Last week President Obama announced that his administration will not deport as many as a million illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
Critics, mainly Republicans and conservatives, argue that Obama doesn’t have the authority to do this and is circumventing the law. Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) has introduced the “Prohibiting Back-Door Amnesty Act of 2012” to stop Obama’s move.
The president’s actions indeed raise legal questions. But there are four crucial facts that Republicans and conservatives must keep in mind.
First, the reason so many immigrants come to this country illegally, especially from Mexico and Latin America, is that the federal government has failed for decades to provide an easy means for legal entry for those who want to come here to work.
Second, minor children were not responsible for their parents’ choice to bring them here illegally. Do those kids—many now adults with their own children—deserve to be penalized, their families broken up?
Third, the choice of most immigrants to come here illegally was morally right and should be applauded. In most cases, poor Latinos face two choices: 1) Stay in their own countries, wallowing in poverty, watching their families suffer, with little opportunity for prosperous, happy lives; or 2) Seek the best life possible for themselves and their loved ones by entering the United States illegally.
Poverty and lack of education and political connections make it impossible for many to secure legal permission to come to America. It would be morally contemptible self-sacrifice for such individuals to wait passively for years until bureaucracies give them the right pieces of legal paper. Sneaking across the border breaks an American law. But illegals don’t limit the liberty of others when they come here to offer their labor with willing employers.
Fourth, in the same circumstances as most illegals, most Republicans and conservatives would do exactly the same thing! In the spirit of America, they’d say, “To hell with idiot America lawmakers and paper-pushers. I’m coming here to make money!”
Yes, welfare state transfers muddy the issue. Yes, there’s a lot to sort out concerning those who have been here for decades. But Republicans and conservatives should get beyond denouncing “amnesty” and seek ways to welcome those who want to come here and stay in this country that was, after all, founded by immigrants.
Edward Hudgins is director of advocacy for The Atlas Society.
For further reading:
*Edward Hudgins, “ The Golden Door: Immigration, Liberty, and the American Character. ” The New Individualist, Summer 2006.