Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Guest Voz - Indigenous Xicano: Illegal Immigration:"The law is the law"

Guest Voz - Indigenous Xicano: "The Law is the Law!"
The law is the law. So let us treat everyone the same. Show empathy for first-time offenders. Offer an avenue of forgiveness as we do to those who break the law and never get in trouble again. Allow good hard working people a chance to pay a price for their crime of illegal entry...
The law is the law. I hear that short phrase used often to argue for the enforcement against the workers in this country who entered illegally. I agree-the law is the law and popcorn is popcorn and purple dinosaurs are purple dinosaurs. None of these phrases actually mean a thing in any intelligent conversation. I know that the meaning of the phrase is supposed to mean that it is against the law to enter, reside, and work in the U.S. Point noted. The phrase also is meant to convey the message that the law calls for the deportation of the workers who are here illegally. Again, the point is taken. But the phrase is still meaningless. “No nation can exist without laws.” I hear this phrase often repeated by those passionately fighting for the deportation of all illegal immigrants. But no one is arguing for the nation to exist without laws. But the presence and functionality of illegal immigration strongly suggest that current laws do not work. We have evolved into a nation of bad laws that we stubbornly cling on to in order to maintain a facade of being tough on crime, when in reality we create the status of crime when and where there is no crime.

We do not need to create criminals out of workers simply from our lack of sound immigration policy and law.
Some things should obviously be crimes. Thou shall not murder. Without saying, it helps to maintain societal order if people are not ruthlessly killing each other. Ironically, our bad drug laws plays a major part on the rate of murder in our country. By criminalizing the street drugs that we keep illegal, we surrender both the regulation of commerce and the distribution of a product that is as every part of our reality as stocks, sports, and drive-through restaurants. Our bad laws surrender this regulation and distribution to ruthless thugs. One can argue that our bad laws that fail to regulate Wall Street also surrender that regulation to ruthless thugs in pin-striped suits. But these are other arguments for other times.

Immigration. Illegal immigration.
Cheap, inexpensive labor is historically part of the American way. The illegal immigrant is the latest group to become exploited by the need of capitalists to maximize profits. Defenders of our system argue that capitalism and profits are good things. The most conservative of these defenders will also stress that regulation suppresses the ability of free markets to flourish. Illegal immigration is a symptom of that free market playing out. Thus we have a reality in conflict with our laws. Businesses want the inexpensive illegal laborer. The law against hiring illegal workers is then ignored.

When I was a kid growing up in Chicago, I would often hear the phrase “nothing is illegal if you do not get caught.” If there was no one to see you drive through the red light at 3am then it is not illegal. If the government does not punish employers for hiring illegal workers, then it is not illegal for employers to hire illegal workers. But the illegal worker does not get the same pass. No one gets caught and nothing is illegal. For some unethical people in power it is the American way. For business owners who hire illegal laborers it is the latest example of the “nothing is illegal if you do not get caught” mentality.

If powerful people can break a law with no consequence while the vulnerable and exploited worker are punished for participating in the same crime, then something is wrong with the law or the enforcement of the law. The law is uneven when it comes to enforcement. The law is only meant for the voiceless poor. The government does not want to punish and stifle commerce. So it goes after the worker in planned and publicized events meant to showcase their desire to enforce the law.

Turning the other way creates a de facto immigration policy when it comes to employing illegal workers and enforcing current laws against employers. The law seems to apply more for the exploited that it is for the exploiter. The law is never just the law. Justice is not blind; it winks at those it gives a pass to. Unethical employers who break laws to maximize profits go unscathed. Workers who only want to earn money by selling their labor should not be casted as criminals simply because we are unable to provide sensible laws that allow for reality to become legal.

With the breaking of the law comes varied legal consequences. The supporters of the “law is the law” do not want to enter this realm of legal reality. They want deportation as the only option for the breaking of immigration law. But no laws are adjudicated in the same manner to those who break the same law. There is no “one punishment fits all” sentence for every law breaker. There are different consequences for breaking laws. Then people get on with life. See Michael Vick run.

Deportation is not the only option for entering the country illegally. Precedent has been set in many cases when factors are weighed in to allow someone to remain here. Then there are laws that allow for some to remain here legally such as victims of domestic violence and victims of human trafficking. When someone breaks a law and is found guilty, there are factors that are taken into consideration. A judge may offer a plea in abeyance to first time offenders of a non-violent crime. A plea in abeyance basically is a plea where the defendant pleads guilty to a crime and if he/she does not re-offend in a set time, then the conviction is tossed out. It is as if it never happened. Probation is almost a sure thing for first-time offenders of non-violent crimes. First time big time swindlers in suits have benefitted from no jail time. But we cannot offer probation to a college student who lacks nine-digits?

