Why Being Pro-Family Means Opposing Illegal Immigration

Unlike in 2008, immigration hasn’t been much of an issue this election season. In fact, my friend Mark Shea has one of the few blog posts I’ve seen on the subject. In “The Reason I’m Not in a Huge Sweat about Immigrants,” Mark says,

That they [the 12 millions illegal immigrants] failed to fill out paperwork is a nuisance for bureaucrats, but not a big issue for me.  It is the Big Laws, not the small ones, that matter.

Whether the effect of having 12 millions illegal immigrants in our country is beneficial or detrimental is a question I’ll leave for those who formulated a more thoughtful opinion that I have. My primary concern about illegal immigration is more basic: It’s about fairness and rewarding individuals for doing the wrong thing while punishing families who are doing what is right.

If Mark is correct about it only being a nuisance for bureaucrats and a matter of “failing to fill out paperwork” then it would indeed be a “small law.” But of course the immigration laws are not merely about documenting who is in the country.

Our current immigration policy is based on the Immigration Act of 1990 which set the annual limit of new immigrants into the U.S. at 700,000 and established family reunification as the main immigration criterion. Under the law, a minimum of 226,000 immigrants are allowed to become permanent residents each year under the family-sponsored preferences. Citizens and permanent residents of the U.S. are allowed to sponsor their adult children, parents, and siblings.  However, the wait times for immigrants wanting to join their family are quite long.

According to data obtained from the U.S. Department of State and Department of Homeland Security, the wait time for a U.S. citizen petitioning for a brother or sister from the Philippines exceeds 20 years. A U.S. citizen petitioning for an adult son or daughter to join them can expect to wait 6 to 17 years, depending on the country or origin. Approximately 4 million people are waiting in family immigration backlogs.

Policies that give preferential legal status or citizenship to illegal residents over those who have followed the established legal procedures subverts both the rule of law and the unity of the immediate family. The only way that the issue could be resolved fairly would be to allow all 4 million family members on the current immigration backlog to obtain the same legal status or citizenship that would be offered to current illegal residents. Yet if we were to give amnesty to both the 4 million people on current waiting lists and the 12 million residing here illegally, the total would exceed—in one year—all of the immigrants that were processed through Ellis Island. (In comparison, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 granted amnesty to about 3 million immigrants.) Such a plan is obviously untenable in a country with both high unemployment and a strong social welfare safety net.

The issue is complicated and not amenable to easy solutions. But what can be changed is the way we think about the issue and shape our rhetoric. For too many years the debate has been framed in terms of being “compassionate” toward illegal immigrants or being “respectful” of America’s laws. If that was the true binary choice then, like Mark, I would want to err on the side of compassion. But the problem is not between being compassionate and respecting the rule of law but giving preference to those who break the law and live close to our southern border over those who obey the law and are attempting to join their family members in America.

We certainly aren’t going to solve our country’s immigration problems anytime soon. But what we should and can do is to ensure that our policies are pro-family and instill a respect for the law. And we can’t do that when we treat illegal immigration as if it were merely a small matter of failing to fill out the right paperwork rather than what we are really doing—punishing families who want to be reunited.

  • http://www.theupsidedownworld.com Rebecca Trotter

    Do humans exist for the law or does the law exist for humans? If a law harms people, is the wrong in breaking the law or is the wrong in the law itself? I understand the desire for fairness, but if the law itself is the problem, then demanding that it be followed out of fairness elevates the requirements of the law over the needs of human beings. I’m not sure that’s a proper Christian approach.

    • Joel Wischkaemper

      The Law exists for human beings. That is very, very clear, and the human beings it exists for are the American People and we are a nation of laws. That said, the cost of the illegal aliens is very, very high. The laws were created to avoid those costs, and to move the United States out of the category of a nation that everyone can dump their problems on. Europe did a great deal of that from the late 1800reds to almost the 1900reds. What they did was send citizens who have TB and sundry other debilitating problems to the United States for the taxpayers here to take care of. We stopped that and made those European Countries take care of their own citizens.
      Mexico is sending their ‘problem’ people to this country for the American Taxpayer to take care of. The laws of the land say that isn’t allowed, and the politicians simply ignored the laws and did as they pleased.. sometimes with executive orders that circumvented the Congress and the People of the United States. Neither Bush or Obama should ever have been allowed to do that, but the end of this story is clear: 2.3 trillion dollars to provide amnesty for the illegal aliens. 98 billion to deport them. Send them home as the law tells us to do.

