On November 20, 2014, President Obama addressed the nation, announcing that he would take executive action to suspend the deportation of certain illegal immigrants. In that address, he asked:
Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future?
Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms? Or are we a nation that values families, and works together to keep them together?
Are we a nation that educates the world’s best and brightest in our universities, only to send them home to create businesses in countries that compete against us? Or are we a nation that encourages them to stay and create jobs here, create businesses here, create industries right here in America?
The president appealed to the heart and soul of America, urging people on both sides of the political spectrum to come together to solve one of the biggest political challenges of our time.
Based on the president’s questions above, the principles of conservatism don't seem that different from those of the president. Conservatives tend to favor opportunity, strong family relations, and keeping the contributions of immigrants within our borders rather then outsourcing them.
Many conservatives are saying that the president’s actions are unacceptable, even illegal, and they have good reason for this: section 244 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1952 gives the executive office authority to suspend deportation of legal immigrants, but doesn't apply to illegal immigrants.
As we analyze this issue, however, we must ask ourselves which is more important: upholding conservative principles, or respecting the law of the land as written and originally intended?
In the next few articles, I plan to examine the immigration issue in light of this question. Next week, I will demonstrate how the president’s action is actually more conservative than the vocal Right would be willing to say. In the third and final installment, I will address the balance between virtue and the rule of law as it relates to this issue. I hope to make a reasonable case for the conservative nature of Obama's action, and welcome any comments or additional thoughts as I make this journey.
I hope that as we examine this key issue, we do so with open eyes. It's possible that we may find the policy of a left-wing president to be a surprisingly conservative decision.
Image courtesy of Edward Kimmel, 2013.