Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.
Safeguarding Immigrant Families
December 17, 2010
by Stephanie Summers
The DREAM Act addresses a problem with existing federal policy in which some immigrant children brought to this country by their parents are unable to be sponsored for citizenship by their family, as the current system requires. Regardless of the age of the individual at entry to the U.S., the duration of the attempts by parents at seeking citizen status for the child, or the behavior of the individual while in the country as a minor, these children find themselves at age eighteen to be barred from legal employment, military service, and access to higher education.
In its Guideline on Family the Center for Public Justice states that, "the family is the most basic of human institutions." Current U.S. policy has as its consequence fragmentation of this most fundamental institution. Young adults are faced with making a decision to either return to the country of their nativity, where they may attempt to gain legal entry to the U.S. by visa, or to remain with their families, ensuring that they will be unable to contribute to society. Today the choice to leave the United States requires a minimum of six to ten years of wait time, with no guarantee of re-entry.
In the United States, the federal government is responsible for legislating and enforcing laws governing citizenship. As such, this problem requires a political solution at the federal level. But it is also the responsibility of government, as the Center for Public Justice Guideline on the Family continues, to “recognize and protect the family as an essential expression of its responsibility to uphold a just society.” For the State, in effect, to punish children for obeying their parents, is a violation of standards of public justice. Current federal policy regarding these children interferes with the sovereignty of the institution of the family over children, an injustice which the the DREAM Act addresses.
Additionally, current U.S. policy interferes with the sovereignty of the family because it does not consider the full outcomes of healthy family life. It is the responsibility of government (the Guideline continues) to recognize that “healthy families help nurture future citizens, prepare future employers and employees, decrease public costs resulting from fragmented families, and build up strong social and cultural capital.” The DREAM Act conforms to standards of justice as it offers support to families in fulfilling these important responsibilities.
Jim Skillen has argued that "the Church must be attentive to those who fall between bureaucratic systems" and by implication, children who would be affected by the DREAM Act—those who currently exist outside the system of legal immigration—are those for whom Christians are obliged to advocate. To be sure, the Church has a responsibility for the moral education of its members, including education about obedience to government authorities. But the Church also holds a responsibility for educating the people of God as to where the law must conform to a higher standard. It is the responsibility of citizens to advocate for change when the law violates the standards of justice. Christians who promote the sovereignty of the institution of the family should support the DREAM Act and its conformity to the standards of public justice.
—Stephanie Summers is the Chief Operating Officer of the Center for Public Justice.
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Capital Commentary is a weekly current-affairs publication of the Center for Public Justice. Published since 1996, it is written to encourage the pursuit of justice. Commentaries do not necessarily represent an official position of the Center for Public Justice but are intended to help advance discussion. Articles, with attribution, may be republished according to our publishing guidelines.”