Illegal Immigrants, Not So Illegal

If foreign-born students have done everything to qualify for higher education, why shouldn't they be allowed to pursue it on the same terms as their peers?

When you hear of people in Chicago sleeping on the sidewalk to be first in line in the morning, you may figure they are hoping to snag tickets for Lady Gaga or a Cubs World Series. But those were not the explanation Wednesday when thousands lined up at Navy Pier. They didn't want to get something. They wanted to avoid getting something: a deportation order.

It was a scene that immediately put every American into one of two groups: those heartened by the throngs of illegal immigrants thirsting to stay in this country, and those appalled. It also framed a choice for voters, because the crowd was responding to a decision by President Barack Obama to stop deporting some foreigners who arrived without benefit of the law.

It's not really accurate to call them foreigners, though. These are young people who were brought here when they were still children. Many arrived as infants or toddlers; many speak English like natives; and many have no memory of their birth country. Everything about them says "American" except their birth certificates.

For years, they've had to live with the possibility of being caught by immigration agents and evicted from the only home they know. But in June, Obama announced the administration would stop removing those who meet certain criteria.

The exemption would cover those under age 31 who came before age 16, have lived here five years or more, are attending school or have graduated from high school or have served in the military, and have no serious criminal record.

The reprieve would last two years -- or, possibly, until Mitt Romney moves into the White House. Republicans in Congress denounced the change, and their prospective nominee says, "I will build my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the president's temporary measure."

The change does more than lift the threat of being deported. It also lets those affected work legally, qualify for college financial aid and get driver's licenses. Unlike the farsighted Dream Act, which Congress spurned, it doesn't provide them a path to citizenship or any permanent immunity.

Critics say Obama has brazenly usurped the authority of the legislative branch by implementing something he couldn't get lawmakers to pass. But the executive has long exercised discretion over which illegal immigrants to banish and which to keep. Utah's Republican Attorney General Mark Shurtleff supports Romney but says, "This is clearly within the president's power."

John Lennon, who should not have been allowed in because of a drug conviction, was in line to be deported in the early 1970s until his lawyer got the immigration agency to classify him a "non-priority," allowing him to stay until his death in 1980.

Margaret Stock, an immigration attorney in Anchorage, Alaska, tells me that deportable foreigners have long been eligible for "deferred action status." She has sought it for many clients and says, "Previously it was really the whim of the local office whether you got it or not."

Until now, she says that "it was pretty much one of those things that lawyers knew about but the general public didn't." The Obama administration has merely extended to a large, well-defined group an option that used to be available mainly to a few with the cash and savvy to hire a lawyer. British pop icons? Sure. Mexican janitors? Probably not.

Republicans say Obama's policy rewards people for breaking the law. But the young people affected by the change had no say in the decision. Banishing those who grew up here because of what their parents did punishes the innocent, not the guilty.

The other complaint is that the policy will force Americans to compete for jobs and college admission with those allowed to stay. But immigrants, legal or illegal, not only fill jobs but create them. Historically, there is no correlation between higher immigration and higher unemployment.

And if foreign-born students have done everything to qualify for higher education, why shouldn't they be allowed to pursue it on the same terms as their peers? What the 13,000 people who showed up at Navy Pier want is what conservatives are fond of promising: not a guarantee of success, but an opportunity to make the most of their abilities.

It's a dream that is American to the core. No one should be surprised that on Wednesday, they interrupted the proceedings to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

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  • WTF||

    Obama announced the administration would stop removing those who meet certain criteria.

    Hispandering? You make the call.

  • CatchTheCarp||

    Banishing those who grew up here because of what their parents did punishes the innocent, not the guilty.

    They can blame their parents then. I can't say I have much sympathy for those in this plight, it's not like they weren't aware of their status. Revise the requirements if need be and consistently enforce them. This recurring exemption BS that crops up every election cycle is ridiculous.

  • Loki||

    This recurring exemption BS that crops up every election cycle is ridiculous.

    This is a feature, not a bug. Anything to keep from talking about shit that actually matters.

  • Christina||

    Hey, here's an idea: charge a flat fee of say $25,000 and let them stay. Similarly, for initial entrance, charge slightly less than the going rate for being smuggled in by coyotes.

  • thom||

    Or, alternatively, just let people live and work here for free. The idea of huge tax assessments based on the location of your birth is stupid and counterproductive.

