I have contemplating writing this post since I first learned about the directive President Obama gave that in effect, grants amnesty to some illegal immigrants. I have read posts and news articles discussing the subject and the comments on those posts. In no particular order, I have read posts at America’s Watchtower, Conservative Outcry, and Steven Birn Speaks, to name just three. The going opinion among most conservatives seems to be that this is a purely political move. President Obama is down in the polls and he knows exactly what kind of boost this move will give him among Latino voters. As he was with his announcement on same-sex marriage, he is playing to the people he considers to be his base, trying to get them fired up and ready to cast their votes.
First, let’s look at the details of the plan. This is taken from The Associated Press.
Under the administration plan, illegal immigrants will be immune from deportation if they were brought to the United States before they turned 16 and are younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED, or served in the military. They also can apply for a work permit that will be good for two years with no limits on how many times it can be renewed. The officials who described the plan spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss it in advance of the official announcement.
On the surface, it seems to be a fair proposition. Obviously, no one wants to punish children or young adults for the crimes of their parents. However, there is a lot more to consider than just what is on the surface of this issue. Yes, many of these illegal immigrants are illegal through no fault of their own. Should they be held accountable for that? Possibly not, but that doesn’t mean they should be given preferential treatment over other immigrants. You know, those immigrants who came here legally and have followed the rules to acquire their citizenship or legal status.
I just finished watching the remarks President Obama gave concerning this directive in the Rose Garden and I must say, he makes a compelling case for his decision. As he is apt to do, he talked a lot about fairness. He wants to treat these illegal immigrants fairly and says it is the right thing to do. Okay, I’ll give him that part of the argument and agree that no one wants to treat illegal immigrants unfairly, especially if they had no choice in the matter. But did they really have no choice?
Consider this. We are not talking about actual children, but young adults. He said in his remarks that many of them have no idea they are illegal, until they apply for a driver’s license or try to get a job. I don’t buy that argument. Kids are not stupid. They pick up on the actions of their parents and if the parents knew they were illegal, they were surely acting accordingly. If they knew they were illegal, so did many of these young adults. Do they bear any responsibility of their own? Should they have tried to work towards legalizing their status in America?
Another thing I take issue with in the President’s remarks is how he said this is not amnesty and is only temporary. It sounds a lot like amnesty to me, given that they are allowing illegal immigrants, ie. criminals who have broken American law, a get-out-of-jail-free card. Does anyone remember how amnesty worked out for us the last time we tried it? That would have been during the Ronald Reagan years and as much as I respected him, he made a mistake by granting amnesty to illegal immigrants. Our immigration problems have only compounded since then and we have more illegal immigrants than ever before.
Moving on to another problem I have with this issue, let us look at the economic side of this. President Obama likes to tout the idea that the 800,000 illegal immigrants this change will affect are full of talented young people who our country just can’t do without. The way he talked during his announcement, you would there are no Americans wanting to do the jobs he seems to think these young illegal immigrants are cut out for. We are not talking about farm or construction jobs here. He made mention several times of the technology and science jobs, with specific references to the young illegal immigrants he is granting legal status. What about the 8.2% of Americans who are either unemployed or underemployed? Does he think they do not qualify for those jobs?
My point is this. He talks a lot about fairness towards illegal immigrants, but what about the fairness towards the Americans who are needing work? Should that not count for something? There is a lot more to fairness than granting legal status to illegal immigrants and allowing them to get jobs in America. I believe Americans should come first. In this case, President Obama is putting political expediency over what is right for Americans. At the same time, he is ignoring the fact that he has no authority to do what he is doing.
As I understand the powers and the responsibilities of the Executive Branch of our government, he is supposed to enforce the laws of the land, as passed by Congress. Instead, he is changing our immigration laws by his own decision. He is deciding what laws he will enforce and how he will enforce them. In doing so, he is stepping far beyond the boundaries set for him by the Constitution.
Update: The original version of this post contained references to an executive order I mistakenly thought President Obama had issued about the changes he was making in the enforcement of our immigration laws. Adrienne pointed out that mistake in her comment. Therefore, I have edited the post to contain the correct information.