Sometimes, phrases get repeated often enough that they become widely accepted. This doesn’t mean that they are true. I’m not talking about deliberate untruths as in Nazi Joseph Goebbels’ statement, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” I am talking about words we think of as truisms, ones that are often faulty, but which we casually accept as reality.
For example, I remember a friend responding with, “Where there’s smoke there’s fire,” when hard-to-believe rumors surfaced of scandalous behavior by a local religious leader. We all know too well today of the danger in ignoring horrible behavior that must be addressed. However, inverting America’s legal principle into “Guilty until proven innocent” places titanic power in the hands of the hate-filled, the overzealous, careless, or even just the mistaken. One venomous tweet today can destroy a perfectly innocent life. Automatically believing that, “Where there’s smoke there’s fire,” substitutes one injustice for another.
With the discussion of DACA front and center, one repeatedly hears that the Dreamers (a politically brilliant term that obscures the issue) came to the United States illegally through, “…no fault of their own.” We aren’t really talking about fault; we mean that the illegal action of entering or remaining in the country was not actively theirs. Their parents made a choice that placed them in that position.
This is, of course, true. The corresponding idea, however, that there shouldn’t be consequences because of that, isn’t necessarily so. My husband and I like looking at the physical world as a reflection of spiritual truths. It doesn’t matter how unfair gravity seems, it is simply a reality. Gravity doesn’t care if an item thrown in the air is a ball or a priceless vase; they are both going to fall down. Tragically, a toddler who leans too far off a balcony ledge will fall just as assuredly as will a book. Knowing that truth allows us to take steps to prevent tragedy. We can supervise the toddler and make the ledge inaccessible. What we can’t do is explain that nothing bad should happen because the accident isn’t the fault of the young child. That isn’t how the real world works.
In my mind, making our children’s well-being heavily dependent on our behavior is one of the ways that God incentivizes us to be good parents. It is true physically for a pregnant woman whose abuse of alcohol or drugs drastically punishes her child. It is true for the mother who gives her child an advantage in life by reading and talking to him instead of handing him an iPad. And it is true when parents break the law. Knowing this truth encourages us to take steps to do well for our children.
A large number of illegal immigrants, I think it fair to say, broke the law in order to offer their children a better life. That is a desire that resonates in the heart of any parent. In many ways these illegal aliens are casualties themselves of a broken immigration and entitlement system that too easily allows and encourages entry by those who want to abuse and damage the United States. It doesn’t make enough demands on immigrants so that only those ready and able to work hard, who desire to adopt American values and to appreciate the gift of living in the United States are able to come. It makes it almost impossible to separate the people who most Americans would gladly welcome into their midsts and those who threaten the country’s continued existence. In conjunction with this, Americans no longer agree on what exactly are American values. Our shattered education system and loss of national morality makes it harder today for all immigrants to assimilate into a common culture. The immigration problem shines a light on just how shaky our national identity has become.
The fact remains, however, that these people did break the law and that, by definition, does affect their children. That is simply how the real world works. Claiming that the children are in this country illegally, “through no fault of their own,” is an emotional appeal, not a rational argument. When you hear the phrase repeated, it is an invitation to continue abandoning serious conversation about a gargantuan problem with tentacles that reach throughout our society.