The Republican Party is strongly divided on the issue of immigration reform. Positions range from those who support “comprehensive reform,” including some form of amnesty, to those who want strict enforcement of current laws and absolutely no amnesty. Those who oppose amnesty are not anti-immigration, they oppose illegal immigration and support the rule of law.
Any comprehensive discussion of immigration should begin with discussing who we are as a national identity and what we hope to become in the future. The Declaration of Independence is the foundational document, the charter, of the United States of America. It states, in exquisite detail, the reasons the Founders declared independence. Two provisions of the Declaration should be considered in a discussion of immigration. First, the most famous clause:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Especially when taken in context, it is not a stretch to read into this the idea that every person’s unalienable rights include the right to choose the nation to which he or she will pledge allegiance. The second clause to consider is less well known, but vital to the discussion. You see, among the charges against the King of Britain is this gem:
“He [the King] has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.”
Translated to modern terms: the King was making it too difficult for people to come to America and become citizens of the colonies. Having laws regarding naturalization is not objectionable and obstructing those laws was not only objectionable, it was one of the many causes that made it “necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another.”
The foundational document of the United States tells us in no uncertain terms that we should have laws that permit people to come here and to become naturalized. And, we have those laws. However, it also clearly tells us that a government that obstructs naturalization is a mark of the “Despotism” the founders sought to overthrow.
The California Republican Party platform from 2012 includes the following regarding immigration:
“We support legal immigration and the immigration laws which are already in place, and call on the government to enforce all laws on the issue. To take any other position would be a great unfairness to those who have complied with the legal system…”
Anyone who suggests that immigrants do not have rights in the U.S. is incorrect. Their right to seek entry and naturalization into the U.S. is unalienable. However, the right to seek is not the right to have. Laws imposing reasonable restrictions on immigration and establishing procedures are necessary and important for the protection of the country and the immigrants themselves, in many cases. As a society, we must be sensitive to the rights of immigrants. But, what happens when immigrants fail or refuse to follow those laws? Should we reward the failure to follow the law with citizenship? Do we blame our lawmakers for allowing conditions encouraging illegal immigration to persist? Is the system “broken” and how is it broken?
Immigration is an enormous issue, not only in importance, but is scope. Discrete issues will be addressed in several posts with the intent of considering both policy and politics.