The more I think about it the more trouble I’m having understanding what people mean when they say they’re against [Edit: illegal] immigration. Analogies are never perfect, but consider driving. I speed on a semi-regular basis. And virtually everyone else on the road seems to do so as well. It’s not only excused but almost expected: someone who drives exactly the speed limit when everyone else is going 15 over is more likely to get dirty looks than to be admired for his respect for the law.
Speeding is illegal. You can get fined for it, and if you do it fast enough and often enough you can lose your license and even go to jail. Moreover, speeding kills.
Yet we don’t have a national debate about “illegal driving.” No one frets that peoples tendency to drive over the speed limit threatens the rule of law. People would think you were crazy if you said: “I don’t have a problem with driving, but it needs to be done legally.” Nobody complains that tolerating people who go 65 in a 55 zone is unfair to other drivers who are driving exactly 55. Bill O’Reilly and Lou Dobbs doesn’t do segments about “illegals” (that is, people who engage in “illegal driving”) and what a menace to society they are.
Rather, people have the sensible view that it’s not a big deal if people break the law when doing so makes sense in context. As I’ve pointed out before, there’s a long list of laws that people we would otherwise regard as law-abiding flout on a regular basis. Nobody thinks the rule of law is imperiled because people jaywalk or fail to pay their use taxes.
Being in the United States without the proper documentation strikes me as being in this same class of offenses. It’s a classic paperwork violation; by itself it harms no one. Yet for reasons that aren’t clear to me, millions of people who don’t think twice about driving 70 in a 55 zone go absolutely berserk when it’s suggested that maybe we should forgive a smart, hard-working kid whose parents didn’t have the right paperwork 15 years ago.
Of course, some illegal immigrants do things that impose costs on others: the commit crimes, go on welfare, demand free medical care, and so forth. But if that’s the concern, then that’s what we should be cracking down on. More to the point, if that’s what you’re concerned with, you certainly should support creating a path to citizenship for kids like Balderas who’s done everything right and will almost certainly be a law-abiding citizen and a net taxpayer.
So what’s going on here? Why are people who casually engage in “illegal driving,” “illegal Internet shopping,” “illegal street crossing,” and so forth so obsessed with stopping “illegal immigration?” Would be interested to read peoples’ thoughts in the comments.