All posts by Joel Newman

Joel has a bachelor’s degree in history from Pomona College and works as a teacher in Beaverton, Oregon.

See also:

our blog post introducing Joel
all blog posts by Joel

Open Borders, Terrorism, and Islam

I assume that other open borders supporters cringed, as I did, when it was reported that the suspects in the Boston bombings were immigrants. For some people, the Boston atrocity appears to have reinforced fears that immigrants could be terrorists.  A man interviewed in a Philadelphia suburb said, “’I’m a little more of an extremist now after what happened in Boston… I think we should just stop letting people in.’” Even maintaining current immigration levels or instituting small liberalizations of American immigration policy may be threatened by what happened in Boston and similar immigrant-connected terrorism, let alone their negative impact on the push for open borders.

Concerns about the connection between immigrants and terrorism involve Muslim immigrants. The Boston suspects were Muslims and may have been inspired by religious extremism to carry out the attacks. The Bipartisan Policy Center reports that the U.S. has “a domestic terrorist problem involving immigrant and indigenous Muslims as well as converts to Islam.” ((9/10/10, Bipartisan Policy Center, Assessing the Terrorist Threat), page 31) Even some open borders advocates seem uncertain if an open borders policy should apply to Muslim immigrants. In the site’s background page on terrorism, Vipul paraphrases a view (not necessarily his own): “[F]or those who believe that Islamic immigration to the United States poses a unique threat, this may be a reason to maintain present restrictions on immigration from Islamic countries and self-identified Muslims from other countries.”  Muslim immigration would increase with open borders, and some of these additional immigrants could become terrorists. (see also here and here).

However, especially after situations like Boston (and there have been others), open borders supporters should explain how open borders could actually help protect the U.S. from terrorism and that open borders should be available to all individual immigrants, regardless of religion, so long as they pose no terrorist threat. Vipul has collected some of these arguments at the link above.  My vision of open borders and that of a number of other supporters does involve keeping out potential terrorists through security screenings at the border.  So one argument notes that, unlike our current restrictionist policy which devotes considerable resources and focus on keeping out unauthorized immigrants seeking to work in the U.S., resources under an open borders policy could be focused on screening out terrorists.  Another argument is that the free movement of people between countries could lead to the spreading of ideas contrary to those which inspire terrorism; immigrants who move between the U.S. or other western countries and their native countries would share values such as individual rights, tolerance, and democracy with their compatriots who remain in the native countries.  A third argument is that if terrorism grows out of weak economies in native countries, the free movement of people from those countries and the resulting economic benefit to those countries (through remittances and immigrants returning to their native country to establish new businesses) could help prevent terrorism.

There is another reason open borders could help combat terrorism.  Kevin Johnson, author of Opening the Floodgates, notes that “carefully crafted immigration enforcement is less likely to frighten immigrant communities—the very communities whose assistance is essential if the United States truly seeks to successfully fight terrorism.” (page 35)   Without the fear of being the targets of immigration enforcement, immigrants would be more likely to cooperate with authorities in identifying individuals who are potential terrorists in the U.S. and assist with efforts against terrorist groups abroad.  This would fit with the government’s strategy to gain the cooperation of Muslims in the U.S. in addressing terrorism.  Quintan Wiktorowicz, a national security staff member in the White House, notes in a discussion on an administration plan to fight terrorism in the U.S. that “Muslim communities and Muslims in the United States are not the problem, they are the solution. And that’s the message we plan to take to those particular communities in addressing at least al-Qaida inspired radicalization of violent extremism…”

For the effort abroad, Nathan Smith suggests that “emigrants from Islamic countries could provide a valuable resource for the intelligence services of the West in their fight against Islamic terrorism.”  Open borders would presumably increase the number of immigrants from countries that have been sources of terrorism against the U.S., such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen.  Some of these immigrants could provide the cultural and language skills which would bolster our intelligence resources and help America stay safe from future attacks.  Indeed, our intelligence agencies have often lacked agents who could infiltrate groups that threaten the U.S. (In an article in the Atlantic Monthly in the summer of 2001, Reuel Marc Gereht quoted a former CIA operative as saying “‘The CIA probably doesn’t have a single truly qualified Arabic speaking officer of Middle Eastern background who can play a believable Muslim fundamentalist…’” (pages 38-42, July/August 2001))

