “comprehensive immigration reform.” As far as I know the only “reform” that group wants is amnesty for all illegal immigrants. Their spokespersons have not indicated support for other “reforms” to our immigration laws. They feel betrayed by the President because he was politically stymied from pushing “immigration reform” in the way he pushed health care and so it never happened. He was asked a few months ago if he would effect the DREAM Act, the acronym for one piece of “immigration reform” that applies to the children of illegal immigrants. He told the interviewer that he lacked the authority to do so. Now he has done so. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has the jurisdiction to enforce immigration laws, effectively enacted the DREAM Act by announcing it will not deport young illegal immigrants and would also issue them work permits. Thus, we have limited amnesty for these people by presidential fiat.
Proponents of the DREAM Act like to point to stories of extremely talented high school valedictorians who were brought into the country through no fault of their own by their parents. Why should we not want such people to remain here? It seems morally callous to want them deported. That is true if you take the view that human beings have the right to move freely across borders to better themselves and their families, as is enunciated by many human rights organizations and United Nations treaties. But no such right exists in the U.S. Constitution or any of our other founding documents or our immigration statutes. The counter- argument is the right of the nation to enforce its laws, including borders and immigration limits to save jobs for our citizens and maintain the racial and ethnic character of the country. Under this view, the rule of law is paramount, and anyone wishing to enter the U.S. must do so legally, by respecting our immigration laws. . People who do so illegally should be seen as invaders, not immigrants. As we know, the founders never intended the U.S. to be a haven for the world’s refugees. Citizenship was denied to blacks and Indians, women could not vote, and the power to enact immigration laws was reserved to the states. We have evolved as a nation in a democratic direction, but we have not adopted the open borders philosophy. The U.S. has always limited immigration except during the 1880-1920 period when it was thought the nation desperately needed workers to staff the industrial revolution. No such need for workers exists today; in fact we have high unemployment.
If we are to invite the children of illegal immigrants to remain here legally for the rest of their lives, then this raises three questions: 1)What will their legal status be?; 2)What will happen to their parents?; and 3)Will this encourage more illegal immigrants to enter the country in the hope they or their children will also get legal status? Advocates of the DREAM Act never answer these questions. I suppose they want 1 and 2 to be answered in favor of full citizenship to both groups. But this goes too far, even if one is operating from the humanitarian perspective. Allowing even high school valedictorians to live in the U.S. legally for life does not mean they should be granted full citizenship. We give lawful resident status to hundreds of thousands of people each year, allowing them to live here as non-citizens meaning they cannot vote or serve on juries and can have their status revoked if they commit a crime. I think there is such an aura of lawlessness to illegal immigrants that it is like original sin and cannot be removed regardless of good behavior. Such people should be disqualified from citizenship even if they were brought here as children. Illegitimate children must live their whole lives with the stigma of their parents’ conduct. Here there is an even stronger case for a lifelong punishment of sorts because their parents acted lawlessly and willfully.
The parents of the children are an even tougher problem. They are perpetrators, not victims. I would deport them. This will complicate the decision to give their children lawful permanent residence. If the children are dependent, they may not be able to live without their parents. In those cases, the children will have to live with relatives or guardians who are in the country legally. If they cannot, then the whole family should be deported. It is better to lose a few high school valedictorians than give amnesty to illegal immigrants because it encourages more foreigners to come here illegally. Why not try? Especially if the president and DHS director speak openly of yet another round of amnesties or DREAM Acts. Will we say this is the last DREAM Act, and this time we really mean it? Even if we say that advocates of “comprehensive immigration reform” will never be satisfied with the DREAM Act or even a “comprehensive” solution to immigration which does not include extremely high levels of legal immigration going forward, sufficient to transform the U.S. into a non-Western polyglot.
But it is a huge mistake to offer all children of illegal immigrants the opportunity to live here even as non-citizens. Yes, it might be desirable to allow the high school valedictorians on the theory that we want high achievers to enter the economy. But what is the justification for the rest other than the humanitarian point of view, which has to be balanced with the right of the nation to enforce its laws. I can think of no non-humanitarian justification for their presence in this country. And if the only reason for allowing them to stay is humanitarian, then that should be balanced by the needs of the nation. We are deeply in debt. The taxpayers have a right not to pay more money to support illegal immigrants. So I would only allow these children to stay if they have sponsors willing to sign surety bonds to support them so they will not become public charges. They should not be able to enroll in government benefit programs that we would not allow illegal immigrants to get (Medicaid, subsidized health care, Social Security). If they end up sick without health insurance, the hospital which is obliged to treat them should be able to sue the sponsor to collect. And if they cannot find gainful employment, they should not be able to collect unemployment benefits. This seems a fair trade off and would prevent the DREAM Act from turning into a fiscal and immigration debacle.