President Obama’s announcement about his administration’s new immigration policy may or may not have been politically motivated, but it did bring attention to a pesky immigration issue that is difficult to deal with.
In a nutshell, the issue is this: How do you avoid punishing children for the sins of their parents?
Consider the following hypothetical situation:
Maria was born in Mexico. When she was still a baby, she went with her parents as they moved to the USA. Afterwards, Maria grew up in the USA, sounding and acting just like most American kids. Maria learned Spanish from her parents, but she has never been in Mexico other than when she was a baby. The USA is the only nation that she has ever known, and Mexico is a foreign nation to her.
On her 18th birthday, Maria is told a secret that had been kept from her. When she and her parents entered the USA 17 years earlier, her parents did not have permission from the U.S. government to enter the USA. Maria’s parents have never had Green Cards. Instead, her parents are illegal immigrants.
What about Maria? Is she also an illegal immigrant, or is she the victim of her parents’ illegal status? Unlike her parents, Maria would be lost if she were forced to live in Mexico, because the USA is the only home that she has ever known.
While Maria was a minor, she did not have the ability to choose where she lived. That choice was made by her parents. Now that she is 18, Maria would like to attend a local college, even if she has to pay out-of-state tuition. She also would like to obtain a Green Card until she is able to undergo the official naturalization process.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security knows about Maria. What should the government do with Maria? Is there a way to enable Maria to obtain what she wants without punishing her for what her parents did while she was a baby?
(Disclosure: My late wife was a Latina immigrant who became a naturalized U.S. citizen.)