Illegal is a Pretext: Give them Amnesty
By Richard W. Crockett
How do we solve the problem of illegal immigration? How do we fix the problem of 12-20 million illegal immigrants in this country? It is a problem, a real problem in this sense. We do not know who these people are. Security is an issue, and we need to get a handle on it. But I submit that the debate is not about security. The debate is about “illegal.” The critics of immigration reform have made much of the fact, and it is a fact, of the illegal status of many immigrants in this country, especially Mexican and other Latin American immigrants. Of course the designation, “illegal,” denotes a crime. How do we solve the problem of 12,000,000 or more so-called criminals in our midst? The answer is simple: declare them legal. Give them amnesty! Since I am not running for office, I can say that. And with that stroke, CNN’s Lou Dobbes’ anxiety level should go down for we would eliminate 12,000,000 illegls!
Opponents of immigration have chosen the word amnesty, and they have tried to make it a dirty word by implying that criminals are being allowed to get away with something. The Random House Collegiate Dictionary defines amnesty as “a general pardon for offenses against the government,” and “an act of forgiveness for past offenses.” I also checked the Bible for the word, amnesty, used in the negative sense described above and could not find it. I also checked the Bible for “forgiveness,” and would you believe, it is there. If we assume that a “sin” is worse than a “crime,” for the former is an offense against God, and the latter is only an offense against the state, and we find that the Bible speaks of forgiveness of sins against God, then is it not reasonable to consider forgiveness of offenses against the state?
Of course all crimes are not treated alike. They are in a perfect world treated differently according to their relative severity. Murder is treated more harshly than shoplifting. Even taking a life may be treated differently. Premeditated murder is prosecuted, whereas killing a person in an act of self-defense may not be. In a sense taking a life in an act of self-defense may be forgiven, even by the state.
So does the act of coming across a border illegally resemble more closely premeditated murder or shoplifting? The act of coming across a border does not look like premeditated murder, but it does look a little like stealing, in the sense of, “to move, go, or come secretly, quietly or unobserved.” (Random House) “To steal” is close to the word, “stealth,” in that it is a “furtive departure or entrance.” It sounds a lot like what the Mexicans are doing. It could be regarded as a surreptitious offense against the United States. So for me, the question is, “Does it injure me”?
Now in general it is not a hostile act, but an act of admiration and recognition. The Mexicans want to come here to be a part of our society. They want to do this because they admire this country and what it offers in human freedom, dignity and opportunity. They recognize the possibilities of enhancing their personal lives in coming here. So if people who like and admire us want to join us, why do we object, especially in the case of the Mexicans?
Well, maybe it is because we think of it as ours, and not theirs. But that contention is problematic also. When one considers that the Mexicans are by and large a native population to North America, their claim to this place if it is not better, is at least prior to ours. The Aztecs, Navahos, Pueblos, Myans and other native Americans who lived here prior to the European “discovery” of America are the ancestors of the Mexicans. My ancestors came here June 25, 1631, which is pretty early, by American standards, but theirs were here long before that. So how can we be the arbiter of the use of this continent? I can’t. We may think that it is because we created the nation-state, here, and ordered it by law. We imposed boundaries by law where there were none before. And when the nation-state was imposed in North American, it was imposed upon the native population by, you got it, immigrants. “We” were the immigrants. When modern nation states were established in North America much of the American West was part of Mexico. We took (stole) it during the Mexican War and made it “ours.” While I am not sure that the Mexicans want it back, in some sense, maybe they do. We don’t have to give it back, but we can give them amnesty.