Family Values

“Family Values”

William B. Turner

One of the Republicans’ favorite ruses for distracting the public from the harm their policies do is to claim that they are the Party of “family values.”

There are lots of policy issues that one could use to test this thesis. Republicans typically take the “conservative” position, meaning that they’re only too happy to use the power of government to deny individuals the freedom to choose how to live our lives. So, on abortion, they want to prohibit it, even though we know that prohibiting abortion does not make it stop, it only makes the abortions that occur less safe.

They like to talk about “the family,” suggesting that there is only one legitimate family form, despite enormous historical and anthropological evidence showing that humans have used any number of family forms besides having pair bonded parents living with their children and no one else, which has some obvious problems, especially in the era of very expensive day care for children.

Or same sex marriage. The actual evidence we have overwhelmingly indicates that same sex couples are just as capable of forming families as different sex couples, indeed, more so, since, until recently, same sex couples who sustained long term relationships had to do so without the benefits of legal marriage. “Conservatives” and Republicans oppose same sex marriage, for no good reason. Only their own ideological prejudices.

But we are living through a vivid, wrenching test of Republican family values in the realm of immigration policy. In 1965, Congress passed, and Lyndon Johnson signed, the Immigration and Nationality Act, which eliminated the explicitly racist national origins quota system that Republicans enacted in the 1920s, removing the prohibition on immigration from Asia and establishing family reunification as a key principle in U.S. immigration law.

Obviously, the two are not strictly comparable, because the Dolt 45 administration has made headlines lately for deporting parents who have to leave their children behind in the United States. The parents may well be legitimately subject to deportation for having entered the country without proper documentation. But real conservatives believe in acting on principle, and if an important principle is family reunification, then obviously disunifying families by deporting parents and leaving their children in the U.S. does not contribute to achieving that principle.

Law enforcement resources are always finite. It is literally impossible for the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute every violation of every federal law. The DACA program was just a perfectly rational policy choice that tried to state at least one important enforcement, or lack of enforcement, priority, explicit. It stated that persons who came here as children with undocumented parents, and are therefore themselves also undocumented, and subject to deportation, will not have to worry about deportation so long as they meet other specific criteria – not having committed any crime being first on the list.

By choosing to single out undocumented parents and deporting them, the Department of Justice is necessarily taking law enforcement resources away from some other violators of the law whom they might prosecute instead. Not only do they not live up to the principle of family values with this choice, they fritter away precious law enforcement resources.

One could go on. Democratic Senators tried to pass a bill ensuring that service members would get paid during the Trump shut down, but the Donald’s water boy in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, prevented the bill from even coming up for a vote. To state what should be obvious, not only service members, but their families as well, will suffer as the result of this idiotic policy choice.