Undocumented immigrants receive due relief
The principle of justice, like few other fundamental elements of morality, speaks to us in common with such authority and clarity that for anyone to ignore it is to invoke the outrage of the masses.
Justice protects the innocents from unjustified harm with all its might, and no group is more characterized for its innocence than children.
Children, because of their ignorance and lack of autonomy, cannot be culpable for their actions to a punishable degree — often they deserve discipline, but never punishment — much less punishment for the actions performed by their parents. Having no control over their own lives, children cannot possibly direct the lives of their parents.
Even those who learn their morality from the Bible feel discomfort at the passages in II Samuel when God punishes David for his transgression by bringing about the death of his newborn. Although it was within the scope of justice to punish David, to do so by killing an innocent child crossed the line.
Our government has had the good sense and prudence to distinguish between the actions performed by fully autonomous and rational adults from those of minors. This distinction is evident in the creation and continuation of juvenile courts. Even more so, it has had the wisdom to punish only people responsible for their crimes, and being related to a criminal has by no means ever been — on its own — reason for punishment.
All who live in this nation of opportunities have enjoyed the fruits of such a fair justice system — all except the undocumented children of illegal immigrants, who, by no fault of their own, are persecuted for deportation, and denied the opportunity to receive proper health care, further their education and earn a fair living.
Arriving in the United States through either birth or a border at age 3 is not a morally relevant difference. The former receives full protection under the law; the latter is discriminated against and considered a criminal.
But is the one more law-abiding than the other; either a better citizen by the nature of their arrival?
By consulting their memories alone, a law enforcement official will not be able to determine which one is the subject of a foreign government: both are, for all intents and purposes, equally American.
There is a moral difference in these circumstances, however. The parents of the undocumented child broke the law, and for their crime, it is well within the scope of justice for them to be punished. It is not morally commendable, but it too is not injustice. The injustice lies in the government’s failure to distinguish between the culpable and the innocent. It has carried on the burdens due the parents to the child, and harmed the latter unjustifiably.
The Obama Administration recognized the shortcomings of our current immigration policies last month, and provided relief from removal or from entering removal proceedings to some “Dreamers.” Those who qualify may also be eligible to receive work-permits.
The executive order requires “dreamers” to have arrived in the United States before age 16, have remained for at least five consecutive years in the country, be currently enrolled in or have graduated from high school, or received a G.E.D. or been honorably discharged from the U.S. armed forces. Lastly, “dreamers” may not have any felony or misdemeanor charges.
The order is narrow enough to encompass only desirable individuals, and comprehensive enough to include as many as will maximize the benefits due to this nation as a whole.
The executive order by no means settles the complicated and heated disputes on immigration, and many have criticized it as being merely a measure for re-election, particularly when it came just moments prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Arizona’s SB 1070.
Independently of the motives, this order will serve as a good framework to guide future reform, were it to come, and it provides a much needed relief to undocumented people who are not guilty of any crime, besides remaining loyal to a country that provided them with an upbringing. I hope that Congress will shortly follow the president’s lead and pass a law protecting “dreamers” from undue burdens, while respecting the already established rights of citizens and legal residents, so the commandments of justice will cease to be ignored.