This is the third installment on a series on the benefits and detriments of illegal immigration. For the first two parts on the economic and social effects, see this post and this post. See my conclusion in this post.

U.S.-Mexico border sign
Photo credit Kate Kilpatrick

Moral Assessments in Support of Illegal Immigration

Illegal immigration strikes a moral chord among Americans. Those who support the acceptance of illegal immigrants use arguments that appeal to the ethics and emotions of their audience.

A rejection of illegal immigration ultimately leads to the discussion of deportation, an idea that supporters oppose for its implications for families. Deportation destroys dreams and breaks apart families who came for the simple desire for social, environmental, and economic improvement and safety (“Immigration”). This expectation that one day “the policeman could come in” and “take you away and separate you” frightens and unnecessarily stresses the children of illegal immigrants (Palomar). It punishes children for the decisions of their parents, both in how they act themselves and how they feel next to others.

Cartoon by Monte Wolverton

The vilification of illegal immigrants attaches stereotypes of criminality and terrorism to these families, recognizing lack of papers over presence of humanity. To affirm the latter, supporters speak of the common ground that undocumented aliens share with other immigrants and citizens of America. In an interview with a couple of illegal immigrant families, an anonymous mother asked, “[W]hat parent wouldn’t want a better education and a better life, and a better home for their children?” (Palomar).

When it comes down to motives, a family immigrates illegally in the pursuit of hope. The moral argument of supporters challenges the question of which is better: to uphold the law of the land and dash the dreams of families, or to uphold the law of the heart and support families seeking life, liberty, and happiness?

no human is illegal
Photo from Odyssey

Moral Assessments in Opposition to Illegal Immigration

The opposing view on the morality of illegal immigration deals primarily with the legal dimension of the controversy.

Supporters will sometimes exercise the term “otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants” to defend their position, attesting that undocumented aliens obey the law as much as the next American. The term itself presents an oxymoron. The very existence of an immigrant in the country without documentation transgresses the law.

This is not to say that illegal immigrants themselves are (“Illegal Immigration is a Crime”); however, to claim that their conduct is not illegal would be to ignore their disregard for the security of the nation and disrespect for the sanctity of citizenship.

illegal immigrants cartoon citizens
Cartoon from The Augusta Chronicle

Beyond violating U.S. Code Title 8 Section 1325, which disallows entry at times or places apart from those federally designated, elusions of inspection by immigration officers, and misinterpretation or concealment of relevant facts, illegal immigrants may defy several other laws, including false personification of a U.S. citizen, fraud and false statements, or forgery of a passport (Feere).

Passing a blind eye to the illegality of an undocumented alien’s presence in the United States based on his obedience to others laws, such as paying taxes or not drinking while driving, grants him a get-out-of-jail-free card. It allows selectivity of a resident’s compliance with the law, an illegal immigrant deciding, “I’ll comply with this law, but this one I don’t need to follow.”

By ignoring these violations – in essence, condoning illegal immigration – supporters demean the efforts of those entered the nation legally, begging the question, “What worth was all of that legal work?” In the words of former legal policy analyst Jon Feere, “[J]ust because an illegal alien isn’t a violent threat to society… does not follow that his or her presence is not a threat to the rule of law, taxpayers, and society generally.”

illegal immigrants American law cartoon
Cartoon found on Photobucket

As far as the legal aspect of the matter goes, the moral argument against illegal immigration holds strong.

See the bibliography for this series here.