    • http://christiansandillegalimmigration.blogspot.com/ Jon

      Part of the problem is that the immigration law is not really broken. No political system can withstand millions of people coming in from another country and declaring their own nation on that soil. Everyone comes here because it’s the head of freedom. Christ said, “If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed.” That’s our freedom, and this country defends it. People see that glory, and it’s certainly attractive, so they come here to experience freedom. As Christians we need to reach every single visitor and help them understand why they came here – to experience True Freedom from sin through Christ. The easiest solution for everyone is to export the system that defends this freedom (along with a lot of missionaries!) and allow other countries to become states. We can’t possibly immigrate the entire population of the world so that everyone can experience true freedom. The Bible talks about a system that subdues all the nations of the earth, and I believe democracy is that system.

  • Joe Carter

    In this particular case, the law exists for humans as it provides a fair way of allocating a limited resource.

    If we could allow an unlimited number of immigrants then it wouldn’t matter. But since we can’t, we have to have a fair way of allocating the immigration visas. To say that we’ll punish some people who circumvent the law while turning a blind eye when other people do it seems both unfair and unChristian.

    • http://www.theupsidedownworld.com Rebecca Trotter

      So, you actually think the way the law is written is fair? Wow. I have dear friends who immigrated legally and even in the absence of illegal immigration and none of them would claim that our immigration laws are fair. Yes, they are irritated at the presumption sometimes on display among illegal immigrants, but they largely sympathize with them. I am glad that Obama has done more to enforce our laws than his predecessors ever did – I do agree that there need to be some limits. Like not allowing criminals to remain in the country. But I can’t fathom how anyone would characterize our immigration laws and system as fair.

      • Joe Carter

        So, you actually think the way the law is written is fair?

        It depends on what you mean by fair. I think our legal immigration policy is, generally speaking, pro-family—which I like. But is it fair that some people who have a family member in the U.S. get preference over individuals who don’t? Probably not. But I think it is a reasonable system and much fairer than encouraging a second-tier of disposable labor that benefits citizens at the expense of illegal (and legal) immigrants.

        • MeggieE

          The written policy may be fair (although in my opinion not as a whole) but post 9/11 implementation and amendments to that policy are not. There is a reason the waiting list is so long. Unfortunately not every case is the same. Not every person on the waiting list deserves to be here more than every person who came illegally. You have to view immigrants as individuals and not as groups. In some cases we are talking about husbands and wives living in daily fear of raising their children on separate continents as opposed to brothers and sisters on a wait list. Although both are important familial relationships one, I’m afraid I could not view a law as fair that prevented CORE family units (mother father and children) from being together in favor or more distant relatives.

      • wigglwagon

        “But I can’t fathom how anyone would characterize our immigration laws and system as fair.”

        Okay, how about telling us what would be fair?

      • Daniel

        Rebecca, I don’t know if you are such but many such critics of open borders live in gated communities and love to feel sorry for people who put themselves above other immigrants that are also trying to do it legally. To me, that is not fair.

        • Daniel

          Sorry meant to say proponents of open borders, not critics.

      • Joel Wischkaemper

        Obama has deported something like 1.3 million illegal aliens during his four year term, and did that number by turning back people who attempted to come through the border turnstile without identification. He, by the way, is the only President who used that device to make himself look good.
        Before Obama.. not including Bush II, the Presidents, almost one and all, deported close to a million illegal aliens yearly. Make me President and I would find a way to put both those Presidents in jail.
        The Citizens of the Southwest paid for it too. Over 200 hospitals were closed, schools had 45 to 80 student per class, the drop out rates in school were staggering, crime increased substantially, jobs that should have gone to Americans were removed from the market and the dollar in social services designed to serve 10 people moved to the dollar in social services that served a thousand people.

  • Rick

    The insistence that “you have to fill out the paperwork!” is kind of a cruel joke, though, because the system allows a tiny portion of applicants to immigrate. Generations of immigrants didn’t fill out any forms at all; they hopped on a boat and showed up at Ellis Island, and later sent for families. Our ancestors have more in common with Mexicans sneaking in to San Diego than to the engineers who fill out the proper forms and are snagged by software companies. We should be careful when we invoke history to make get-tough policies, because the past was a lot messier on this question than we admit. There was no legal or illegal immigration back then; there was simply immigration.

