Thursday, January 3, 2013

Immigrants, Families, and Criminals

More and more headlines are talking about how deportation rips families apart. For example, check out this story from ABC News and this commentary from the Center for American Progress released earlier this year.

In a previous post on amnesty, I mentioned that a repercussion of deportation is that family units may get ripped apart. If the children of an unauthorized immigrant are United States citizens, then they will have to choose whether to remain in the United States or join their parent in the parent's home country. This is a horrible dilemma for anyone. An argument could be made that since the children are U.S. citizens and they did not do anything wrong, it's only right that we afford them the right to remain in their country of nationality and citizenship and keep their family intact.

But consider how we treat the family members of citizens convicted of crimes and sentenced to prison time. Incarceration takes an incredible toll on family members. A family could lose it's main or sole source of income and children could be without the guidance of a parent for a considerable amount of time. The law does not provide criminals with a pass simply because they have a family and their family members, who did nothing wrong, will be negatively impacted.

For the most part, immigration violations are civil, not criminal. Does this mean that we should consider the impact on family members differently? Is there some other reason why immigration penalties should factor the unauthorized immigrant's family members into the equation? Or is it more important that we ensure that everyone, regardless of the infraction, take responsibility for breaking the law, regardless of the impact that it will have on others?


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