Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, March 03, 2017

The Cruel Mercy of Encouraging Illegal Immigration

The Trump administration has been making initial moves towards stepping up enforcement against the estimated eleven million immigrants who are in the United States illegally. This has caused a good deal of fear and anxiety, not only among those who are in the US illegally (or look like they might be from one of the countries from which many illegal immigrants come, and thus might be mistakenly targeted) and among those who advocate more open immigration policy. Among the latter category are many Catholic organizations and leaders, and so there's been a mix of efforts to help and virtue signalling coming from them as well. A key example has been Bishop Cupich of Chicago, who gained wide press attention for announcing that immigration enforcement officers should not be allowed onto Catholic church or school property unless they showed a proper warrant. (It's unclear whether this directive has any practical effect or is mostly a publicity stunt, given that the immigration enforcement agencies have internal policies against going after people as such locations.)

I'm strongly in favor of a more open set of immigration policies, but it strikes me that the tumult currently going on underscores the problem with the approach which both business interests and social justice advocates have taken in the last 20+ years of encouraging a de facto relaxation of immigration quotas and policies by simply not enforcing the laws currently on the books. People have worked to get states to issue drivers licenses to illegal immigrants, to make sure that services (public school, etc.) are readily available to them, and to make sure that enforcement of minor crimes and legal issues are not used as an opportunity to check immigration status. That makes sense in the short term, if what you want to do is avoid the pain and disruption of people being deported, and to allow them to lead the lives in the US that immigration advocates believe they deserve. And yet, it also encourages people to exist in a sort of extended legal twilight. There are people who have been living in the US for decades but who are not actually legally allowed to be here, and as the current panic shows, if the government were to actually enforce the laws already on the books, that would mean disrupting lives in all sorts of ways.

Yes, we should have more open immigration policies, but isn't some of the pain of starting to enforce our immigration laws the result of those who have encourage people to act as if those laws didn't matter? Were we doing illegal immigrants any favors by making it seem as if living here illegally was a sustainable idea?

In some ways the combination of no actual legal reform and lax enforcement has created worse conditions now, because it's allowed a lot of people to build lives which depend on that lax enforcement continuing. We've created a whole class of people whose lives are dependent on the government not enforcing the laws that it claims to have.

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