Immigration Reform and Family Restoration

With President Obama's unilateral executive action toward rolling back immigration laws, families will be dramatically affected.  Many desiring to migrate into the United States will enter illegally and have a child here to take advantage of these executive action benefits, or continue to smuggle children across the border in order for the entire family to benefit from these new policies.  Both options are endorsed by this new executive action.  These moves present great confusion not only for the nation, but for states absorbing those migrants, and for family welfare and stability for all. 

Immigration rules intersect with family law in dramatic ways, from fiance visas, to marriage migration, to extended families.  You can read more about all these regulations and angles at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1962671, discussing the challenges of family law and policy in immigration regulation.  But waiving these laws and regulations presents chaos for government and for families everywhere in the United States - sending clear indications that rules don't matter. 

Deporting undocumented parents may indeed be an area to amend immigration policy, but those changes should be made in the context of the rule of law. To understand more how U.S. citizen children are affected when separated from their undocumented parents read http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2380076.  Fostering family restoration with immigration reform, however, will take thoughtful and measured action by both federal and state governments, working together, to protect individuals, citizens, families, and the rule of law.


  1. I find myself torn on this issue. I grew up in an area that will be greatly affected by this executive action (growing up, my family was the only non-immigrant family in my neighborhood and according to the 2010 Census, almost 70% of my hometown's population is composed of persons of Latin American and Hispanic descent). While I knew many people who came to the States illegally, they were willing to work hard when they arrived here (harder than many naturally born US citizens), and took the necessary steps to gain legal citizenship for themselves and their families (not an easy, quick, or cheap process). Many of them were separated from their families for months, even years on end, to gain what so many of us reading this blog were simply born into. America was founded and built on the backs of immigrants and would not be here if not for our forefathers seeking the same things that legal and illegal immigrants are seeking today. I agree that immigration reform and the process for becoming a citizen are things that need to be addressed, but that needs to be done in a lawful way. President Obama's actions were a blatant abuse of his executive power. The process of making lawful citizens cannot begin with an unlawful action from the person sworn to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

    1. I completely agree. I, too, find myself torn on this issue. While I think that President Obama has offered a reasonable approach to reform, I can foresee the issues that may arise, as described in this blog.

  2. As a legal immigrant who grew up in a city populated with immigrants, I have a different perspective. First, as far as President Obama clearly violating his executive power, he is not the only President to unilaterally use his executive power, and he will probably not be the last to do so. Using the executive power to pass reform has been used as early as Abraham Lincoln, when the Emancipation Proclamation was passed. Moreover, the last five Republican presidents used their executive power to rule on immigration policies.

    President Obama’s Executive Order is simple. And honestly it is something that I thought about since I was a child. When I looked at all of the undocumented people in my city who worked faithfully everyday, (“under the books”), I thought to myself, “this city would benefit economically if it were to let these undocumented workers pay taxes.” When I listened to the President’s address, in no way does it allow other immigrants “to enter illegally and have [] child[ren] here,” nor does it allow new immigrants to “continue to smuggle children across the border in order for their entire family to benefit.” At 6:08 in the President’s address, he states that the Order only applies to existing immigrants who have been in the country for five years plus. It does not apply to recent immigrants or to those who will come to America in the future. He also made clear that border patrol will be heightened and criminals will be deported. Although the fear of a mass exodus of new illegal immigrants may be warranted on a surface level, that consequence is unlikely.

    As far as the benefits of this Order to existing immigrants, it is not as great as most Americans or the President is making it seem. I do commend the President for executing the Order, but it is not the savior of immigration reform. Although the process could lead to citizenship, there are some undocumented immigrants who will not take advantage of this new Order because:

    1. The Order does not grant automatic citizenship or permanent resident status.
    2. The Order is temporary, and there will be lengthy paperwork and pricey application fees to get permanent status.
    3. Existing illegal immigrants will have to pay a fine for entering the country illegally. A fine that most of them cannot afford.
    4. The Order does not offer security. There is no guarantee of status.

    Even if existing illegal immigrants were to take advantage of the Order, they will not be readily employed. They will likely lose more money as a documented immigrant. Most undocumented immigrants have only a high school diploma. College is very expensive, and most illegal immigrants cannot afford this “out of pocket” fee. With only a high school diploma, most will still be forced to work low-income manual labor, while being taxed. Even if the now documented immigrant chooses to go back to school, it will take time to earn a proper income.

    From a Christian perspective, the Order is a great step towards immigration reform. The Bible states, ‘“You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the foreigners residing among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe a foreigner resides, there you are to give them their inheritance,” declares the Sovereign Lord.’ (Ezekiel 47:21-23 NIV)

  3. Thank you for your posts. I agree with the above statements that this is a difficult issue, and must be approached with compassion as well as reason and order. The law is for man, not man for the law. It is to bring humanity closer to a proper way a living, to aid us in living more "human" lives. What does it mean to be human but to share the blessings that our God has given us in this incredibly affluent nation. We must keep the proper perspective and priorities when discussing laws that effect, at their very heart, the lives of our brothers and sisters. Human beings, even one human being, is more important and of greater dignity and worth than any laws because it is for him or her that those laws were created.

  4. I think that is issue is a difficult one, because as Christians we want to welcome people and take care of them. However, I think that protecting our border is the best way to take care of immigrants. This way they are accounted for and can be protected. I come from an area with a large illegal immigrant population and they are often taken advantage of, because of their illegal status. I also know of some situations where illegal immigrants start families in the United States while they have another family in Mexico. I think that this presents serious legal issues.