It’s a good thing that I don’t pay myself anything for this, because I’d have to fire myself. Thanks to a full fledged computer crash at 6 am., all of my plans this morning to get a post up, get my notebook organized for tomorrow’s ethics training, and complete the outline for my Smithsonian Associates program on the influence of Gilbert and Sullivan on 21st Century America week from today before I had to fly to Tampa were as dust in the wind. This is especially bad for Ethics Alarms, as the blog gets virtually no traffic after noon on Saturday, no matter what I write about.
So here I am at the Wyndham Grand on Clearwater Beach—the sun is shining, the ocean is gleaming, and the pool, music, bar and beautiful women are right below my balcony—and what’s the first thing I do? This.
1 Ethics Zugswang and the illegal immigrant kids. The news media is now telling us that the President’s executive order creates an inherent conflict if he is serious about “no-tolerance” immigration violation enforcement. Yes, we knew that, or at least the people who didn’t blind themselves, Oedipus-like, rending their garments over “Think of the Children!” mania knew it. See, it goes like this:
A. Entering the country illegally is a crime.
B. People who commit crimes are supposed to be arrested, or more such people will commit those crimes.
C. Illegal immigration is a federal crime.
D. Children who accompany their parents while committing federal crimes cannot, by law, be imprisoned with their parents.
E. They also cannot be held at all for more than a proscribed time, which is too short a period to process their law-breaking parents.
F. If the children have to be returned to their parents,, then the parents cannot be punished for breaking immigration laws.
G. If the children are separated from their parents, the government officials doing so are evildoers who must be shamed, excoriated and condemned.
F. Thus government officials are supposed to ignore the law, by the principle that Children Invalidate Laws, which they didn’t teach me in my college government classes or in law school but apparently that’s a rule.
G. But government officials are sworn to uphold and enforce the law.
This Gordian Knot requires some distortion and deceit to stay tied, however…
One: “No-tolerance” is being used by the media to make “enforcing the law when people break it” sound like the equivalent of a school suspending a student for making his fingers look like a gun. Law enforcement is not supposed to “tolerate” crime and law-breaking. Illegal immigration is a serious breach of law, and what the news media is calling “no-tolerance” is really just enforcement.
Two: The Obama Administration opted for “catch and release,” which can be fairly described as “pretending to enforce the law, but not really doing it.” It was a dishonest, cynical, incompetent and unethical policy.
Three: There is no justification for treating the children of illegal immigrants differently from the children of citizens who are arrested and who have no one to care for their kids.
Four: The principle being advocated by the hysterical critics of the “separation of families” at the border (the accurate description is “the arrest of illegal border-crossers) is, now correct me if I’m wrong, “If a child or children accompanies a parent when the parent is apprehended while trying to violate a law carrying a substantial penalty, that parent will be treated with more leniency than if a child did not accompany him or her.” My puzzlement arises from this conundrum: Why do only law-breaking non-citizens get this benefit? Why don’t we “catch and release” good old American single parent bank robbers and burglars who bring their toddlers along as a “Get out of Jail ” card?
Five: What’s the difference? Here’s the difference: the progressive ghetto of our culture has adopted the convenient fiction that illegal immigration isn’t a crime at all, and illegal immigrants are heroes, or martyrs, or potential Elizabeth Warren voters, or something, but certainly they aren’t doing anything wrong. It’s an act of love (said Jeb Bush, proving that he had squishy soft nougat center). Then why do we have a law against it, Jeb, et al.? Oh, because you can’t have open borders, that would be ridiculous and irresponsible. History shows us that. A nation most protect its borders!
It is not ethics zugswang, though. It may be political zugswang because of the greed, dishonesty, emotionalism, and rationalizations driving this issue (in addition to its usefulness as another excuse to undermine this particular President), but the ethics are clear:
—The government’s primary duty is to enforce the laws.
—The integrity of national borders must be ensured using laws.
—The illegal border-crossers are breaking the law.
—They should be punished exactly the same regardless of whether they have brought children along or not.
—The responsibility for placing the children in this position belongs to the parents, and only the parents.
—Making the fate of the children the primary focus of any portion of the illegal immigration debate is intellectually dishonest, manipulative, and unethical, or, at best, innocently ignorant and emotional. Continue reading