  • Skyhawk||

    Except that they broke the law and are now the beneficiaries of a country/infrastructure/society paid for by generations of citizens.

    How about you let them live in your house for free? After all basing a family and/or property rights on the location of your birth is stupid and counter-productive.

  • thom||

    That's all you got? That they "broke the law?" And then you compare the United States of America to my house?

    Why do you read this website?

  • Skyhawk||

    Yeah, they broke the law. Consider the $25,000 a fine for trespassing and benefiting from the country/infrastructure/society built by generations of taxpayers, of which they did not contribute.

  • Knight||

    Curious. Did /you/ pay for the infrastructure? Were you a taxpayer since the inception of the US?

  • thom||

    Huh? For the most part these people come here to work. So they do contribute. I'm sure you'll find people to agree with you somewhere, but I honestly don't think this is the right website for your entitlement mentality.

  • ||

    Depending on which study you pick, illegal immigrants either consume about 60 billion dollars more per year than they contribute federally, or they are a marginal net benefit if you include the commerce they engage in.

    That's really neither here nor there though. Even in Libertopia the concept of borders stands as a perfectly legitimate exercise of the state to prevent the spread of communicable diseases, prevent criminals from other countries from victimizing its citizens, to keep armies from crossing the border with guns, etc. People who jump the border negate the ability of the state to perform those functions, and so yes, they should be punished. Call me crazy, but I absolutely feel entitled to have the government keep drug resistant infections, criminals, terrorists, and foreign soldiers out of the country. I'd like to think that for all the taxes I pay, at least some of them could go toward one of the few legitimate functions of a state.

  • ||

    I absolutely feel entitled to have the government keep drug resistant infections, criminals, terrorists, and foreign soldiers out of the country.

    So does everyone else.

    Now, why do you also feel entitled to keep out people who are not any of those but simply want to live and work in the country?

  • rrgg||

    It's interesting the author omitted key details.

    1) Besides exempting some people under 31, the parents of those who qualify are ALSO now exempt from deportation. This is an often overlooked part of what the White House is actually ordering. Please don't try to argue that someone in their twenties or even 30-years old needs parents to survive.

    2) No one has to prove anything about arriving before age 16. Whatever the applicant says is basically taken at face value.

    Effectively nearly everyone is granted exemption, unless you're an unfortunate senior with no 30-year old children. Let's stop pretending this is not de facto amnesty. Of course it is. If the US should be granting amnesty then debate that point instead of hiding behind the facade of this executive order.

  • thom||

    The US should not be granting amnesty. Instead, it should just stop harassing people who live and work here.

  • Marshall Gill||

    It's interesting the author omitted key details.

    First time reading Chapman?

  • Knight||

    You're wrong.

    1) Parents do not receive deferred action. They will not be actively sought after, but if caught they will be placed in deportation proceedings regardless of whether their children have deferment.

    2) The application does require one to prove they were here before the age of 16.

  • Diomasach||

    In other words, it is now perfectly acceptable to jump the border fence and then when the border patrol stops you tell them you have been here since you were a kid and have a GED. They are not allowed to actually demand any proof, and are in fact ordered to accept whatever you say at face value and have to let you stay.

    Borders? We don't need no stinkin borders!

  • Lord Rae||

    Except that isn't what this is at all. Nice attempt though.

  • Loki||

    And if foreign-born students have done everything to qualify for higher education, why shouldn't they be allowed to pursue it on the same terms as their peers?

    At the risk of starting an Affirmitive Action sub-thread, I doubt that an immigrant would really be competing for college admissions slots on the "same term as their peers", especially their white male peers. College administrators love it when people are able to check any box other than "white non-latino and male" so that they can get their diversity numbers up.

  • Masturbatin' Pete||

    And if foreign-born students have done everything to qualify for higher education, why shouldn't they be allowed to pursue it on the same terms as their peers?

    Because public education is rivalrous and excludable. We've got a finite pile of money that we're handing out, and given a choice between handing it to citizens or non-citizens, the state should give it to citizens first.

  • thom||

    Why? If smart kids who were born somewhere else want to stay here and be successful, why would we make them stand behind less smart kids who will be less successful just because the less smart kids were born on the right side of an imaginary line? Especially if we only have a finite amount of money to pay for it all. At least try and direct it towards the best return instead of using it as a mechanism to discriminate against people based on a minor detail of their life of which they had no control.

