Immigration: A Moral Issue or a Business Question?

Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

As President Barack Obama prepares to pass executive action Thursday to make what changes as he can to the broken immigration system, Republicans are shaking their heads, shoulders slumped. There have been some harsh words spoken regarding the president’s intention to step ahead of Congress regarding amnesty and reform. “When you play with matches you take the risk of burning yourself,” said John Boehner (R-Ohio) according to Huffington Post, “and he’s going to burn himself if he continues to go down this path.” Judging by all available evidence, Obama is indeed planning on going down that path, and GOP protestations and arguments don’t appear to be having an affect. While an unfortunate way to start off the new relationship that was fated to be rocky, it’s hardly a surprise given the many signs Obama has flashed.

With back and forth over the issue going on for years now, the difficulties of immigration reform become clear. There are many critiques to be made of the two-party system, but one thing that can be said for it, is that it clearly illustrates the sides to an issue for onlookers. In the case of immigration reform, the systematic changes needed and the responsibilities demanded of the United States moving forward are illustrated as two sides to the same U.S. coin by Republicans, Democrats, President Obama, and House Leadership.

As a nation, the U.S. is both a government, with all the human rights and moral responsibilities that go with its role in the international community, and a business, with economic, quantifiable goals that are required to come first.

The human rights and moral aspect of the argument is most represented by Democrats, and the argument is one that’s difficult to ignore. Refugees drawn to the U.S. to avoid gang violence and intimidation, abusive background, and poverty, present a moral dilemma. Families already within the United States who came into the U.S. illegally, but without ill intent and for the sake of their families and out of a desire for a better life, and whose children have lived most of their lives, or their entire lives, within the U.S. (going to school here, even college and beyond) but who live with the risk they may be kicked out of what has been their lifelong country and home.

There’s the argument that America’s moral actions are both a vital example and standard in the global community; if the U.S. behaves in a certain way, it becomes more reasonable to expect and demand similar actions from other nations. Republicans argue that by being weak in punishing illegal immigrants, it invites further violations and sends  a signal to other potential immigrants that the U.S. is lenient, and that this in itself is immoral because it offers false promises that will ultimately endanger children and families.

The business side of the immigration system is one that Republicans tend to take on in their rhetoric. If Yelp were to go into the red and find itself unable to be pay its employees, it’s unlikely that Microsoft would step in and offer to fill in for their monthly checks. Democrats might argue that if it meant poaching some incredible programing talent, it would be a worthwhile cost in addition to being the “right thing.”

However, in the real world, a cost-benefit analysis of that concept, given that you could hire outside Yelp without additional costs and still find good employees and contributors, would probably show that to be a less-than-perfect business decision. What’s more, Microsoft has investor and employees of its own to consider; America has its own fiscal concerns and its own set of unemployment, poverty, and sociopolitical problems without taking political action that would invite further illegal immigration and subsequent strain on the economy.

Rather than working on integrating illegally residing individuals who the American company bears no legal responsibility to, concentration on the border may be the most cut and dry solution. But it doesn’t consider all of the expenses that would go into deporting such a large population, and the economic advantages a more legally integrated population could have.

While border control is vital, and both logistically and morally makes more sense in terms of prevention rather than punishment, there is common ground between perspectives. You can make efforts on both fronts; Obama’s executive action need not prevent other reforms and actions. While border control is important, offering humanitarian aid and support for those countries that have been the source of much of America’s illegal residents has been, and should continue to be another preventative measure.

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