Admittedly, I struggle with the question of illegal immigration. Not so much whether or what constitutes unauthorized entry to the United States so much as what to do about it and how. The objective of this post – and others to perhaps follow – is to generate discussion that will hopefully add to my understanding of immigration law and consolidate my thinking on a subject that – among other things – was crucial to the election of President Donald J. Trump last November.
Yes, I realize many people prefer “undocumented immigrant” over “illegal immigrant”. But to me the terms are interchangeable at best, and – at worst – undocumented suggests sneaking into another country is a matter rectified by simply locating one’s wallet, where undoubtedly the proper piece of paper would be found!
Feel free however, to liberally interchange “undocumented” for “illegal” if it makes the subject more palatable.
I like to think I have a pragmatic view of immigrants, their contributions, illegal immigration, and potential solutions. But thinking and knowing are different states of mind. Maybe you can help me sort through my pragmatism and bring me to an even more thorough understanding of the issues and problems.
First however, I would like to set the foundation for the things I believe – and do not believe – in when it comes to immigration both legal and otherwise.
- Nation Security starts with secure borders. There are few areas in the world where an individual can enter another country without being challenged to prove identification, status, permissions, and the absence of illegal contraband. The European Union has tried an open borders policy, and many have not been happy with the results … particularly when one of its member-states decides to throw out the “Welcome!” mat to all comers.
- America is a country of immigrants. This is no different than any other country,
yet it seems to be a major stake-holder for those who favor looser immigration restrictions … particularly in the U.S. All countries and regions – at one time or another – demonstrate the same fundamental behaviors (exploration, conquest, settlement, assimilation), whether immigration occurred thousands of years ago or is occurring presently. Both human nature and the survival features of human existence dictate the need to acquire new territories when needed, and can motivate the newcomers, assuming they are sufficiently advanced compared to the native inhabitants, to push aside weaker cultures and peoples, who are competing with them for space and required resources.
- The United States has a proud tradition of compassion. Whether pulling for the underdog/down-trodden or recognizing the contributions of groups that have immigrated here in the 220-plus years since the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Whether it’s Irish immigrants fleeing potato famine; varied European artisans who built the stone churches in my native Philadelphia; or the dependence our agricultural programs have on cheap, plentiful labor, we tend to embrace the concept of Immigration, if not always the immigrant themselves. On immigration our Constitution requires only due process and extension of the Rights all U.S. citizens enjoy. Society demands compassionate response to the World’s disasters, whether man-made (civil war, oppression, etc.) or natural.
- Illegal is illegal. There is no way around it. Unauthorized entry and those who conspire to assist such entries must be handled as criminals. For this reason and the fact that they usurp federal powers, Sanctuary Cities are a joke.
My view is that America’s response to the issue of immigration should be a balancing act of the above factors. And within the problem of illegal immigration there are various conundrums.
The U.S. Government has a history of turning a lazy eye towards unauthorized entries at the behest largely of its agricultural industry. It would be grossly unfair to dispose of those used in such a way once the work is done. Immigrants here illegally prefer to stay off the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) radar, which also keeps them off the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) radar, and allows them to avoid paying taxes, yet said immigrants absorb tax-funded benefits and protections.
On a personal note, I have a socially conscious family member, who has spent time in years past working in the border desert regions to ease the dangers and sufferings of those trying to infiltrate our southern border. Despite my feelings about “Illegal is Illegal”, I admired the humanity of his efforts even as they ran counter to the objectives of protecting a precious border. My own personal conundrum …
With that in mind, I would like to add a few other considerations from the perspective of personal responsibility with which all of us are entrusted.
- The Decision to enter any country illegally is a personal decision. And that decision carries with it responsibility for all that transpires afterwards. There are often good reasons to seek immigration, and good reasons why one may not wish to wait for permission to do so. But the result is the personal choice to disobey the laws of another country.
The presence or involvement of a child does not relieve the Offender of the responsibilities of the Decision. As parents, we are uniquely responsible for a child’s safety and welfare. While these considerations may be the reason why one may choose to immigrate illegally, those same considerations should include a hard and clear look at the potential situations into which an unauthorized immigrant’s child might be subjected.
- Compassion for the innocent “co-violators” should be of paramount concern when confronting unauthorized parent immigrants. Despite 2. above, primary consideration should be exhibited toward the treatment and potential aftereffects of confronting a parent, who has entered the country illegally, on the children also directly affected.
- “Anchor babies” do not relieve the Parent of the consequences of their decisions. Another one of those conundrums …
- Felony crime – committed before, during, or after entry – should end any discussion of potential legal relief. Misdemeanor crime is another story, but should be addressed where repeated with a reasonable line drawn for repeat violations on a case-by-case basis. That is, a traffic or public intoxication conviction should not be the sole basis for expulsion or imprisonment for illegal immigration, all other things being acceptable.
So this is from where I start. I enlist all those reading this to give me honest, respectful, and productive feedback, advice, admonishment even. Maybe when we are done talking we may still be different in places philosophically; but maybe we will understand the varied facets of the issue a bit more.