In addition to articulating the potential benefits of open borders to stopping terrorism, open borders advocates must emphasize that most Muslims are peaceful and should be allowed to immigrate.  Philippe Legrain, author of Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them, warns “we should not fall into the trap of thinking that Muslims are a uniform and separate community whose identity is wholly defined by their religion, still less an inevitably hostile or violent one.” (page 304) He notes that Muslims come from many different countries, each with their own traditions, and, like other religious groups, some are religious, some not.  “There are feminist Muslims, gay Muslims and Muslims who reject their faith.” (page 304)  In addition, “only a small minority of Muslims are fundamentalist,” and only a tiny number of fundamentalists are terrorists. (page 305)  There are over 2.5  million Muslims living in the U.S., about two thirds of whom are immigrants, but very few are involved in terrorism.  The Bipartisan Policy Center reports that in 2009 “at least 43 American citizens or residents aligned with Sunni militant groups or their ideology were charged or convicted of terrorism crimes in the U.S. or elsewhere, the highest number in any year since 9/11.” (Page 5 of this report ) Mr. Legrain explains that “the threat of Islamic terrorism  is a reason for increased vigilance, surveillance and scrutiny; it is not reason for limiting immigration.”

Nathan Smith has noted that when dramatic events occur, such as an act of terrorism by immigrants or a plane crash, people often overestimate the frequency of such events, a phenomenon called “availability bias.”  This mental overreaction to “extremely unrepresentative events” makes people attribute more importance to the events than they deserve.  This dynamic suggests that open borders supporters have a lot of work to do convincing the public that most Muslims who want to immigrate pose no threat and that open borders may actually help in the fight against terrorism.

Do Images of Immigrant Suffering Along the Border Help the Open Borders Cause?

Television footage showing the mistreatment of nonviolent civil rights activists during the 1960s may have greatly benefitted the civil rights movement.  William G. Thomas III of the University of Virginia observes that Historians, commentators, and participants have suggested connections between the media, especially television news, and the course of the civil rights movement. Generally those who consider television news as a powerful force for change refer to the nationally broadcast images of police dogs and fire hoses turned on the demonstrators in Birmingham. They see this moment and other similar ones that followed, such as the violence at the Pettus Bridge in Selma, as key turning points when Americans witnessed violence, repression, and hatred directed at African Americans and began to change their minds about the U. S. South and segregation. According to one activist, shortly after the attack on civil rights marchers in Selma, Alabama by troopers, people arrived from New Jersey and told activists “‘We are here to share with the people of Selma in this struggle for the right to vote.  We have seen on the television screen the violence that took place today, and we’re here to share it with you.’”  Two days after the attack, “… Washington was saturated with telegrams and newspaper editorials condemning the Selma attack and demanding the passage of voting rights legislation… By afternoon the president had issued a statement deploring the brutality, guaranteeing protection for Alabama marchers, and promising expedited legislation.” (from The Civil Rights Movement: A Photographic History, 1954-1968 by Steven Kasher, New York: Abbeville Press, 1996, p. 168)

So how do Americans react when they see government authorities physically stop immigrants who are seeking a better life in the U.S. or when they see other images of immigrant suffering caused by immigration enforcement along the border?  Sympathy for these immigrants could lead to support for open borders, just as media images created support for the civil rights movement.  Unfortunately, open borders advocates shouldn’t rely on images of border apprehensions and other consequences of immigration enforcement to shift public opinion towards favoring open borders.

Denver Post photo on dead bodies in bags

Dead bodies in bags: part of the Denver Post’s photo collection on border deaths

In late March, a group of U.S. senators toured part of the U.S.-Mexico border.  They witnessed “border agents apprehend a woman who had climbed an 18-foot-tall bollard fence” and crossed into the U.S. from Mexico. One might think that being directly exposed to the apprehension, in which an immigrant presumably desperate to enter the U.S. is intercepted by agents, might arouse sympathy for her and discomfort with the apprehension.  Apparently not.  Charles Schumer, one of the senators, had this reaction:  “‘Well, I’d have to know all the details there to give you a judgment,'” Schumer said. “’One of the things we learned is that a lot of people cross the border are doing it for drug purposes, too. But I don’t know what happened in this situation.'” (What he “learned” is contradicted by the remark below by Senator John McCain.) Senator Michael Bennet benignly stated that what he saw was “surprising” and “I just have never seen it before.” Senator John McCain tweeted: “Just witnessed a woman successfully climb an 18-ft bollard fence a few yards from us in Nogales. And Border Patrol successfully apprehended her, but incident is another reminder that threats to our border security are real.”  To Mr. McCain’s credit, he later stated that “One of the sad things about all of this is that most of those people who jump over the fence are doing that because they want a better life… And I understand that. So we separate the drug cartels from individuals or somebody trying to cross over so they improve their lives.”

