I’ve been asked several times why I think our current immigration laws are unjust, and therefore immoral. I’ve answered these questions as they’ve come up, but I can do no better job explaining it than the very conservative Bishop James D Conley of Lincoln Nebraska.
The United States does not adequately address its citizens’ right to safety, because it does not adequately address the challenges posed by those who enter the country illegally, or those arrive legally and, after visas have expired, remain illegally. Nor does the United States base immigration quotas and limits on unbiased and fair assessments of our economy and infrastructure’s capacity to welcome immigrants to our nation. Finally, the byzantine rules governing immigration to the United States, which often include waiting lists decades long, do not adequately respect the natural right of families to migration. Many experts believe that there is no reasonable way for the average Latin American family, for example, to enter the United States legally.
In short, our immigration system is broken, and that broken system is the cause of serious injustice.
There are some who suggest that our immigration system is broken because some industries benefit from the status quo: they depend on paying undocumented workers illegally low wages, and therefore oppose reforming the system. The more common assessment is that our immigration system is broken because overhauling it would require that political leaders on all sides put aside partisan posturing and incendiary rhetoric, in order to reach meaningful and comprehensive agreements.
Whatever the reason for it, our broken immigration system is an injustice to immigrants and to all Americans. That injustice has tragic consequences in the lives of real families, who reflect the image of the Trinity.
This week, President Trump issued a directive ordering the deportation of millions of people living in the United States illegally. That order will do very little to resolve the immigration problems in our country. It will not change the economic and social conditions which lead people to leave their homes and enter the United States illegally. It will not change the demand for low-wage workers in our economy. It will not secure the borders or change the immigration process.
Nor will it meaningfully impact the security of our nation, or the safety of our citizens. In fact, over the last eight years, President Obama deported more people than any other president in United States history, with no meaningful or demonstrable impact on our country’s security or safety.
Mass deportation is a panacea: the appearance of an answer without really resolving anything. And, after eight years of mass deportation under President Obama, President Trump’s administration has doubled down on that panacea, proclaiming now the time to “take the shackles off” America’s deportation officials.
Of course, some immigrants, legal and illegal, prove themselves to be a danger, and should not be permitted to remain in this country. Unrestricted amnesty proposals are also unrealistic panaceas.
Certainly, entering a country illegally is a crime. The government has an obligation to uphold the rule of law, and to punish those who commit crimes. But the crime of illegal immigration must be considered in light of other factors: the rights of parents to provide for their children, the poverty and danger families face around the globe, and the injustice of American laws and policies governing immigration in the first place. Many immigrants who have been exiled by the circumstances of their homelands want to follow the law, but our broken system makes that impossible. The consequences of illegal immigration should be determined in light of the sovereignty of the family, and the inhumanity of separating children, often US citizens, from their parents.
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