President Trump, we are told, is considering or has decided to end President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, reportedly with a six month delay to give Congress a chance to pass a law addressing the issue. The Obama-era program, instituted by executive order, grants two-year renewable work permits to those brought into the country illegally as children.
There are legitimate arguments for and against this policy. Even saying this is blasphemy for its supporters, whose brains, reasoning and sense of national interest have been completely swallowed by Ethics Alarms Rationalizations #55, “We’re Better Than This!” and #56, “Think of the Children!”
Jenifer Rubin, the conservative Washington Post blogger who has been driven both leftward and also near madness by her hatred for Donald Trump, authored a post titled “Ending DACA would be Trump’s most evil act.” Evil! Naturally, she attributes the decision to racism. On Facebook, the progressive echo chamber where most of my friends dwell doesn’t even require an explanation of why eliminating DACA is proof of a malign soul. “Trump will end DACA Tuesday!” a distinguished Trump-hater writes, as if it were self-explanatory, like “Trump will broil and eat Nancy Pelosi with a nice Chianti.”
I guess I’m evil too. To begin with, Obama violated the Constitution with his unilateral edict that should have been a bill, passed the old-fashioned way, with it being voted on by Congress and signed into law, or not, by the President. The President should end every single one of Obama’s over-reaching, unconstitutional end-arounds of Due Process that exceeded his office’s powers, whether Trump agrees with them or not. The integrity of our system is the most important thing of all, and he is sworn to protect it.
That is the procedural and precedentiary justification to end DACA. There are ethical and legal reasons too. Never mind, apparently. What matters in this issue are feelings. The argument is so marinated in sentiment and emotional blackmail—if you don’t love “the dreamers,” then you are a monster—that a coherent and responsible debate is literally impossible. All of the emotion-based arguments employed to argue that the illegal immigrant children who piled up at the border during the Obama administration should be allowed to cross the border, or that the U.S. should accept, barely vetted, refugees from nations packed with terrorist activity because their children weren’t terrorists have been repurposed in this debate, plus others. I am especially unmoved by the Hurricane Harvey line of argument: because some “dreamers” have done yeoman rescue work in the wake of the flooding, the fact that they are in the country illegally should be forgiven, and not only that, take that fact as validation of the desirability of ALL “dreamers.”
Do we take that approach with other lawbreakers? They break the law, but can retroactively undo their crimes by subsequent beneficent acts? No, we don’t treat lawbreakers that way, because it would embody the ridiculous Ruddigore Fallacy:
The Ruddigore Fallacy: Also known as “moral licensing,” the Ruddigore Fallacy is the belief that unethical conduct can be erased with sufficient good conduct by the same person or organization, and that, sufficient good conduct entitles a group or individual to engage in unethical conduct with less criticism and negative consequences than a less accomplished individual or group should receive for the same misconduct.
In the excellent Gilbert and Sullivan operetta Ruddigore, W.S. Gilbert lampooned this concept. A family curse compels a baronet to commit a crime a day. In the operetta’s first act, the current victim of the curse, Despard Murgatroyd, explains his scheme to foil the curse:
“I get my crime over the first thing in the morning, and then, ha! ha! for the rest of the day I do good! I do good! I do good! Two days since, I stole a child… built an orphan asylum. Yesterday I robbed a bank…and endowed a bishopric. To-day I carry off Rose Maybud and atone with a cathedral!”
Satirist Gilbert assumed that intelligent Victorians would instantly understand what’s wrong with this logic, and would regard the number of elected officials and pundits endorsing the fallacy now as proof of devolution. A corollary of “Bias Makes You Stupid” is “Children make you stupid.”
Legal philosophy’s explanation for ending DACA is that providing incentives to break laws is self-defeating and undermines the rule of law. This is an ethical reason too: those who make and enforce laws have a duty to be competent, and it is incompetent to simultaneously have laws that say, “Don’t come to our country without going through the official immigration procedures” and other laws that say, “But, if you manage to sneak your kids through along with you, we’ll be lenient toward them and provide them with benefits and privileges.” This provides an incentive for foreign citizens to break our laws for the benefit of their kids, a benefit that the United States endorses.
We often hear arguments that it is cruel to punish criminal parents with long sentences because the innocent children suffer. Imagine a law that dealt with that problem by guaranteeing a percentage of whatever a parent stole would be legally awarded to his or her children. Compassionate! Kind! Also, transforming robbery into a sacrificial act to benefit one’s children. This is not far off from what DCAC does: an illegal immigrant parent steals some of the benefits of legal American citizenship, and the U.S. allows that parent’s children to keep some of what was stolen.
The facile argument we hear is that “it’s the right thing to do” and that the U.S. has some kind of an ethical obligation to these illegal residents who have been living here for many years in full understanding of their illicit status. Balderdash.The United States has duties to its own citizens and to enforce its laws. The plight of the DACA beneficiaries is neither the U.S.’s problem, fault or responsibility. It is their parents’ fault, 100%. It is their own responsibility. If any nation has a responsibility to assist them, it is their country of origin, where they are citizens.
The polling support and media advocacy for Obama’s illegal edict, and Republican protests against its elimination are all based on lazy reasoning, sentimentalism, ignorance or cowardice, all resting on a rotten foundation built by the indefensible pro-illegal immigration stance of the Democratic party. It is the epitome of an issue that has been so dishonestly and cynically framed that responsible policy decision-making is impossible.
Most nauseating of all, if the DACA goes down, the pundits and anti-Trump forces have already made it clear that they will call the decision racist and motivated by white supremacy. A policy that is based on sound law enforcement principles and the correct alignment of national priorities is racist.
I don’t see how a nation can govern itself when it allows issues to be warped like this.