Two items from a recent "Immigration Bill Roundup" (partially behind a paywall) illustrate the great divide confronting our nation where the hot button issue of immigration is concerned. They are:
Legalizing Immigrant Parents, Spouses
Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, introduced legislation on April 13 to allow the Department of Homeland Security to grant lawful permanent resident status to the previously deported parents and spouses of U.S. citizens.
Under current statute, noncitizens who attempt to enter the U.S. without authorization, who attempted illegal re-entry or who were deported cannot apply for citizenship in the U.S. Green's bill, which had some 24 co-sponsors, would eliminate those restrictions for spouses or parents of U.S. citizens who do not have prior criminal convictions and are found to be of "good moral character."
"Families are a cornerstone of our country, and our government should not be in the business of tearing them apart," Green said in a statement. "We need legislation like The Reentry and Reunification Act to create a more just and humane immigration system and ensure that we are giving all hardworking families every opportunity to thrive."
Crackdown On Illegal Re-entries
Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, on April 17 introduced a bill creating sentencing enhancements for illegal re-entry offenses and clarifying how they must be served.
The bill would elevate unlawful presence in the U.S. to an aggravating factor for any federal criminal offense and prevent convicted criminals from counting time served in a state facility from counting towards an existing sentence for an immigration-related crime. It would also permit prosecutors to weigh crimes committed after unlawful re-entry on the federal level to ensure that further sentences on the state level cannot be served in place of federal sentences.
"I'm glad my colleagues are joining me in stopping illegal criminal aliens from falling through the cracks of our criminal justice system," he said.
So there you have it: on one side, a Democrat wants to file a bill excusing aliens who first enter the U.S. illegally and then, after being formally deported, sneak back in illegally and commit the federal felony of reentry after removal. On the other side, you have a Republican who wants to ensure that both our border security measures and our laws are taken seriously and has introduced a measure to amend sentencing guidelines according to the severity of the crime.
It probably comes as no surprise that I don't favor any measure that gives reentrants-after-removal some kind of automatic track to resident alien status.
In the first place, simply having a child born in the United States doesn't suggest any kind of affinity for our country; to the contrary, such a measure may simply act as a questionable impetus for having children. Of course, the statement of the bill's sponsor, Rep. Green, makes the obligatory obeisance to family life in America: "Families are a cornerstone of our country, and our government should not be in the business of tearing them apart."
That's just throwaway language. Our society already does a great job on its own of tearing families apart, and revealing that the 1950s and even '60s-era television sitcom version of families no longer applies, if it ever did. According to the family law firm of McKinley Irvin, 43 percent of children growing up in America today are being raised without their fathers; 75 percent of children with divorced parents live with their mother; and 28 percent of children living with a divorced parent live in a household with an income below the poverty line.
Disturbingly, it would appear that the bill doesn't even contain any kind of qualifier to require that the alien who would receive resident status have been a responsible parent who acted as a primary caregiver or, at minimum, has provided adequate financial support to raise the child decently.
Then there is the fact that such children aren't just United States citizens; they are dual nationals. I am uncomfortable with such split allegiances, but they are a ground reality. The child will almost certainly be a legally cognizable citizen of Mexico, or Honduras, or Guatemala, or virtually anywhere else in the world that the parent(s) came from. Yes, I understand that often such countries don't enjoy the same standard of living as most Americans. But it's also true that many immigrants in the United States are at the lower echelons of our economic ladder and don't enjoy the same standard of living as middle-class Americans. What's more, the implication underlying this bill strikes me as elitist: who is to say that living a more modest life in another country is somehow less honorable or less worth living than residing in the United States?
Finally there is the question of this bill asserting that access to resident status will require that the alien be of "good moral character". It makes a mockery of the phrase. How can we make such an assumption about any individual who has proven him- or herself to be a scofflaw and repeat immigration violator? If they show such contempt for our immigration laws, why should they benefit from them?
In short, it seems to me that Rep. Green's bill is just a stealth amnesty for people who have shown no particular merit to deserve such largesse. Let us hope it gets shelved.