In a conversation I recently had with a friend, the subject turned into undocumented immigrants. I was taken aback by a sudden anger in her voice. She proclaimed that those “illegals” have violated our laws; that they should be deported “even if they came 20 years ago”. It mattered little that the law they broke was classified by our own government as a simple misdemeanor.
Her anger puzzled me and left me wondering. The phrase “breaking our laws” is repeated so often these days that it merits a special reflection. Is that what really angers so many to the point of demanding deportation, even of aliens with families here?
It is true that undocumented immigrants may have committed a misdemeanor when they entered unlawfully (I say “may” because those brought as children have no legal responsibility for their parents’ actions). But, how many Americans have in the last 20 years committed misdemeanors and gotten away with it? And, let’s say hypothetically that we find them, are we willing to impose upon them a punishment that would separate them from their kids, spouses and life here?
For example, how many Americans had, in the last couple decades, driven after some heavy drinking? How many have experimented with marijuana or other drugs? How many took inflated deductions in their income tax? Each of those acts is a misdemeanor, a crime with the gravity in the eyes of the law similar to illegal entry. Yet, even if we hypothetically could find those people, no one in his right mind would suggest imposing a punishment that would separate them from their spouses and minor children. Yet, that is exactly what is happening to many who decades ago committed a misdemeanor of illegal entry. In fact, huge resources of our government are spent to impose on undocumented immigrants a punishment which would seem unconscionable if applied to US citizens.
The issue then appears not only that those undocumented aliens broke our law; it is far more complicated than that.
Perhaps the reason for this harshness is a deep seated insecurity among many of us; insecurity that has been exploited by many politicians, since it provides an easy, cheap political points. That exploitation also prevents any reasonable and humanitarian resolution.
Perhaps some consider themselves the real, original “owners” of this country. Too much immigration would alter the traditional racial mix of our country, arousing the fears of those who envision what appears to them to be a loss of long held power.
Others may have been swayed by the fear-based misinformation linking immigration to terrorism. Yet others may secretly be envious of the possibility that new immigrants might within a generation surpass them in wealth and success. Some, including possibly new immigrants, may simply be reflecting a selfish desire to “close the door”, lest new immigrants may capture some of the prize that they wish to retain for themselves.
Of course, many may legitimately be concerned about our open borders, but the anger and the draconian consequences tell me that for many, what’s in play here is insecurity, nativism , selfishness, stereotyping, and other complex and unhealthy inner tendencies.
There is no other logical reason why we are spending fortunes of our resources in separating families, depriving kids of their parents and destroying lives and futures; all for a misdemeanor committed decades ago. Punishing undocumented aliens can be done by other means. Illegal entry is the only law violation where we seem to insist that unless we reverse the original act (by deportation), we will be rewarding the violation. We do not for example extract alcohol from those driving under the influence, lest they would feel rewarded by their act.
In summary, for those angry about the undocumented aliens who broke our laws and insist that no solution is good unless they are deported regardless of their family ties here; they need to look deep inside themselves. There may be other reasons in play, and they ought to have the courage to confront what could be unhealthy temperament inside themselves.