    • Ugly American

      The people who came through Ellis Island, one and all, stood for inspection and a significant number were turned away, so since the 1890′s, not everyone who wanted to come here has been accepted. Today’s illegal aliens frequently never want to see and immigration officer because there is a very good chance they would be refused admittance.
      Trying to rely on “how it used to be” is unrealistic. Things change over a period of time and America now has more than 300 million people. In the Ellis Island heyday, we had about 60 million. We can’t accept everyone who wants to come here legally and to “forgive” those who ignore our laws does violate the American Sense of Fairness.
      Immigration laws here, like everywhere else, are meant to benefit OUR country, not those who want to be here. Latin America would like the US to have policies that benefit them, not us and that is a large part of the uproar various Latino groups try to generate.
      Marijuana was once perfectly legal in this country. So was just coming as people pleased. Neither is true anymore.

    • Ted Seeber

      Maybe your ancestors Kemosabe. Of mine:
      -1/128th were Cherokee
      -1/64th were Klickitat
      -Some came before the Civil War and didn’t fill out any paperwork at all
      -My grandmother came with her family to North Dakota from Alberta, Canada, filled out all the paperwork only to have the town they came in through disappear along with all records when the city hall burned down.
      - a rumor only substantiated by DNA evidence and no detail to the story indicates at least some of my ancestors were brought here, with paperwork, on a slave ship, from French Guiana.
      -Some of our distant cousins, the Kwakiutal, had malaria introduced to their communities, all died in the 1830s so that white settlers could take their land.

      I’m pretty sure the Kwakiutal and the Klickitat and the Cherokee would say “protect your culture or you WILL lose it”.

  • Joe Carter

    There was no legal or illegal immigration back then; there was simply immigration.

    True. And there was also no welfare state. You can have high levels of immigration or a welfare state—but both together are not sustainable. In fact, if the illegal immigrants were treated like citizens there would be many more people opposed to illegal immigrants living in America. What many people want (whether they realize it or not) is to have a large group of second-class citizens who are treated differently than regular citizens.

    For instance, imagine if we gave amnesty to all 12 million illegal immigrants living in America. How many of them were making wages that were below the federal minimum wage? Now they have to be paid like other Americans which would push them out of jobs and significantly increase the unemployment rate. Many of them would have to go on welfare, thereby further straining our state’s limited resources.

    One of the reasons we have immigration laws in place is prevent the creation of a two-tier system of exploitable labor.

    • Ted Seeber

      “For instance, imagine if we gave amnesty to all 12 million illegal immigrants living in America. How many of them were making wages that were below the federal minimum wage? Now they have to be paid like other Americans which would push them out of jobs and significantly increase the unemployment rate. Many of them would have to go on welfare, thereby further straining our state’s limited resources.

      One of the reasons we have immigration laws in place is prevent the creation of a two-tier system of exploitable labor.”

      And thus, the big proof all in two paragraphs that immigration laws in the United States have failed. We have essentially created a two-tier system of exploitable labor with them.

  • Messenger

    Mr carter, When those people immigrated to the U.S. long time ego they put nobody out of work; they in fact worked their buttt off to built the U.S. and made a great nation where today many people like to live in. Segregation was a big problem in the U.S.. Why because of fear, fear that blacks would take up jobs that many believed that they had deserved more than blocks. It’s a matter of law first, then pride, then, fear. It will take a great man such as Mr King, Linden Jonson, Lincoln, etc, to resolve the immigration matter in the U.S. not just a politician whom may wanna make some political decision that will benefit him/ her…You will offend many when you are doing the right thing (Lincoln would agree). Of course it would be unfair to bring the world into the U.S. and cause harm to the American people but the fact of the matter is these 10 millions without documents + those unpublished #s waiting will do nothing but work, pay taxes that now can be deposited where it need to go, which the government can then use to build schools, create more jobs, hospitals, etc. I don’t mind playing when booth teams win. A win-win deal should always be a deal. Now, let’s talk about the attitude: some people are filled with all kinds of wrong information and they believe it all, unfortunately. You see those guys that preach against amnesty or granting anything. Education can help reprogrammed some harts and minds and hill them. Jesus came and died to save those that deserved it, I think that was amnesty. Deport the bad guys and leave the families alone or reunite them. Thanks for reading.

    • landaddy001

      While I understand your point of view I think it is both morally wrong and selfish. There are literally millions of people legally waiting in their home countries to immigrate here. Doesn’t that mean something? The law was not put in place to hurt people but to benefit the country. There are millions of people from all over the planet who would work just as hard as the current illegal aliens but don’t have the benefit of being geographically close enough to the US to walk or ride; what about their families? Are they less deserving? Following the current immigration laws is the only fair way to correct this problem. It is wrong to benefit law breakers regardless of how hard working they are.