Like the senators, the American public generally doesn’t seem to be affected by television footage or photographs of immigrant apprehensions or immigrants being sent back to Mexico.  Americans can see footage of apprehensions on television news (this footage was located on news sites and was presumably previously aired on television) and on National Geographic Channel’s “Border Wars” reality series and website.   There are also photos of apprehensions on the sites of major newspapers such as The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. I could not locate evidence of protests against or public discomfort with these apprehensions.

People have reacted more to instances of mistreatment of immigrants by authorities along the border.  At least one instance of such abuse was caught on tape, which led to a small protest. There are groups that monitor the mistreatment of immigrants along the border, but again there is no widespread public outrage over these incidents. (Mistreatment of immigrants by smugglers is also in part a side effect of immigration enforcement.)

Thousands of immigrants have died over the last two decades from the harsh desert elements while trying to avoid immigration agents. There are some images of the bodies of immigrants who died trying to cross the border illegally. An organization that provides aid to those crossing deserts has been working to highlight this issue, but once more public reaction is muted.

On the other hand, there is some public disapproval of immigration enforcement away from the border.  There have been small protests against the apprehension and deportation of immigrants around the country. In addition, polls show widespread support for legalizing the millions of undocumented already in the U.S., especially for those who entered the U.S. as children. This resistance to internal immigration enforcement seems to reflect in part the personal attachments that Americans and legal residents make with immigrants in their communities, as well as a widespread perception that immigrants are good for America.

What explains America’s general apathy toward immigration enforcement at the border?  Perhaps since apprehensions are not usually violent like the aforementioned civil rights television footage (and violent ones usually go unnoticed) and since cases where immigrants suffer or die from exposure to the elements are usually not captured in videos or photos, they do not viscerally affect audiences. Another explanation may be that, unlike undocumented immigrants who have settled in the U.S., many Americans may perceive immigrants crossing the border illegally as being disconnected from American society.

Even if the public were exposed to more images of immigrants dying or suffering along the border, Fabio Rojas of Indiana University suggests that so long as Americans are convinced that immigration restrictions are acceptable, suffering caused by immigration enforcement will not change Americans’ views about immigration policy. He argues that what is needed to change public opinion on immigration restrictions is “a simple and concise idea that undermines the belief that people from other countries must be forcibly separated from each other. This idea must subtly, but powerfully, undermine the distinctions that make people believe that only citizens have the right to travel and work without impair.”

So for now, images in the media and on the Internet of border apprehensions, violence, and deaths won’t be the ally of open borders advocates that it was for the civil rights movement.  Perhaps public reaction to images of immigration enforcement and its consequences is a barometer of public support for open borders; the more advocates can convince the public of its merits, the more outrage there will be to images of the suffering caused by border enforcement.

Open Borders note: See also John Lee’s post I don’t care about immigration sob stories. This is about justice, not compassion.

It Can’t All Be About (the) U.S.

In February, National Public Radio aired a segment, part of its Planet Money series, in which it asked three immigration experts what sort of immigration system they would have if they “controlled the borders.” To NPR’s credit, one of the experts was the Cato Institute’s Alex Nowrasteh (a contributor to the Open Borders site). He proposed letting all immigrants in, except for suspected terrorists, criminals, and those with serious communicable diseases. He noted that this policy would benefit the economy and would mean that people wouldn’t have to put themselves at risk crossing the border.

Not surprisingly, the other two experts chosen by NPR did not propose open borders. One expert was the economist Giovanni Peri, a professor of economics at the University of California, Davis, who has researched the economic impact of immigration on the U.S. and found it to be mostly positive. His ideal immigration system would be one in which employers would bid for permits allowing them to employ individual foreign workers, including low-skilled workers. The other expert was Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (we’ve critiqued Baker before). He would admit immigrants with families in the U.S. and would provide visas to highly skilled individuals who, in the words of NPR’s host, “would benefit our economy the most.” Mr. Baker said he “would like to make sure that you had a lot of immigrants at the high end” but is “less concerned about farm workers.”