Putting up dry wall at minimum wage without papers is a non-violent offense. If a person has been here for years and has never been in trouble with the law, then why can they not be afforded the same options as other first-time offenders? After all the law is the law. Empathy is part of the law-it is part of how our judicial system plays out in its daily arenas.

The same people yelling “the law is the law” also demand that there is never an amnesty for illegal immigrants. But our laws offer amnesty to many that violate the law. Not only do first-time offenders receive probation or a plea in abeyance, they usually have an opportunity to expunge the arrest and conviction from their record if they prove worthy. It is an act of forgiveness.

Many undocumented workers have proven themselves worthy of this same type of forgiveness that is a part of our legal system. If we are to use “the law is the law” rhetoric as the main point of an argument against the undocumented worker, then we should go beyond the surface of that statement and allow the full application of the law in dealing with the undocumented. Mercy and forgiveness are without a doubt part of our legal system.

I am all for deporting the dangerous criminals who enter illegally. But those who work and contribute are not criminals. They are not the drug runners and/or human smugglers. They come here to work. Our inability to repair our immigration policy surrenders the regulating of the employment of the undocumented over to the employers who choose to break the law. They know they can get away with it.

When we surrender the regulation of employment of these workers, we allow for a system of cheap wages, lack of benefits, fake social security numbers, and unsafe working conditions to flourish. The workers no longer are the mainstays of only the agricultural industry. Greedy employers from all industries are now dipping into this pool of cheap labor. All American workers are hurt when greedy employers exploit workers.

Immigration reform that protects and regulates the fair wages and safety of all work places benefits all workers.

The law is the law. So let us treat everyone the same. Show empathy for first-time offenders. Offer an avenue of forgiveness as we do to those who break the law and never get in trouble again. Allow good hard working people a chance to pay a price for their crime of illegal entry into the country. Then, if they are worthy, allow them the dignity to have their case heard on its individual merits. Punish them as we would others in the same situation. The law is, after all, the law. If they are worthy of probation and eventual forgiveness, then allow them that legal consequence.

Then let us get on with life.If Michael Vick can receive forgiveness and another chance, then why can't a worker whose only crime was sneaking into this country to work not receive the same forgiveness and a chance to shed the demonizing and perpetual status of being illegal?

1 comment:

Vicente Duque said...

Excerpts from Obama's State of the Union speech - Paragraphs referencing Education, Immigration and Hemispheric Relations : "Let's stop expelling talented, responsible young people who can staff our research labs, start new businesses, and further enrich this nation"



Some excerpts from Obama State of the Union speech, Tuesday January 25, 2011 :

If we take these steps - if we raise expectations for every child and give them the best possible chance at an education, from the day they are born until the last job they take - we will reach the goal that I set two years ago: By the end of the decade, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

One last point about education. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens. Some are the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet they live every day with the threat of deportation. Others come here from abroad to study in our colleges and universities. But as soon as they obtain advanced degrees, we send them back home to compete against us. It makes no sense.

Now, I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration. And I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows. I know that debate will be difficult. I know it will take time. But tonight, let's agree to make that effort. And let's stop expelling talented, responsible young people who could be staffing our research labs or starting a new business, who could be further enriching this nation.


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On Trade with the Western Hemisphere including Colombia and Panama :
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To help businesses sell more products abroad, we set a goal of doubling our exports by 2014 - because the more we export, the more jobs we create here at home. Already, our exports are up. Recently, we signed agreements with India and China that will support more than 250,000 jobs here in the United States. And last month, we finalized a trade agreement with South Korea that will support at least 70,000 American jobs. This agreement has unprecedented support from business and labor, Democrats and Republicans - and I ask this Congress to pass it as soon as possible.

Now, before I took office, I made it clear that we would enforce our trade agreements, and that I would only sign deals that keep faith with American workers and promote American jobs. That's what we did with Korea, and that's what I intend to do as we pursue agreements with Panama and Colombia and continue our Asia Pacific and global trade talks.
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This March, I will travel to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador to forge new alliances across the Americas. Around the globe, we're standing with those who take responsibility - helping farmers grow more food, supporting doctors who care for the sick and combating the corruption that can rot a society and rob people of opportunity.
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