  • http://www.historyspeakstoday.com Bruce Thatcher

    From 1789 to 1965, most Americans were generally satisfied with United States’ immigration policy. But that changed in 1965 when Congress and the President, against the will of the people, began re-writing the immigration laws. America is still living with the cascading consequences because, as Meyer Burstein observed more than 20 years ago, immigration mistakes are big mistakes. They don’t go away. They only get bigger.

    The problems of America’s present flawed policy are not rooted in illegal immigration (which is a problem), but rather in failure to follow the three simple rules for successful immigration policy.

    1. Clearly define the few (2-4) long-term national interests that are to guide immigration policy. (Six contradictory interests attempt to guide our present policy.)

    2. Design immigration laws, regulations and practices to sharply focus on only the guiding interests. (Ours are fraught with inconsistencies, contradictions and service to special interests.)

    3. Ensure that immigrants assimilate into American society as rapidly as possible. Assimilation proceeds most effectively with educated immigrants who are fluent in English, here legally and intend to stay. (Present policy brings in and abets vast numbers who are uneducated, not English-literate, and who don’t abandon former loyalties.)

    The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (Hart-Cellar Act) established our current ‘preference’ system. The major impetus for the act was to “end discrimination” in immigration policy and give preference to family members and those with desirable skills. Drafters also sought to hold total immigration to levels that had prevailed under the previous policy, and they promised that it would not significantly change America’s demographic profile.

    However, magnitudes more immigrants than were envisioned have come to America under the present policy. The proportion of America’s population born outside of the United States has reached the highest level since 1921.

    The 1965 Act enables unlimited immigration for children, spouses and parents of United States citizens. This has lead to cascading increases of relatives of naturalized citizens, mostly from Asia and Latin America. Later changes have attracted millions of asylum seekers and refugees, and millions of illegal immigrants have been granted amnesty.

    Going into 2012, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is focused on apprehending and deporting only aliens who are actually convicted of serious felony offences, a very small fraction of illegal immigrants.

    The present United States immigration policy may have ended defined discrimination (some see reverse discrimination at work), it has supported family re-unification, and America has become the world’s foremost haven for refugees and asylum seekers. But it has clearly failed its numeric and demographic goals, its impact on the economy is heatedly challenged, and it has become inconsistent with national security concerns.

    Let’s change the national debate. Let’s determine which long-term national interests shall guide a new immigration policy – population growth, economic health, demography, national identity, security, educational attainment, family reunification, brotherhood, etc. And regardless of which are chosen as determining national interests, we must include provisions to correct the most serious present flaws.

    • The maximum number of immigrants must become meaningful and managed.
    • America need not recruit or encourage anyone to immigrate, but we must not discourage desirable persons. Let the market work!
    • A streamlined temporary/guest worker program is necessary to fill shortages.
    • The presence of undesirable aliens must be brought and held to very small numbers through effective border control and enforcement, free from political expediency.
    • Additional restrictions must apply to immigrant visa applicants: (1) denial of visas to persons who follow precepts of radical Islam –Salafiyyah, Wahhabism, violent jihad or Sharia law; (2) applicants must demonstrate general literacy appropriate for their age; and (3) applicants must be appropriately fluent in English.

    The flow of unplanned elements into America is unrelenting. We must bypass the rhetorical diversion of illegal immigration and address overall immigration reform … now!

    • wtfamievenreading

      I would imagine that Native Americans were not generally satisfied with immigration policies between the years of 1789 and 1965. I don’t believe they were generally consulted about the waves of Europeans invading and seizing their ancestral lands.

      But they were pagan savages who didn’t yet know the loving hand of Christ delivered at the butt of a rifle, so who cares what they thought?

      I would imagine that most West African slaves were not satisfied with immigration policies between the years of 1789 and 1863. What with being forcefully immigrated against their will and all.

      But they were Voudon-worshipping heathen who hadn’t learned about the Old Testament and all of its justifications for human bondage yet. So who cares what they thought?

      I would imagine that most Chicanos and Mexicans were not satisfied with the immigration policies between 1848 and well, now. The United States immigrated itself into half of their country after a war sparked by the illegal seizure of Texas.

      But they were poor, mixed-race Catholics, obviously inferior and in need of the gentle, guiding hand of Germanic Protestants to rule over their lands. So who cares what they thought?

      When you say “against the will of the people” it makes me wonder who, according to your definition, “the people” are.

