Catholic Charities Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services C. Mario Russell writes a regular column in El Diario to update readers on the latest news on immigration reform. Read his latest article below.
Critics of President Obama’s plan to designate some 5 million undocumented parents and children as temporarily non-deportable say that it is illegal, without precedent, and unwise. They are wrong.
To begin, a coalition of 17 U.S. states, led by the Texas Attorney General, sued the Obama administration in Federal Court last Wednesday saying the President’s plan is illegal. They allege it violates constitutional limits on executive law enforcement powers. But they say this while at the same time criticizing Mr. Obama for failing to use his executive powers to expel even more than the 2 million immigrants he already has deported. Strange, but when not penning the lawsuit over executive power, the administration’s critics beg him to use more of his power to deport people.
So the critics answer that this kind of exercise of power is unprecedented; it has not been used before. Again, they ignore that two presidents before him, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, used their constitutional law enforcement power to protect from deportation families that had been left out of a Congressional legalization plan. By some estimates, this protected from deportation 1.5 million undocumented mothers, fathers, and spouses.
The critics’ rebuttal then turns into complaint about scale. Well, they say, what Reagan and Bush did before was on a much smaller scale than Mr. Obama’s plan. 1.5 million is a few people; 5 million is just too many!
This gets us to the heart of the problem. Yes, 5 million mothers, fathers, and youngsters who each day live with the threat of separation from their children or parents is just too many. In fact, I would suggest that 11 million people who live—for almost a generation now—in fear, anxiety, and with no opportunity to become full members of our human community is just too many. So critics themselves point to the humanitarian problem, and a humanitarian problem must be answered by law.
Time makes a difference in law. Time allows for property rights, intellectual rights, and even rights in equity to grow. When people have been allowed to settle in a place for a long time they should be given a chance to get right with the law if they are not a threat to society. Those who argue the opposite force themselves to ignore what it means to lose the human goods they enjoy and build each day: love of family, community, church, work.
And the passage of time makes a difference in how we understand history: as the writer Robert Caro notes, “Time equals truth.” Over time America has overcome its fears of ethnic and national minorities. The nation’s inclusion of immigrants over time has proven to be the deepest truth of its identity: open, changing, new, hopeful.
This is a good and it is wise for us to pursue.
Read the full El Diario post in Spanish now.