DACA—Immigration policy limits political solutions
International policy should affect immigration policy. | Jessica Goddard / THE CHIMES
On Feb. 7, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi set the record for the longest house floor speech since at least 1909, speaking on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients. While the immigration debate began during the last presidential election, the question of what to do with illegal immigrants and their families has once again come front-and-center amidst our bipartisan funding debates.
The difficulty with DACA is our conception of it as a zero-sum political game, defended by two inconsistent beliefs. Instead of being locked into the high-stakes game of, “What are we to do with all these illegal immigrants?” we are now free to reconceive the DACA problem as also including the question, “What are we to do with all the abusive countries from which they are fleeing?” Instead of merely asking how we may help the fortunate few, perhaps the time has come to ask how we may help the unfortunate many.
The political hostilities surrounding DACA are matched only by the stakes set in our zero-sum game in which the winner takes all. When considering political solutions, one has two choices—either accept all the DACA recipients, providing rose gardens and state-of-the-art medical care to the needy, or deport all the DACA recipients, becoming a racist, bigot and overall immoral Christian. This zero-sum game deems one political party savior, while condemning the other as servants of Satan.
Departing from political slander, it appears progress on DACA requires renegotiating the stakes. The stakes must not remain so high and options so few, and self-aggrandizement must not come at the cost of demonization. But, to make sense of any attempt to renegotiate the game, the inconsistent beliefs which defend the game must be addressed.
The Queen’s Gambit
In chess, the queen’s gambit is a strategy to sacrifice one’s own queen with the hope of securing victory in the end game. In the same way, we have sacrificed our greatest political strategy — consistency — with hopes of winning the political game. We have found out the sacrifice was a mistake.
DACA has been defended by the artificial isolation of the policy from broader discussion behind two inconsistent beliefs. First, one cannot argue that a culture is morally preferable in an objective way over any other culture. Second, one can argue that illegal immigrants come to the United States for a better life.
Inconsistency arises when we try to hold the beliefs together. If we want to believe that illegal immigrants come to the U.S. for a better life, we cannot also believe that the U.S. is not morally preferable over other countries in an objective way. By accepting one, we must deny the other.
If we accept that illegal immigrants are coming to the U.S. for a better life, then we are able to make moral judgements about other cultures in an objective way. Illegal immigration is then not merely a domestic policy, but an international policy.
Is Immigration Policy, Foreign Policy?
If the United States can be morally compared to other countries in an objective way, then a host of political questions become important. We can reasonably ask, “Are the economic policies in the U.S. objectively, morally preferable over Venezuela’s economic policies, whose citizens, reported last August, were forced to eat zoo animals for food?” Or further, “Does the U.S. have a more perfect political order than Mexico, whose journalists, reported this month, were killed for exposing government corruption?”
The question of international moral preference is important for DACA because DACA becomes not merely domestic policy, but also foreign policy. The resulting expansion of possible solutions along domestic and international lines provides more paths to political sainthood.