      P.S. Good luck getting the US to ban Wahhabis. First off that’s so unconstitutional it makes me wonder if you’ve ever *read* the Constitution, and secondly the Saudis are the government’s BFFs because of the “Iranian menace” and oil. So good luck on that front.

  • landaddy001

    My compassion is with those people who follow the law regardless of how difficult it is to legally immigrate to this country. They are not breaking the law and teaching their children that what they did is justified. When a man steals, even to feed his kids, he is a thief. God may teach us to love the sinner but he also says to hate the sin.

  • JDP

    I guess Shea has more important things to worry about, such as hysterical paranoia that we’re going to blow up Iran or political dissidents are going to be Drone’d.

  • JDP

    really though, the man as like one of Andrew Sullivan’s “Christianist” caricatures came to life and was just as hysterical as him on national-security issues. On behalf of Catholics everywhere I apologize.

  • Ted Seeber

    The real problem with this backlog seems to be much less the law, and mostly bureaucratic red tape. There should be no reason why we shouldn’t chew up that 4 million at 700,000/year *right now*.

  • Dave Francis


    What are we getting ourselves into, if President Obama returns to the Capital? The major issue that is a threat to America’s economy is the promise of Obama in approving a passage of amnesty for the 20 million or more of illegal aliens who have illicitly settled in the United States. The fact that neither party will enact E-Verify, part of the LEGAL WORKFORCE ACT, which would ensure illegal aliens, will not no longer be stealing jobs from the 7.9 citizens or legal residents? ICE will prosecute employers to the full extent of the law, if only this bill becomes a nationwide event; same as THE BIRTHRIGHT CITIZENSHIP BILL. Both bills are held up and not going the floor, as both political parties are held hostage by the Senate majority speaker Nevada’s Harry Reid and the upper elites in the Republican Party. The public gets no say in the matter as the special interests groups buy their votes.

    A straightforward adjustment to the BIRTHRIGHT CITIZENSHIP BILL would eliminate pregnant women smuggling their unborn into America. If every parent who slips past our border guards or hops off a plane on our soil would think differently knowing that unless they were citizens, their child could not collect a path to citizenship. Annually around 400.000 women smuggle their unborn into America, attracted by all the free welfare programs including the hospital delivery. The Present law that is driven by the 14th Amendment brings in pregnant woman that has led eventually to the DREAM ACT and hundreds of thousands of kids are passed onto the taxpayer. This seemingly innocent invasion will never end, unless the people of this nation speak up and do something. Taxpayers are the payee for every migrant and illegal immigrant who reaches this country, but the Democrats and GOP just allow it to continue. The only opponents are the TEA PARTY who are slowly gaining headway, inside the Republican Party and ousting incumbents.

    The Liberal media stays silent about another amnesty being pressed by Obama in a possible next term and major news is severely suppressed such as the Benghazi murderous carnage. Of course the truth about this terrible incident has been carefully concealed by the main stream press as the general election closes in? They have no intentions of causing a storm before the voting is caste. Three men plus the Ambassador, who ended up dead, continuously demanded help from the U.S. government that was denied. Investigate the facts of this awful issue at FOXNEWS or complete a search on any major Search Engine. Same with the energy industry who have been intimidated by Obama’s goons in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that have placed obstacles for requested permits. Readers only have to look at the governmental impediments to run the Canadian pipeline of oil supplies to Texas. That gas prices keep rising, because Obama’s liberal Czars think that Windmills, Solar and other forms of green energy could take the place of fossil fuels?

    Gasoline, natural gas and clean coal are in demand now and have been cut back, because of the involvement with the environmentalists. Then we have the “Fast and Furious” gun running controversy. High powered weapons ending up in the hands of the drug cartels and another on the hands of the top officials. Maybe not Obama directly involved in these actions, except his idea to give every American and illegal alien a right to nationalized health care, which will be a monolithic burden around the neck of every taxpayer and businesses alike. Its not right that the U.S. courts can force on all taxpayers, over 113 billion dollars a year to support foreign nationals. Its no right that we must indulge illegal aliens and their children for their rest of their lives. DOESN’T THIS GOVERNMENT UNDERSTAND, OR ANY PREVIOUS ADMINISTRATION, POLITICIAN, ELECTED OFFICIAL COMPREHEND THAT BY CONTINUOUSLY FINANCING ILLEGAL ALIENS, WITH WELFARE AND OTHER PUBLIC FUNDS THAT THE WELCOME MAT WILL ATTRACT THE POVERTY AND DESPERATE OF OTHER NATIONS.