The proposals from Mr. Peri and Mr. Baker seem designed to maximally benefit the U.S. and apparently make the interests of immigrants who are excluded from their systems irrelevant. Formulating such an immigration policy probably makes sense to many Americans. After all, some may think, the government should look out first and foremost for the interests of its citizens. Joseph Carens of the University of Toronto articulates this view: “The power to admit or exclude aliens is inherent in sovereignty and essential for any political community. Every state has the legal and moral right to exercise that power in pursuit of its own national interest…”

Mr. Carens suggests, however, that this nationalist position doesn’t justify immigration restrictions. He explains that “When the stakes are high (e.g., legal proceedings) we normally create institutional rules to try to prevent people from being able to favor their friends and relatives. In other words, our notion of justice constrain the extent and ways in which we think it is acceptable for us to favor family members… even if we are morally entitled to favor compatriots in some ways, it is not self evident that we are entitled to favor them by excluding potential immigrants. Perhaps that form of preferential treatment goes too far.” Restricting immigration in effect would be nepotism writ large, an attempt to favor those identified as being more closely connected to us by giving them access to the U.S. labor market and denying access to those deemed less connected.

Bryan Caplan of George Mason University (who has also guest blogged for Open Borders) echoes Mr. Carens in his critique of the analogy between the nation and a family: “…almost everyone recognizes moral strictures against familial favoritism.  Almost everyone knows that ‘It would help my son’ is not a good reason to commit murder, break someone’s arm, or steal.  Indeed, almost everyone knows that ‘It would help my son’ is not a good reason for even petty offenses – like judging a Tae Kwon Do tournament unfairly because your son’s a contestant.” Despite this, Mr. Caplan points out that at the national level citizens tend to lose this sense of morality and use nationalism “as an acceptable excuse for horrific crimes against outgroups.” Nationalism leads to immoral treatment, such as interfering with the right to immigrate.  The logic of Mr. Carens and Mr. Caplan discredits nationalist arguments around the world supporting immigration restrictions, not just those in the American context.

Given Planet Money’s focus on economics, the underlying question posed to the three experts about their preferred immigration regime may really have been: “From a purely economic standpoint, which immigration policy do you believe would most benefit current American citizens?” (Even within these parameters, the proposals of Mr. Peri and Mr. Baker are questionable; open borders, as Mr. Nowrasteh suggests, may have the most beneficial economic impact on the U.S.) Actual policymaking, however, should not exclude moral concerns. NPR should air another segment asking guests, “What would be a moral immigration policy?” That would help Americans think more profoundly about immigration policy.

An Apology, Not a Fine

During the last week in January, frameworks for American immigration policy changes were unveiled by both President Obama and a group of senators from both parties. Both frameworks propose legalizing the status of millions of undocumented immigrants, which would be wonderful for these individuals. However, both involve the payment of a fine as part of the application for legal status. While legalization with a fine is preferable to the status quo, imposing a fine is inappropriate.  Undocumented immigrants deserve an apology with their legalization, not a fine.

These fines of unspecified amounts are apparently meant to punish immigrants for violating the law by either entering the country without permission or staying beyond the period of time permitted by their visas. Mr. Obama’s framework states that “immigrants living here illegally must be held responsible for their actions by passing national security and criminal background checks, paying taxes and a penalty…” The senators’ framework states that their legalization process would involve undocumented immigrants “… settling their debt to society by paying a fine and back taxes…”

But haven’t undocumented immigrants residing in the U.S. been punished enough? Many have had to endure the expense and hardship of sneaking across the U.S. border, paying smugglers large amounts for their services, and exposing themselves to harsh terrain, weather, and criminals. Once in the U.S., they have faced limited employment opportunities, often having to work for low wages under abusive employers who ignore labor laws. They have had to live with the constant fear of apprehension, detention, and deportation of either themselves or family members. Some have been separated from family members who have been detained or deported.

Moreover, prohibiting their entry or ability to stay was immoral in the first place. The Open Borders site offers a number of arguments showing that restricting immigration is unjust.

Another argument against restrictions which is germane to American policy can be added.  While the argument on its own does not make a complete case for an open borders immigration policy, it does create a presumption in favor of such a policy in which the burden is on opponents of the policy to prove that it would not be not morally correct.  The argument is founded on the concept that a large portion, probably a majority, of today’s Americans are the beneficiaries of largely open immigration policies for Europeans and Canadians which existed before restrictionist laws were instituted in the 1920s. Until the federal government took control of immigration in the late 19th century, colonies and then the states had some restrictions on the immigration of some groups, such as paupers. However, Mae Ngai of the University of Chicago states in Impossible Subjects: Illegal Immigrants and the Making of Modern America that “until the late nineteenth century in the United States, immigration was encouraged and virtually unfettered.” Even after the federal government assumed control of immigration in the late 19th century, Ms. Ngai notes that “as a practical matter mass immigration from Europe faced few legal impediments in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century… Despite the growing list of excludable categories, the Immigration Service excluded only 1 percent of the 25 million immigrants from Europe who arrived in the United States from 1880 to World War I.” Before the 1920s, immigrants did not face the maze of requirements that exist today, such as having family in the U.S., particular skills, or a job offer, nor were there annual limits on the number of immigrants.

