Second, what is the effect of mass illegal immigration on impoverished U.S. citizens? Does anyone care? When 10 million to 15 million aliens are here illegally, where is the leverage for the American working poor to bargain with employers? If it is deemed ethical to grant in-state tuition discounts to illegal-immigrant students, is it equally ethical to charge three times as much for out-of-state, financially needy American students -- whose federal government usually offers billions to subsidize state colleges and universities? If foreign nationals are afforded more entitlements, are there fewer for U.S. citizens?
Third, consider the moral ramifications on legal immigration -- the traditional great strength of the American nation. What are we to tell the legal immigrant from Oaxaca who got a green card at some cost and trouble, or who, once legally in the United States, went through the lengthy and expensive process of acquiring citizenship? Was he a dupe to dutifully follow our laws?
And given the current precedent, if a million soon-to-be-impoverished Greeks, 2 million fleeing North Koreans, or 5 million starving Somalis were to enter the United States illegally and en masse, could anyone object to their unlawful entry and residence? If so, on what legal, practical or moral grounds?
Fourth, examine the morality of remittances. It is deemed noble to send billions of dollars back to families and friends struggling in Latin America. But how is such a considerable loss of income made up? Are American taxpayers supposed to step in to subsidize increased social services so that illegal immigrants can afford to send billions of dollars back across the border? What is the morality of that equation in times of recession? Shouldn't illegal immigrants at least try to buy health insurance before sending cash back to Mexico?
The debate over illegal immigration is too often confined to costs and benefits. But ultimately it is a complicated moral issue -- and one often ignored by all too many moralists.