In recent attorney general confirmation hearings, Loretta Lynch testified that:
“Senator, I believe the right and the obligation to work is one that is shared by everyone in this country, regardless of how they came here,” Lynch said when asked by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) who has a greater right to work: Illegal aliens, or lawful immigrants and American citizens?
“Certainly, if someone is here—regardless of status—I would prefer that they be participating in the workplace than not participating in the workplace,” Lynch said.
Although her testimony has been available in video form in many outlets, I’ve only found this particular testimony transcribed on conservative forums (as this article notes this is raised as a conservative issue). The statement describes one of the issues surrounding political controversies concerning illegal immigrants.
In recent posts, I have been using an imaginary political party I call Dedomenocratic Party to illustrate how dedomenocracy concepts can be used in present political debates within our democracy. Even though we do not yet have data technologies that support a fully automated dedomenocracy, the concepts can produce new arguments that differ from the other parties and can lead to a future of more data-driven decision making. A present day Dedomenocratic Party can be relevant to current government while at the same time prepare for a future of a government by data.
In these discussions I’m taking an opposing view to my own philosophy that defends the value of government through political persuasion and human accountable decision making. If a Dedomenocratic Party were to emerge and take the views I write here, personally I would probably oppose it. I am not an enthusiastic advocate of dedomenocracy so this is a challenging exercise for me to try to defend it. However, this reluctance helps me to explore the implications of applying dedomenocracy principles to current challenges.
How would the Dedomenocratic Party would respond to Loretta Lynch’s statement and would that response would be distinguished from the Democratic or Republican party?
In the current polarized political environment, the two major parties have taken opposing views on immigration. The Democratic party supports the President’s recent executive action on immigration and the Republican party opposes it. This is convenient for me as I can describe the two parties as having these views. However, I suspect the debate is not really a partisan one and the issues cut across both parties. The issues of immigration policy and enforcement of existing laws cuts are not clearly one side of the other. The president polarized the debate by taking one stand and the two parties have aligned in response to his actions. I’ll take advantage of this situation to describe the two sides as the Democratic Party side and the Republican Party side.
Immigration reform is a large topic covering many issues. A blog post is not suited to cover all of the issues and besides I am not prepared to cover all of these issues. I will instead just focus on the conservative reaction to the above quote.
The above quote suggests that illegal immigrants should be able to compete for jobs despite their status as being here illegally. Part of the conservative objection, I imagine, is a letter-of-the-law approach that says the law must be enforced. The current law is that illegal immigrants can not enjoy employment while in the country. The problem with this argument is that the immigration law has not been effective at keeping out illegal immigrants so that by now there are large populations of illegal immigrants who have established residences, raised children, and found some form of financial support. They have been here long enough that they are more a part of our country than their home country.
This is particularly true for the children who have been raised almost their entire lives in this country as recognized in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program. These are individuals who are now entering young adulthood or working age. They are able to work and have much to offer in terms of productivity for the economy. In addition, these young adults have very little connection with their home countries, or certainly far less than they have with this one. Allowing these individuals to work in this country offers an economic benefit of their services at least assuming that their employment does not displace legal citizens or guest workers.
The DACA eligible young adults have lived most of their childhood in this country. Usually, this means their parents have also lived here for the same period. Given how long this has persisted, the current enforcement of immigration laws would deport the parents while allowing the children to stay. The parents have closer affinity to their home country than do their children. However, imposition of this policy will force the separation of a family among cultures with strong sense of family obligations. The alternative is to allow the parents to stay here too as long as their children qualify for DACA.
The DACA-eligible young adults presents an available workforce to participate in the economy. I assume that forcing a separation of their parents (through deportation) will have a big impact on the productivity of the DACA-eligible workforce.
The Dedomenocratic Party makes decisions based on data and urgency. Lacking the actual data, for sake of this discussion I make the following assumptions about the data:
- The DACA eligible young adults will be productive members of the workforce to fill needed roles in the modern economy
- Although they can compete for specific job with legal citizens based on merit, they will not displace workers in a way that drives up unemployment for legal citizens
- The DACA eligible young adults have assimilated to this country’s culture so that they are more at home here than they would be in their country of origin
- The numbers of DACA eligible young adults are very large so as to represent a significant contribution to the available workforce
- The parents of DACA eligible will continue to find financial support through their existing means without imposing new demands on the economy
I am assuming that there is sufficient data to support each of the above statements in order to formulate the response. I suspect that most of these (and especially the last) lack conclusive data, but if that is the case then the Dedomenocratic Party will oppose any reform because there is a lack of data to prove any benefit for reform. It is more interesting to explore the Dedomenocratic Party response if the above had adequate data support.
Given these data, the Dedomenocratic Party could support allowing these immigrants to obtain employment in this country. There is an economic benefit of a workforce that is already in the country and have reasonably assimilated (in the case of the young adults) or the economy is already accommodating them (in the case of the parents). Also, insisting on deportation or even denial of work privileges can represent a net risk to the economy. In this way, the Dedomenocratic Party can unite with Democratic Party for this type of reform.
