By: Chris Warren
My dad, who is not a sophisticated guy (I mean that as a compliment), once observed that the American court system does not do what’s fair, it does what’s legal. In a perfect world there would be no distinction between the two. When courts aren’t fair we sympathize with the situation, but in the back of our minds we concede that “life is not fair” is part of…life. It’s further complicated by the fact that fair is largely a matter of viewpoint, whereas legal is a lot easier to pin down. We tend to stretch these boundaries when dealing with children as they are sympathetic figures deserving of a light touch.
If a child is introduced to a bad situation by an adult, then the responsibility of bailing the kid out of trouble goes to other adults who presumably know better and have the child’s best interests in mind. It is not a time to fuss over whose fault it is or how “unfair” it is that someone else has to right the wrong. In that spirit, we need to make fair and legal the same thing and find a way to let young illegal immigrants who grew up in the United States stay here. People who know me are aware that I strongly empathize with people from other countries and cultures and have blogged about this issue before.
The biggest problem with immigration policy in the United States is that both the left and the right attempt, and fail horribly, to correct the intractable maxim that sometimes there is no truly fair option, just varying degrees of unfair. Conservatives are cold and disconnected for not seeing that deporting people just to wave the law & order badass banner is an ugly scene. Being legally right doesn’t make one morally right. Going the other way, liberals are manipulative users. They profess to care about immigrants, but only for selfish political reasons. For over a generation, Democrats have played up this issue solely for votes and believe with a cult-like intransigence that everyone is entitled to be here no matter what rules are broken or what the unintended consequences are. We have borders and laws for a reason.
Imagine a young person who was brought to the United States illegally as a child. They did not make a choice to come here on their own and may not even be aware of their immigration status. They grow up in American culture, hang out with American friends, speak English as their first (and possibly only) language, have no criminal history and little if any familiarity with their home country.
This is not a way-out there hypothetical scenario. There are tens of thousands of kids living in the USA who fit this description. I would like everyone who thinks this person should be given a one-way ticket back to their country of origin to answer these questions: Is your legal argument for kicking them out of the USA greater than the moral argument for letting them stay, and furthermore, is your argument so strong that it’s worth ruining a young life for? Are you willing to look this kid directly in the face and personally tell them they are being deported? What if this person was your neighbor, or your own kid’s best friend, or your future son or daughter in law? Exactly what “problem” is solved by shipping them out?
The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM) has been floating around Congress since 2001 and has bipartisan support. I understand that in the world of politics the devil is always in the details. There are plenty of things in DREAM I’m sure I do not like, but I do believe in the basic premise of the legislation, which is to give people who came here illegally & involuntarily as underage minors a chance to stay and be productive members of American society. “Amnesty” is a loaded word in American politics, but it’s exactly what’s needed when the law is so blatantly unfair that a greater moral imperative is created to warrant changing it, or for minors who did not intend to break the law in the first place and played no active role in how they got into their situations.
Twenty First Summer is not a public policy blog and I am not knowledgeable enough on this topic to attempt a dissection of the DREAM Act and all the things that are both right and wrong with it. All I know is that kicking promising young people out of the only country they know and identify with for the “crime” of being brought here as minors by someone else is inhumane and should not be allowed to happen. I’m not coming at this from a right or left perspective. I’m looking at it as a question of “Is this moral?” For me the answer is a no-brainer: It’s disgusting and wrong. I’ll let others sweat the political details.
As President Chris, my first goal would be to stop the flow of illegal immigration to begin with. Then, pass some form of the DREAM Act and make it wholly separate from how the legal system will treat adults who are not innocent bystanders and came here fully cognizant that they were breaking US laws. That would be my compromise: Go easy on the young people in exchange for locking down the border and throwing the book at the adults.
Our default should be to find a way to help the children, not run them out like unwanted pests. The United States likes to brag about how we as a nation care for our kids. The DREAMers are “our kids.” They are Americans in their hearts if not in the law; they deserve to be protected and held close like the treasures they are.