Slavery and Lincoln, Immigration and Obama: How will history judge?

Slavery and Lincoln, Immigration and Obama: How will history judge?

May Day pro-amnesty march in Los Angeles. (Via Wikipedia)
May Day pro-amnesty march in Los Angeles. (Via Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON, August 10, 2014 − Excluding American Indians, we are all immigrants in this country or descended from immigrants. Currently, however, illegal immigrants are flooding our borders in unprecedented numbers, seeking a new life as did our previous waves of immigrants. But our capacity to deal with them has limits.

Seventy percent of respondents to a mid-July online Reuters poll say they are worried that illegals now threaten our traditional beliefs and customs. Another Reuters poll places immigration as the third most important problem currently facing our country. A Gallup poll in July found it to be the number one problem, even ahead of the still struggling economy.

There are two absolute “major” issues involved in our current immigration dilemma: (1) government policies about immigrants coming in to the United States; and (2) government policies dealing with and about illegal immigrants once they are here.

President Obama may act on #2 above by Executive Order within the next few weeks to give work permits to potentially 5 million undocumented workers. Further, he may order delayed deportations. Meanwhile, Congress is deadlocked on the entire immigration. Some say nothing needs to be done other than to enforce already existing immigration laws. Others see a need for major reform in many areas.

The legality of the President’s hinted-at unilateral action is highly questionable and could plausibly risk the initiation of impeachment proceedings in Congress. Many rationalize, offering that his rumored course of action is needed because Congress will not act. But whatever his ultimate course of action, the President should be careful here. His own words:

I swore an oath to uphold the laws on the books. … Now, I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the [immigration] laws on my own. … That’s not how our Constitution is written. (7/25/11)

If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so. But we’re also a nation of laws. (11/25/13)

There is no “right” for illegals to be here. The challenge, however, is to clarify their “right,” once they are here, to enjoy the benefit of and the protection of our laws. The discussion at this point often turns to debating principles of simple fairness. Why should we afford protections to those who have arrived here illegally?

We are a nation of laws and of rights. Most Americans agree on the “right” to same-sex marriage. We amended our Constitution to give women the “right” to vote. We espouse civil “rights.” We believe in the “right” to “free speech.”

Illegals have “rights” because they are human beings, and all human beings have a right to be respected, to be free from harm, discrimination, harassment, and to other basic human dignities.

Not fair? They are not even supposed to be here! True, but that does not give someone else the right to harm them, nor gain a free pass from responsibility if they do.

Why are illegals allowed to work, taking jobs in some instances away from Americans?

They are not allowed to work without work permits, valid social security numbers or tax identification numbers. They work nonetheless because employers either knowingly hire them because they can get away with cheaper labor, pay no taxes, provide no benefits; or because employers do not care to check the legality of their work status. Some employers know they can get away with treating them in a less than humane and legal manner and choose to do so since this conveniently contributes to a more robust bottom line.

Some states do not require identification and give virtually anyone a driver’s license. The benefit to us is that the illegal has passed a driving test, assuring that a standard of driving knowledge and skill has been met. Would you rather have someone on your neighborhood roadway that has no knowledge of the rules of the road?

Why should illegal children be allowed to stay in the United States after their parents or other relatives send them here unaccompanied? Estimates are that in 2014, communities all over the country are dealing with over 57,000 unaccompanied minors who have crossed our borders.

We “deal” with these children because it is the right thing to do.

Dealing with the children might be the most difficult political and “what is right?” question facing our elected officials and communities. Needed resources are often unavailable, and where those resources (money and people to attend to these children) do exist, they are fully or partially diverted and thus unavailable for the needs of taxpaying American citizens.

Children who have crossed over the border cannot be shipped back and they cannot be left alone to fend for themselves. They are supposed to be “handled” by the Department of Health and Human Services within 3 days. But the extreme numbers of those currently entering the country has resulted in many being crowded into Border Patrol stations for much longer periods of time.

Do we enroll these children into our school systems? Oh wait, they don’t speak English? The local elementary school (already strapped for needed funds) cannot handle three more kids, much less ten or twenty. Teachers’ lesson plans are not completed because teaching time is diverted.

John R. Wood, also writing for CDN, succinctly identifies the problem many Americans “feel” in his August 7, 2014 column:

most Americans, it would seem, do not believe that a porous border through which people can come into our country by the tens of thousands is in the fiscal or national security interests of the United States. Yet and still, most too feel a great sadness for the hardships of families who endure great risk to travel to this country, in part because we know they flee conditions far more dangerous and heart wrenching than what most of us experience, and in part also because we relate to the yearning for freedom and opportunity that drives them to this odyssey… These are the reasons immigrants have risked life and limb to come to these lands since before this nation was constituted. These are the truths about this issue that tug at our heartstrings, making it difficult (for most of us anyway) to condemn people whose actions we understand.

Wouldn’t you do ANYTHING to save your child from life-threatening circumstances?

READ ALSO: The Immigration Debate: The heart vs. the mind

Addressing briefly major issue #1 identified at the beginning of this article, one of our current laws actually entices illegals to enter our country illegally, and families actually to try to get caught. The law provides for “deferred action for childhood arrivals” where families are allowed to stay here for at least three months pending a removal hearing. They are told to “come” to the hearing set in 90 days. Most do not.

There are hundreds of issues currently being raised with regard to immigration. It is going to be extremely difficult to enact a comprehensive system of laws to address all of the problems while respecting legitimate competing concerns. Bottom line: we cannot ignore the plight of those looking to come here. As deadlock prevails in Congress, perhaps President Obama’s do-it-myself thinking is not so outlandish. There is precedent.

President Lincoln is regarded as being responsible for ending slavery. History applauds him. Nonetheless, he was concerned that his wartime Emancipation Proclamation might be overturned by the courts after the Civil War, as any confiscation of “property” (slaves were the “property” of their owners and the proclamation “took” or freed them) required due process of law. And laws can only be passed by Congress. We now understand that labeling humans “property” was simply “wrong” and thus we see that Lincoln’s views were enlightened.

What view of our thinking about “rights” for immigrants will future generations of Americans hold? Hooray to President Obama who may soon take actions, despite threats of impeachment by a Republican Congress that also is legitimately trying to come up with answers.


Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980.  He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website

His new book “Who Will Pay My Auto Accident Bills?, The Most Comprehensive Nationwide Auto Accident Resolution Book, Ever” can be reviewed on and can be ordered there, or obtained directly on Amazon: Click here to order


Mr. Samakow’s “Don’t Text and Drive” campaign, El Textarudo, has become nationally recognized. Please visit the website and “like” the concept on the Facebook page

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