“Immigration Rights”–What Are They?

While Joe Biden was exhorting Detroiters to “take back America,” presumably from Barack Obama and himself, the president also expounded on the meaning of Labor Day. His themes were tiresomely familiar–we are the good guys, Republicans are the bad guys–but one interesting feature was his reference to “immigration rights.” This passage laid the groundwork:

When unions and CEOs, when law enforcement and the evangelical community, when folks who usually don’t agree on anything agree that we should be fixing our broken immigration system, but the Republicans in the House of Representatives have been sitting on a bill for more than a year, it ain’t [sic] right.

Actually, our immigration system is “broken” only in that the Obama administration refuses to enforce the laws. If the administration similarly refused to enforce federal laws against forgery, you could equally say that our currency system is “broken.” And the legislation that the Republican House refuses to pass is opposed by a large majority of Americans, notwithstanding its support from CEOs and union bosses.

Obama went on to liken “immigration rights” to other rights in the liberal pantheon:

Cynicism is a bad choice. Hope is the better choice. Hope is what gives us courage. Hope is what gave soldiers courage to storm a beach. Hope is what gives young people the strength to march for women’s rights, and worker’s rights, and civil rights, and voting rights, and gay rights, and immigration rights.

What are those “immigration rights”? Legally, of course, no one has a right to violate our immigration laws, whether the Obama administration enforces them or not. So what does the president have in mind here? It seems clear that Obama isn’t suggesting that immigrants are somehow being denied their actual rights under American law. Certainly he made no such explicit claim. Rather, his point appears to be that some people–not everyone in the world presumably, but some unspecified group of people–have a “right” to enter the United States, or stay here, even though it is illegal to do so under U.S. law, as long as Barack Obama opposes the law in question.

No coherent theory of law or justice supports such a proposition, but when has that ever stopped Barack Obama? “Immigration rights,” implying the right to violate others’ actual, legal rights, has now become liberal dogma. Who in the Democratic Party news media will point out the absurdity of the president’s position? No one, I suspect.

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