DACA and Republican principles
We will learn much about the Republican party as they negotiate the fate of DACA. The most telling indicator will not be where the debate ends, but rather where it starts.
How do people become residents of the United States? Some preferred classes of potential immigrants are immediately eligible for green cards or permanent legal authority. They are free to enter and reside in the United States, whether they pursue citizenship or not. Others enter the U.S. with a conditional visa granting them temporary authority. For instance, the visa may require the holder to stay enrolled in college or gainfully employed. Some are specifically time-limited. Residency is conditional, a privilege bestowed on those who comply with the provisions.
The third method of securing residency is illegal entry. Some people simply evade the legal authorities, the application process, and the troublesome visa requirements and live here surreptitiously. The DACA debate will focus on the children of these "illegal immigrants," themselves illegal aliens in the United States.
Any remedy should consider that these aliens have already violated the law. The DACA children could be given a second crack at the immigration process, but compliance cannot be voluntary. Legalization must be earned by self-identification, application, and compliance with immigration law. Non-compliance should result in deportation. At that point, keeping the family together becomes the business of the family alone, not the U.S. government.
Why is the DACA debate important? Because many prospective legal immigrants are currently waiting for legal authority outside the U.S. And while the law-abiding are waiting patiently (sometimes for years) in Mexico, Honduras, and Portugal, the lawbreakers are living safely in Arizona, Texas, and South Dakota.
A free pass for DACA families is a slap in the face to those actively pursuing legal immigration. A just reform should consider them first – at minimum, concurrently. And no just reform can provide legalization, residency, and a path to citizenship for the lawbreaker while simultaneously denying the same to the law-abiding.
A DACA remedy may entail some measure of forgiveness. The sensible response, however, should reflect the interests of the country at large, not the parochial interests of the lawbreakers.
The argument for legalization often suggests that illegal aliens are doing the United States a favor by coming here. Notwithstanding the value some illegals bring, legalization is a kindness, not a right that one acquires by violating the law.
"Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent." It is a quote that is usually pulled out for unserious arguments. Not in this case. People will be skipped over. To ask those people to wait patiently and continue to abide by the rules while we assimilate and legalize the "undocumented" is both indefensible and hypocritical.
The Democrats are seldom troubled by inequities visited upon the law-abiding, whether they be wealthy taxpayers, nuns with religious convictions, gun-owners, or legal immigrants. They are considered a necessary price to be paid for the Democrats' preferred brand of justice. The Republicans seem equally untroubled. In both parties, the indifference is shaped by purely political concerns.
Politicians rarely let matters of principle complicate legislation. That is not an option for Republicans on DACA. To prioritize legalization for the lawbreakers without addressing the concerns of those pursuing legal immigration is indecent.
Michael Cronin is a Wisconsin freelance writer.