    The entitlement among anti-immigrant people is among the worst there is: "Context and practicalities aside, you were born on THAT side of an imaginary line and I was born on THIS side, so I should get special privileges even if you work harder or smarter than me!"

  • XM||

    Because they're not citizens, and the "line" you're talking about isn't imaginary. And amnesty proposals like the dream act doesn't really take into account the applicant's merits other than some vague "moral character" clause.

    If someone actually proposed a "libertarian" solution where limited funds are reserved for the cream of the crop (legal and illegal) then both the legal and illegal camp will cry "discrimination" for obvious reasons.

    Since no one enjoys individual liberty to bypass another nation's borders and immigration law for their benefit (even for very human reasons), there is no real "libertarian" argument for amnesty. All that's left is moral argument for giving them a chance, which can be compelling.

  • ||

    Since no one enjoys individual liberty to bypass another nation's borders and immigration law for their benefit (even for very human reasons)...

    Does anyone enjoy individual liberty to bypass their own nation's round up and execute law for their benefit (even for very human reasons)?

    Just trying to see where you think this limit of individual liberty is...

  • XM||

    "Does anyone enjoy individual liberty to bypass their own nation's round up and execute law for their benefit (even for very human reasons)?"

    Huh?

    The limit of individual liberty can be found in the law or the constitution. You can't scream "fire" in a crowded theater when there's no fire. A foreign national can't cross our borders illegally and expect to work jobs or drive a car.

    This isn't rocket science. We're not legally obligated to grant illegal aliens citizenship, even if doing that would be a boon to the economy. More specifically, foreigners do not enjoy the constitutional right to cross our border illegally and expect default legalization.

    If you're here illegally, you broke the law. Amnesty is a privilege, not a civil right.

  • ||

    So if Congress through due process legislates that everyone who has more vowels than consonants in their surname shall be rounded up and executed, you think that no one enjoys individual liberty to bypass that law because doing so would be illegal?

    Again, what do you think the limits of individual liberty are? Prohibiting an individual's travel, abrogating his rights of contract and freedom of labor, and kidnapping him, imprisoning him, and transporting him thousands of miles appear to be okay to you. Is simply killing him okay, so long as it's legal?

  • ||

    We're not legally obligated to grant illegal aliens citizenship...

    No, we're not.

    But we are morally obligated not to prohibit their travel, abrogate their rights of contract and freedom of labor, or kidnap them, imprison them, or transport them thousands of miles without compelling, specific, and individually applied reason. That is, we are obligated to respect their individual rights.

  • ||

    Yeah, imagine that. People who pay taxes to their government expect the benefits the government doles out to flow back to themselves. Selfish cunts...

    You don't think it takes just a little bit more of an entitlement mindset to arrive in a country illegally and demand to be given resources extracted from that country's taxpayers?

    The correct solution to this issue, of course, is to not have the state finance 90% of higher education. But as long as the state is going to continue doing so, which you seem to support, why wouldn't the people who pay for the benefits expect them to accrue to themselves before they do to others?

  • Homple||

    Exam question: How many walk-in foreigners per year can the US economy and society support?

    Show your work.

  • thom||

    It's like trying to figure out the proper price and quantity of shoes to produce in an economy in a year. It's not something that can nor should necessarily be calculated at the macro level. Thankfully, nature provides a mechanism that takes care of these calculations for us.

  • Knight||

    Your question implies immigration is a net-loss. Furthermore you imply that a central planner can in theory know this precise number. Forgive me if I am mistaken. Is everyone here a libertarian, or are there socialists among us who don't grasp the calculation problem?

  • thom||

    Some "libertarians" turn into socialists when it comes to "illegal" immigrants crossing into "their" country.

  • ||

    And some other "libertarians" turn into socialists when it comes to perpetuating the higher education welfare system for the benefit of "illegal" immigrants (see above). I guess it's true. We really are all socialists now.

  • jason||

    The latest Americans immigration improvements opens the door for the illegal workers in the country,

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Never understood the in-state/out-of-state tuition bullshit. Charge ONE amount for EVERY student... one less problem.

    In fact, payment for services should be the *only* issue when getting into college. (Tony will disagree, of course, because he's better than everyone else.)

  • Diomasach||

    "foreigners who arrived without benefit of the law."
    Best weasel-word euphemism EVER.

    No, officer, I didn't break in to that house, I merely entered without benefit of the law.

    No, I didn't steal this money, I merely acquired it without benefit of the law.

    LOVE IT.

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