How many Americans today are U.S. citizens because their European or Canadian ancestors were able to easily immigrate before the 1920s? Probably a majority. About 63% of the current U.S. population is non-Hispanic white. It is difficult to precisely determine the percentage of this group whose ancestors came before the 1920s, but some estimates can be made. In 1920, before the restrictive immigration laws, about 95 million out of the about 106 million people in the U.S. were counted as “white,” which one can safely assume were the immigrants or descendants of immigrants who benefitted from the open immigration laws. While about 13 million European, Canadian, and Oceanian immigrants have arrived since then, it is safe to conclude that a large majority of today’s European Americans, perhaps about 90%, are the descendants of the 95 million “white” Americans from 1920. European Americans are still the largest demographic group in the U.S. today, and most of them (myself included) are citizens today due to the much more open pre-1920s immigration systems.

There are other fortunate European Americans who owe their citizenship to ancestors who broke the immigration laws of the 1920s or the restrictionist laws that replaced them. Attesting to the fact that many European immigrants have been illegally in the U.S. since the 1920s, the Immigration Policy Center states that about 200 thousand Europeans illegally present in the U.S. received amnesties from 1925 to 1965. One illegal entrant was the grandfather of Frank Bruni. Mr. Bruni, a columnist for the New York Times, writes that his Italian grandfather entered the U.S. illegally in 1929 and that “… for a long time, like the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants at the center of our current political debate, Mauro Bruni wasn’t supposed to be here. He was trespassing in the country he came to love more fiercely than the one he’d left, the country in which his children and their children would lead highly productive lives, pay many millions of dollars in taxes over time, and get to be a small part of the decision, as voters, about how we were going to treat his spiritual descendants, who traveled here as he did: without explicit invitations or official authorization but with such ferocious energy, such enormous hope.” While not advocating for open immigration, Mr. Bruni adds that “more Americans than admit or even know it have roots like mine and are the flowers of illegal immigration… it must inform our understanding of the people whose tomorrows are in the balance.”

The Immigration Policy Center notes that “many people assume that their family immigrated to the U.S. legally, or did it ‘the right way.’ In most cases, this statement does not reflect the fact that the U.S. immigration system was very different when their families arrived, and that their families might not have been allowed to enter had today’s laws been in effect.” Most of today’s Americans should recognize that their citizenship is due to the good fortune that their forebears entered when America was mostly open to immigrants or that when the gates were later mostly closed their predecessors broke the law to get here. The implication is that the imposition of harsh immigration laws by these Americans on today’s immigrants may be unjust, and, in cases where the ancestor broke the law, hypocritical.  Unless there is strong evidence that an open immigration policy is not morally correct (other arguments show that an open borders policy is indeed the only moral policy), current immigrants should be allowed to move as freely (or more freely) into America as did the ancestors of most European Americans.

Almost twenty years ago, after undocumented immigrants from China arrived on a ship named the Golden Venture that ran aground off Queens, New York, A.M. Rosenthal of the New York Times wrote in a column entitled “Give Them a Parade”: “Let them in, those heroes from China, those men and women who sought the beautiful land, let them out of detention as swiftly as possible and then treat them with the courtesy, dignity and respect their brave hearts merit — that is what America should do for its own soul’s sake…we can show we remember who we are — a city that was made in large part by immigrants and refugees — by opening ourselves to their spiritual descendants, the Chinese of the Golden Venture.” A parade for the millions of undocumented in the U.S. today might not be feasible. But legalization without fines would be. So would an apology, for unjustly imposing immense suffering on a group that came to America with the same dreams as immigrants of past centuries.

The Administration’s Deferred Action Policy: Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

For the open borders advocate in the United States, policy changes which modestly expand the opportunity for more people to live and work legally in the U.S. create ambivalence. The beneficiaries of the changes gain access to the American job market and can live without the fear of deportation. At the same time, the limitations of the new policies highlight the plight of those still excluded from freely entering or staying in the U.S. The Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which allows some undocumented immigrants to temporarily stay in the U.S., is a stark example of such a policy change.

