Carroll County Times

Editorial: Child steps in immigration reform

A government program that allows some illegal immigrants to avoid deportation who were brought here as children by their parents is a small positive step in moving forward on the big issue of immigration reform.

Republicans, especially those on the far right, oppose the program. Texas Gov. Rick Perry saw his presidential aspirations evaporate when he said during a GOP presidential debate, "If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no reason than they've been brought there, by no fault of their own, I don't think you have a heart."

But Perry's statement was spot on. Those who qualify for this program were brought here as children by their parents. As a nation, we have never held children accountable for the actions of their parents. And a point that opponents never seem to bring up, or realize, is that for many of these children America is the only country they have ever known.

Requirements to be eligible for the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative place fairly tight limits on who can apply. According to The Associated Press, to be eligible, immigrants must prove they arrived in the United States before they turned 16, are 30 or younger, have been living here at least five years and are in school or graduated or served in the military. They also cannot have been convicted of certain crimes or otherwise pose a safety threat.

That's a far cry from opening the floodgates to illegal immigrants, as some have incorrectly characterized the plan.

Immigration policy has been a contentious issue on the right and the left for generations. From calls to deport everyone to calls to grant everyone amnesty who is here illegally, many people have dug in their heels at the extremes. Lost in the debate are the children, those brought here through no fault of their own by their parents who, in most cases, were trying to make a better life for their children.

We can debate all day the merits of one plan over another, but we should not use innocent children as pawns in the discussions.

We don't prosecute children for the crimes of their parents, and this initiative demonstrates that we can hold true to that basic philosophy, even when the greater issue of illegal immigration continues to sharply divide us.