Moral Decency and the Dreamers

Thinking about the ethics of ending DACA

Posted Sep 07, 2017

ProgressOhio, CCL
Source: ProgressOhio, CCL

Trump's announcement concerning the end of DACA on Tuesday took on a very human face for me yesterday. I'm a philosophy professor at Eastern Kentucky University, and yesterday a Unity Rally was held on our campus. As I saw EKU students who are now vulnerable to deportation because of Trump's decision, including one of my own former students, I was struck in a deeper way by the inhumanity of it all. This student of mine is a wonderful young woman with so much potential to make excellent contributions to our society through her life and work. Do we not have some obligation to her as a human being to protect her welfare? More importantly, what does it say about us if we deport her, and others like her?

This brings up an important question: Do the Dreamers have a right to stay in the United States? I was watching CNN this week, and some of the members of a panel agreed that there was no such right. Perhaps they were referring to a legal right. I don't know much about the relevant immigration laws, so I will set that aside. However, it seems clear to me that a case can be made that they have a moral right to stay in the United States. And the moral question is the most fundamental one.

Some on the panel argued that we have a responsibility to the Dreamers. I agree. Perhaps more important than questions about rights and responsibilities is this: What does it say about our character as individuals and as a nation if we deport  600,000-800,000 people who have grown up in our country back to a place they've never really known? It is arguably not a just thing to do. It is certainly not compassionate. In fact, it is callous and cruel.

Put yourself in their shoes. What if someone decided you had to return to your ancestral home, say Germany, Nigeria, or Italy? What would you do? It would be terrifying to leave everything and everyone you've ever known and be forced to somehow start over in a new country.

There are clearly problems with our immigration policies, and I understand the notion that we don't want to encourage more people to immigrate here illegally. But again, put yourself in the shoes of the Dreamers and their families. You want a life that is fulfilling, where your basic needs can be met as you work hard for yourself and those you love. You want your children to have an opportunity for a good education, fulfilling work, and a happy life. If we were in similar circumstances, and given the chance, I imagine most of us who are now citizens would make the same choice. Many who are undocumented workers in our country came here out of love for their families. Most of us would do the same.

As human beings with basic moral decency, shouldn't we do what we can to help those looking for a better life, if we can? At a minimum, we shouldn't cut the lives of the Dreamers out from under them.

Photo source: Flickr


More Posts