By now, you probably have heard about new policies on immigration law enforcement, enacted by executive order by President Obama. This enacts in a temporary/fragile way what Obama hoped to enact in a more permanent way through law (reminder: Presidents have the ability to direct policy of the executive branch of government, funding or defunding and choosing enforcement focus for police and other parts of that branch. Executive orders are powerful, but unlike actual law, they may be overturned by directives from future presidents and are limited to things within the scope of the executive branch).
Immigration policy is a difficult matter, significantly because there is a difference between short and long term policy goals, and significantly because some groups feel that they are unfairly targeted.
First, let us discard a few arguments and law down a few basic ideas.
- America was built on immigrants, and at one time we "asked" the world for their poor, etc etc. This asking has never been consistent, and the open welcome mat was discarded a long time ago. This is a good thing; just as we might rightly consider the "replenish the earth" argument made by religious people to be an attitude belonging to past needs and inappropriate to an overpopulated world, our nation does not need to keep adding people to be successful. It may choose to do so, but it is not a necessity
- It is ot (necessarily) racist to enforce immigration law. While there are no doubt racists who are trying to preserve "white culture" who are pushing the issue, there are rule-of-law issues as well as other policy reasons that a state may wish to control/shape immigration
- Young children who are taken into the country illegally are not responsible for that act. That does not mean that as a matter of policy/law, they may not be deported, but one may not assume any intentional disregard for the rule of law on their part.
- There are people who achieve immigration by applying for it, and many more who apply for it and are rejected.
- There is no simple obligation to allow immigration at all, even in the case of refugees. A decision to allow it should lead to a policy based on empathy, need, timescales. Refugee immigration does not have to be permanent, and there may be alternatives that work better on many fronts.
- It is unjust to punish children for the actions of their parents in taking them into the country illegally. It may be just to limit the ability of children to enjoy status in the country as a way of dissuading illegal immigration
- It is preferable, from a perspective of rule of law, to have immigrants who enter the country legally to have priority in terms of enjoying status and security in the country.
- Nations in general should have control over immigration policy, and may decide based on national interest or other purposes to limit or prohibit immigration. They may, if they choose, reject people, or deport those who enter illegally.
- There is a national interest in having immigrants who contribute to the country, particularly hard workers, people with unique skills and people with high levels of education. There is no national interest in having immigrants who do not contribute to society (although a society may choose to permit them to immigrate for humanitarian reasons)
- There is a need for seasonal unskilled labour in Southern agricultural communities that exceeds the present availability of the American labour force, and some kind of arrangement beyond what's being currently provided for is necessary.
- Damage to rule of law done by amnesty (particularly in a form that would effectively and permanently remove the state's ability to regulate immigration) is potent
- I would like to see an end to birthright citizenship. I recognise that this is what the law has traditionally been, but I don't think it's good policy. It might not need major tweaks though.
- I reject both polarised terms for illegal immigrants in this dispute; calling them simply "illegals" is unnecessarily perjorative, and calling them "undocumented workers" neglects the fact that their presence is in fact illegal. Both these terms amount to excessive linguistic manipulation by my book.
Deportation of those who willingly snuck in and splitting families is one policy I'd consider acceptable, based on rule of law and sovereignty. However, I think we should also independently consider what is in the national interest (ignoring, for this separate consideration, what behaviour is incentivised), and then attempt a synthesis.
The national interest arguments include:
- Deporations, particularly for those who have been in a community for a long time, damage communities
- The threat of deportation creates a permanent underclass who is afraid to use social services (and might be abusable with impunity because they may lack recourse to the courts)
- Deportation often removes people who have already successfully settled, presumably to make room for those who would legally settle (I insist that the concerns of would-be legal immigrants be considered here)
- Indiscriminate deportation would remove a number of proven-valuable people (the DREAM act and its executive-order replacement address this a bit)
- Legislature and administrative bodies may underestimate the amount of seasonal work or immigration that is in the public interest