Archive for June 2010

Our Hypocritical Immigration Laws

What is meant by hypocritical law? There is no formal definition. My own is that a law is hypocritical when it punishes individuals for doing things many of us had done, when we would certainly consider such punishment unthinkable or unconscionable if applied to us.

Consider the following example: Someone who is a non-citizen and who was caught at any time is his life experimenting with marijuana would now face serious threat of deportation, or refusal of entry into our country. If he was caught twice, then deportation or exclusion becomes probable. If someone tries to smoke marijuana cigarette during his college years, but did not like the taste, and chose instead to sell it to a friend for five bucks, then this person will now be deported or excluded permanently as drug trafficker, regardless of the passage of decades. Under our immigration laws, offenses committed at any time often count as offenses committed yesterday, without regards to how the person developed or who is the person today.

But, how is the experimentation of marijuana in young age reflective of how a person might develop? The answer is that the correlation is zero. We have multiple Presidents who admitted to experimenting with worse than marijuana. We have had Supreme Court nominees who had admitted to the same. Thus, smoking marijuana is clearly not indicative of what the person might become at a later time of his/her life.

Note that the example above does not deal with undocumented aliens. It involves legal immigrants or visitors to our country. In case of green card holders, the deportation would destroy families and often separate kids from mother or father.

Other examples involve individuals who have committed relatively minor or non-violent crimes, such shop lifting, or other mistakes in their life, decades ago, and have been completely rehabilitated. Some might not have spent even one day in jail; yet, decades later our government is spending billions of dollars in salaries for federal agents trying to deport them. Does this make sense?

Our law justifies this travesty under the fiction that deportation is not a punishment, but administrative procedure of simply returning someone to the country they came from. And while that might be true for someone who jumped the border fence recently, it is a tragic fiction for those with families who had lived here for many years and have nowhere else to go. Unfortunately, our courts are happy participants in this fictitious nonsense since it gives them easy way out rather than face the difficult reality that deportation for some people is worse than jail.

I am convinced that if our current immigration law was in effect since the start of our country, and if somehow by magic the background history of those immigrating here could have been disclosed, many Americans, including some at DHS, would not be living here, as their ancestors would certainly have been denied entry. I am also convinced that in many cases, the federal agents or government officials doing the deportation have done in their life not much better than those they are deporting. It is just that even if caught, the fact they are US citizens meant that the consequences are minor.

What does that say about our society? We are spending fortunes in the billions of dollars trying to deport people, who otherwise are fully rehabilitated, for things they did decades ago, for which they have paid dues to society and some of which are minor, and in the interim, we are destroying families and devastating many lives. A society is best judged by how it treats its most vulnerable. Immigrants can not vote and hence are indeed among the most vulnerable among us. And how we are treating them does not make us look very good.

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