Playing the Child Card on Immigration

by Heather Mac Donald

Playing the child card doesn’t get any more blatant than this:

Children whose parents are illegal immigrants or who lack legal status themselves face “uniformly negative” effects on their social development from early childhood until they become adults, according to a study by four researchers published Wednesday in the Harvard Educational Review.

It is also undoubtedly the case that having a custodial parent in prison produces negative effects on children. We do not therefore suspend the consequences of deliberate law-breaking, however (unless, that is, we are California, struggling to respond to the U.S. Supreme Court’s May 2011 order to reduce the state prison population). Many lawful consequences of unlawful adult behavior affect children. Indeed, the effect of unlawful behavior on children should be a deterrent to that behavior, rather than a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Illegal aliens who deliberately flout the immigration law are knowingly and foreseeably subjecting their children to the consequences of their illegal action. It is of course regrettable that children may be harmed by their parents’ illegal action (though one needs to ask: compared to what?), but if having a child should cancel a parent’s illegal status, the result would be the final erasure of our immigration laws and a slap in the face to immigrants who came to the U.S. legally. 

(It needs to be pointed out as well that Hispanics’ low academic achievement, which the study in question attributes to our immigration laws, continues well into the third and fourth generations, when any illegal status of parents has long been dissolved by birthright citizenship.)  

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