The administration’s action certainly helps a sympathetic group of immigrants. Since August 2012, many undocumented individuals 30 years old or younger who came to the U.S. when they were younger than 16 have been eligible to receive deferred action, which allows them to stay in the U.S. and receive work permits for two years. Individuals have to have been in the U.S. for five years or more, have generally clean criminal records, and be in school, have graduated from high school, or be military veterans. The two year period is renewable. According to the National Immigration Law Center, over one hundred thousand immigrants have received deferred action under DACA, as of December 13, 2012. It is estimated that over 1.5 million immigrants could benefit from the administration’s action. These individuals could lead happier lives with unlimited work opportunities, access to driver’s licenses, and the chance to live without the fear of imminent deportation.

There are several reasons to be concerned about DACA, however. First, there are significant weaknesses in the policy itself. By applying for deferred action, undocumented immigrants are making the government aware of their immigration status, making them vulnerable to future deportation. According to a document produced by several legal groups, “Attorneys are advised to warn their clients in writing that even for prima facie eligible cases, deferred action is not guaranteed. The warning should further explain that applicants will be revealing and, in most cases, documenting their removability to a government agency that can initiate removal proceedings.” A future administration that is opposed to the policy could quickly rescind it. Underscoring the temporary nature of deferred action, the legal groups’ document states that “DHS can renew or terminate a grant of deferred action at any time.”

Second, some of the rhetoric by supporters of DACA suggests that the parents of the young immigrants are to blame for the perilous immigration status of their offspring. In announcing the new policy, Mr. Obama suggested these younger immigrants should not be deported “simply because of the actions of their parents.” (transcript of speech) This is reminiscent of comments made by those who want tighter immigration policies which blame undocumented immigrants for any suffering their children experience from immigration enforcement actions. As reported in the New York Times, Rosemary Jenks, from the restrictionist group NumbersUSA, “said the responsibility for the impact on children of the deportations rests with their parents. ‘If parents are going to come here illegally, unfortunately the child faces the consequences as well…’”

Such remarks by DACA supporters communicate the wrong message to the public about what has caused the young immigrants’ predicament. The threat of deportation for these immigrants ultimately stems from immigration restrictions, not from any fault of the parents. By bringing their children to the U.S. to improve their lives, the parents have shown great dedication toward them. Seeking a quality education, safety, and economic well-being for one’s children is the epitome of being a responsible parent. Conversely, keeping your children in a country that is unsafe, has weak schooling, and/or offers limited economic opportunities in deference to U.S. immigration laws could be considered poor parenting. The rhetoric also implies a dubious distinction between “worthy” immigrant sons and daughters who deserve protection and “unworthy” immigrant parents who do not. (The credit for this criticism of dividing immigrants into worthy and unworthy groups goes to the organization No One Is Illegal.)

Third, DACA protects only a small portion of undocumented immigrants from deportation. Most of the millions of undocumented individuals in the U.S. do not meet the criteria to apply for deferred action. This has been illustrated in recent cases reported in the media. In one, a Mexican woman and her daughter won money at an Arizona casino, but after the casino called the police when they thought their identification was fraudulent, the government learned that the two were undocumented. They were both arrested, but while the daughter was released because she qualified for DACA, the mother was deported because she did not qualify. In another Arizona case, a woman who had been granted deferred action status under DACA watched as her mother and brother were arrested by immigration agents at their home. The mother and brother were released the next day, apparently only because of pressure on the Obama administration, but still face the possibility of deportation. The pressure existed because the woman who had benefitted from DACA was a well-known advocate for young undocumented immigrants.

The policy is an example of the arbitrary and invariably unfair nature of immigration laws. For instance, it does not help immigrants who are 31 years old, who have only lived in the U.S. for four years and eight months, or who came to the U.S. when they were sixteen. It does not help those who did not complete high school, even though they may be upstanding members of their communities. No One Is Illegal has articulated nicely the inherent unfairness of having the government determine who may immigrate and who may not: “… the achievement of fair immigration restrictions… would require a miracle.”

Similar problems will arise should the DREAM Act or “comprehensive immigration reform” be enacted.  The only way to permanently fulfill the hopes and dreams of all immigrants is to regularize the status of current migrants and move towards open borders for prospective future migrants, possibly incorporating some of the keyhole solutions to address restrictionist concerns.  Not only will all immigrants gain when these changes are made, America will have instituted a just immigration policy it can be proud of.