In a previous column about the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to hear arguments in the case against Arizona's immigration enforcement law, I asked how Christians should respond in the debate. It's easy to de-personalize illegal aliens and to view them at a distance as a monolith set of lawbreakers, as I admittedly tend to do. They are individuals made in the image of God, which also means they're moral agents accountable for their acts.
But what about minors who illegally crossed the border with their parents?
Congress has attempted to deal with the issue with the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, introduced in 2001. The measure has failed to pass, for good reason. President Barack Obama, well aware that DREAM doesn't have enough support, circumvented the checks-and-balances system and handed down his edict from on high (download a PDF of the Department of Homeland Security's memorandum) last Friday afternoon.
Despite millions of Americans who are unemployed and under-employed, Obama declared that he would grant work permits to and halt the deportation of illegal aliens under age 30 brought here before age 16 by their parents. They'd have to meet other criteria, including no criminal history and enrollment in school or graduation from high school.
While the plan might sound like "the right thing to do," it's probably a first step to granting amnesty to the subjects of the directive and their entire families. Obama knew just how to frame the issue. Here's an excerpt from the president's speech:
"Now, these are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they're friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants, and often have no idea that they're undocumented until they apply for a job or a driver's license or a college scholarship."
Doesn't it seem heartless as well as un-Christian to oppose helping the "young people" brought here illegally through no fault of their own? Let's say there's a young person, American through and through, and a Christian, who only wants to serve in our military or start a business and create jobs. Should such a person face deportation back to the Third World?
While Obama's directive might sound compassionate and ease some pangs of misplaced guilt, it is wide open to misapplication, and the unintended consequences will reverberate. For example, the Center for Immigration Studies notes that the "brought here by their parents" provision is a "fictitious description" designed to arouse sympathy and support, as illegal aliens who crossed the border on their own also would benefit.
Treating illegal aliens humanely doesn't (and shouldn't) include excusing or rewarding unlawful behavior. What is the United States to do about the status of illegal aliens brought here as minors? One thing is certain, ignoring the Constitution to push through a sweeping measure that likely will lead to amnesty for millions is not the solution.