A common bit of rhetoric one hears from opponents of immigration reform goes like this:
“Why should those who came here illegally be allowed to remain in the United States when there are so many who are following the rules and waiting to come here legally? Why do the illegal immigrants get to skip the line?”
While politicians oppose immigration reform for a wonderful variety of foolish and ignorant reasons, this argument deserves particular ridicule. It makes an enormous and, as it turns out, incorrect assumption. It presupposes that, if only the largely low-skill, poorly educated individuals who have come to this country illegally had instead done us the common courtesy of waiting in line, they could have avoided this unpleasantness altogether.
However, even a cursory reading of American immigration policy shows the error in this assumption. In fact, the United States has no immigration category for individuals without special skills and education who have no family living in the United States and who have “insufficient reason” to fear for their lives at home. While it is possible for a very small number of skilled workers without advanced education to immigrate under the EB-3 category, the great majority of people who have come to America illegally could have done so no other way.
Regardless of whether or not we ought to allow low-skill immigrants from Latin America and elsewhere, the fact is that, for the moment, we don't. To argue that those immigrants ought to "get in line" is to argue in bad faith.