As a nation we currently host 12 million residents whose very presence here is illegal, but whose departure would result in hardship and instability. While the remedy will be as complex as the problem, the solution is found at the source of the predicament.
Most immigrants come to America seeking the “unalienable rights” secured by our Republic. But the very principle that draws illegal immigrants across our borders becomes the basis for holding them accountable and the justification for keeping them out.
America is founded upon the rule of law — a tradition of holding the actions of our government to the objective standard of fundamental moral law. This legal ordering not only preexists, but transcends government. Because it is not bestowed by the state, it cannot be applied or complied with selectively. And just as the law is not subject to the will of the majority, it cannot be suspended in its application to the individual, regardless of the alternative or consequence.
While this irony is troubling, it does not make our course impossible or self-defeating. Like most Americans, I am not an expert on immigration policy. But I am certain that any law Congress passes must be measured against and ultimately sustain America’s greatest virtue — its foundation in the rule of law.
Therefore, it seems obvious that our borders must be immediately sealed and all immigrants required to enter our country legally. We are at war with an enemy that has demonstrated a commitment and ability to breach our borders and kill our citizens. Furthermore, it is naive to view illegal immigration as a victimless crime. Those who impose themselves on an already strained system cause hardship for legal citizens who utilize public resources.
Second, current law must be enforced. Illegal immigrants convicted of deportable crimes must be removed from our country. Nothing impugns the merit of the law more than a lack of enforcement of the law.
Next, the rule of law mandates that illegal behavior be punished and never rewarded. Granting amnesty to those already in our country illegally offends this principle. Worse, it perverts the law by punishing those who have or are in the process of entering legally. While mass deportation is impractical and harmful, complete absolution for criminal behavior is equally destructive.
Additionally, immigrants must be treated with care and justice. A virtuous nation can take no lesser course. However, as beneficiaries of freedom, they must remember that our liberties were born by sacrifice and are lived with a cost. Diversity makes us stronger, but it must be accompanied by respect for laws, traditions and customs.
Finally, pressure must be imposed on governments that ignore the “sacred and undeniable” rights of all people. Just as our Founders relied on the rule of law in making their case for secession to the watching nations, we must continue to hold all nations to this standard. Until the injustice and corruption of countries such as Mexico is confronted, the draw of free, representative government will overtake the law protecting it.