The question of illegal immigration has been on the U.S.’s political agenda for decades, yet very few reasonable solutions have been provided. Due to the drastic economic situation observed in Mexico and the adjacent countries, illegal immigrants and migrant workers have become an increasingly common problem for U.S. officials (Wood 2). However, since a significant part of the specified demographic migrates together with their children, an ethical dilemma emerges. On the one hand, incarcerating illegal immigrants with their children in adult prison cells creates a potential threat for minors; on the other hand, separating parents and children when sending the latter to child protection services leads to children suffering emotional trauma (Wood 2). To address the dilemma in question, one will need to apply the principles of Kantian ethics and ensure that all vulnerable groups remain safe and secure.
The case under analysis is quite complex due to the multiple perspectives from which it can be approached. According to American laws, crossing the border illegally must result in appropriate penalties, which, in most cases, are represented by serving time in jail (Glano 318). Therefore, for immigrants with children, the specified outcome implies that their children are also incarcerated so that they are not separated from their parents (Glano 318). The specified outcome is understandably absurd since the prison setting is exceptionally inappropriate for children. Specifically, apart from being deprived of basic resources for growing up, children contained in hail with their parents are likely to be exposed to a range of threats, including the possibility of a physical assault from adult prisoners (Glano 318). Therefore, an ethical dilemma emerges when creating premises for either an emotional trauma or a physical injury for children of imprisoned illegal immigrants.
To resolve the problem at hand, one could consider the ethical framework suggested by Immanuel Kant. Kantian ethics encourages focusing on duties and obligations rather than emotional appeals, implying that crucial moral principles and values should trump any emotional considerations (Ward 133). The theory in question holds significant power in the present-day legal and social context since it allows maintaining the balance between supporting illegal immigrants, protecting their children, and compliance with the set legal standards. Namely, the Kantian approach will help to avoid making an unnecessarily rushed and potentially wrong decision by focusing on the appeal to emotions that the dilemma in question implies (Ward 137). Specifically, Kantian ethics should be applied to a case in point to locate the solution that will lead to the most beneficial outcomes for all parties involved.
To address a case in point from the standpoint of Kantian ethics, one will need to examine the likely outcomes of the proposed solutions. Particularly, the Categorical Imperative of Kant’s approach, which suggests that the moral law must prevail over the rest of the reasoning, will have to be applied to the case under analysis. Namely, in the described situation, placing children in jail together with their parents will imply putting them at significant risk. First and most obvious, in the specified setting, children will be deprived of the necessary resources, which will lead to major health threats and, therefore, the danger of children incurring physical trauma (Wood 4). In addition, the target environment will also create a potentially dangerous situation in which children may be harmed by adults (Wood ). Therefore, applying the Categorical Imperative to the case under analysis, one will recognize the necessity to separate children of illegal immigrants from their parents as the latter is placed in an adult facility (Glano 318). The proposed solution also aligns with the principles of non-maleficence, which makes it the only solution that does not inflict direct, emotional or physical harm upon children, and ensures their safety.
Predicting the reactions of the proponents of the Kantian approach in relation to the issue of illegal migrants and their children is quite difficult. Due to the complexity of the issue and the uncertainty of the outcomes, the proposed solution may be seen as ethically questionable. In addition, even the proponents of Kantian ethics may appeal to the emotional side of the debate and use the argument concerning the possible distress that illegal migrants will suffer as parents once separated from their children. Since the power of the specified emotional appeal is exceptionally high, it might be regarded as the highest priority issue. However, when separating emotion-fueled arguments from those of reason., one will recognize the potential threat that children will face when placed in custody and, later, in prison with their parents (Wood 5). Therefore, the measured reaction of the supporters of the Kantian approach is likely to eventually tip toward the separation strategy.
Admittedly, the suggested framework for assessing the case study and the proposed solution have a significant weakness. Namely, they create the premises for children of illegal immigrants to experience severe emotional distress that is likely to be caused by separation from their parents. Likewise, the latter may also suffer significant anxiety as a result of being separated from their children. Therefore, the application of Kantian ethics does not allow for an ideal solution that will guarantee meeting the needs of all participants and to ensure that all dilemmas are resolved. Instead, it helps overcome the fundamental obstacle to managing the issue. Specifically, the use of Kant’s Categorical imperative allows answering the question of whether it is ethically justifiable to separate illegal migrants from their children. Namely, the key theoretical premise of aligning with essential moral principles obliges decision-makers to ensure that children are not harmed, which requires placing them in a separate facility with appropriate care instead of exposing them to the prison environment, where they will face the risk of being assaulted and harmed.
By including the Kantian ethics approach to manage the problem of illegal immigrants being separated from their children, one will be able to navigate the complex situation to ensure that the needs of all parties are met and that those the most vulnerable do not sustain any trauma. Specifically, from the perspective of Kantian ethics, it is necessary to focus on the solution that promises the most favorable outcome. In the case under analysis, ensuring that children as the most vulnerable group, are not traumatized and providing them with counseling and support separately from their parents will be necessary. While the proposed solution is not ideal, it does promise the most effective outcome and allow for the maximum security of all vulnerable populations, particularly children. Therefore, in the context of the described situation, it can be seen as morally right to separate children from parents who are imprisoned for illegally crossing the border.
Giano, Zachary, et al. “Immigration-Related Arrest, Parental Documentation Status, and Depressive Symptoms among Early Adolescent Latinos.” Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, vol. 26, no. 3, 2020, p. 318.
Ward, Ken. “Social Networks, the 2016 US Presidential Election, and Kantian Ethics: Applying the Categorical Imperative to Cambridge Analytica’s behavioral Microtargeting.” Journal of Media Ethics, vol. 33, no. 3, 2018, pp. 133-148.
Wood, Laura CN. “Impact of Punitive Immigration Policies, Parent-Child Separation and Child Detention on the Mental Health and Development of Children.” BMJ Paediatrics Open, vol. 2, no. 1, 2018, pp. 1-6.