However, the Dedomenocratic Party must also consider the additional data that these are law breakers. The immigrants arrived in the country without obtaining the appropriate permission. This is the conservative argument that the laws must be enforced. The existing law, even if it were ineffective in stopping new immigration, still requires deportation as a just punishment for breaking the law. It should not matter that the violation occurred long ago and that there is a potential economic benefit for allowing them to stay. The argument is that there must be justice served for breaking the law.
As I noted in earlier discussion on dedomenocracy, justice for past violations is not a priority making current decisions. The potential benefits of dedomenocracy comes from taking full advantage of present resources to gain the most benefit going forward into the future. In particular, I argued that there is no point in insisting on justice for violations of actions that are no longer relevant. The immigrants have been here for a long enough time that seeking justice for justice’s sake is counter-productive or even foolish. The best policy going forward should take full advantage of the immediate access to a productive workforce who can enter the the employment market.
A counter argument is on the grounds of fairness to legal applicants for immigration who could arrive in the place of the illegal immigrants. These legal applicants are properly following the law and patiently waiting for their opportunity to enter. It is unfair to deny legal applicants their intention to immigrate while allowing the illegal immigrants to realize their intentions. In a dedomenocracy, the emphasis is on outcomes instead of fairness. Despite the unfairness, the long-residing illegal immigrants have an economic advantage over the legal applicants in that they have already established a presence in the country and their children have assimilated. There is more economic benefit from the already present immigrants than from the ones who have not yet arrived. I agree that it is unfair, but I would expect that Dedomenocratic party would reject this fairness argument as irrelevant. The economic benefit is sufficient reason to allow illegal immigrants to stay and to participate in the workforce.
This reinforces the agreement between the Dedomenocratic and the Democratic Parties on this issue. This illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay and to participate in legal employment. But instead of using populist arguments, the Dedomenocratic Party uses data for future prospects to defend its position.
As I mentioned above, I chose within the immigration debate the narrow issue of whether illegal immigrants should be allowed to have jobs. In the case of the subgroup who are DACA-eligible or who have DACA-eligible children, the Dedomenocratic Party may support a policy that allows them to obtain work legally.
The reason why the immigration reform is difficult is because it must simultaneously address other issues such as improving border security (to prevent future illegal immigrants) and a path to citizenship for the illegal immigrants allowed to stay. An illegal immigrant may be granted a permanent resident (green card) status without having full citizenship rights. A permanent resident can apply for naturalized citizenship after maintaining residence for a period of time.
Even if illegal immigrants are granted permanent resident status, there remains the debate concerning the eligibility requirements for applying for full (naturalized) citizenship. I have not followed this debate closely and I have heard conflicting proposals from either side. My rough impression of the two stands is as follows. The Democratic Party prefers to provide a path to citizenship within a short residence period without a need to leave the country. The Republican Party prefers to provide a path of citizenship with a much longer than normal residence requirement or require the person to voluntarily leave the country and apply with other legal applicants.
I realize even this is already an oversimplification but I’ll simplify it even further.
The Republican Party wants the illegal immigrants to have an additional disadvantage or penalty to obtain full citizenship while the Democratic Party would prefer no disadvantage or penalty. Here, I can see the Dedomenocratic Party allying with the Republican Party. Putting aside the question of justice or fairness, we have the data that the immigrant originally had an illegal status. Although a dedomenocracy is quick to forgive (not require punishments) for past crimes of now-obsolete laws, the dedomenocracy also demands that the fact of the transgression become a permanent record for the individual. This record of past transgression is available for use in future decision making.
Meeting the requirements to apply for citizenship represents a decision that can use this data of prior illegal entry. The addition of more requirements for illegal immigrants to qualify for citizenship is consistent with a definition of citizenship that involves being fit for citizenship. The prior illegal action of undocumented entry into the country is evidence that the person is less fit to be a citizen. The illegal immigrant has demonstrated a past disregard of the laws. The Dedomenocratic Party can use the dedomenocracy principles to demand additional citizenship-eligibility requirements such as longer residency, or emigration back to home country to compensate for the past disregard of laws.
Applying dedomenocracy principles to the immigration debate, the Dedomenocratic Party can split its support by supporting the Democratic Party for allowing access to legal employment for illegal immigrants while also supporting the Republican party for demanding additional requirements for qualification for citizenship as a consequence of prior violation of immigration law.
- The Dedomenocratic Party places priority on the urgency and opportunity of current situation no matter how that came about. The current opportunity and urgency is a large population of illegal immigrants who have been here for a long time.
- The Dedomenocratic Party devalues the role of justice or fairness in decision-making when compared with the above opportunity and urgency. There is no need to seek punishment for past illegal entry. The opportunity for the government to intercede in that event was missed when the event occurred. It is counter-productive now to deny access to employment or to demand deportation for long-time immigrants who arrived illegally.
- The Dedomenocratic Party emphasizes the collection and retention of data. In this case, the data is the fact that the person arrived illegally as an adult or they were children who accompanied an adult entering illegally. For the adults in particular, this willful disregard of the law of the land is evidence of unsuitability to obtain full citizenship. We may demand more citizenship-eligibility requirements for these individuals, such as longer residency periods or a need to emigrate and reapply as a foreigner. Obtaining citizenship is distinct from obtaining permanent resident status where citizenship demands a higher standard for qualification.