Home » People & Culture » “Illegal”


The latest dust-up regarding immigration has lasted for several months. It seems to be a bit longer than the last several times that this has come up. Does that mean that something will come of it, something useful and reasonable?

I doubt it.

The more I read coming from one side, the more I am convinced that our nation has a nearly limitless ability to hide from reality. This observation begins and ends with the constant bleating of the term “Illegal Immigrants”.

People are arriving in this nation more or less the same way that my ancestors arrived from Ireland over a century ago. They cross the border and melt into the population, looking for work. The main difference is that today Washingtoon has decided that this is not the way it is to be done. Their infinite wisdom has created a system where you can apply for permission to cross that border and wait several years for them to say it is perfectly legal.

Of course, many people do not wait. They simply arrive and find work. The work they do is the work no one else wants to do, reaching high and low for our food or bending down to scrub our toilets. It is essential work, but few natives of the USofA are interested in doing it. Like the Irish who arrived here to pick up a sledgehammer and install railroads, they are doing what no one else wants to do.

The law as we know it ignores historical and economic realities. Yet the term “Illegal” is what sticks in people’s throats throughout the debate. Is regulation of migrants both possible and desirable? Sure, why not. We aren’t doing it effectively now because we have in place what can only be described as an extreme position. Laws that ignore reality in favor of some kind of purity of purpose come out of Washingtoon periodically, but they have all been shown to be failures. Prohibition is another fancy fable that comes to mind.

As long as people insist that the word “Illegal” has any meaning in this debate beyond the machinations of Congress, I cannot see any real progress. The word “Illegal” carries nothing more than the judgment of some far away people who have their own particular interests and schemes.

But isn’t the Rule of Law the centerpiece of our freedom and justice? Well, yes, it is. When that law is so far divorced from reality that it has been shown to be unenforceable for decades, and the mighty processes that create law are still unable to change it, it becomes irrelevant. I don’t blame the immigrants for undermining our concept of law, I blame those who attempt to have that law over-reach and stubbornly refuse to change it no matter what.

So we are stuck. Very few people are willing to accept the realities we have. Until that time, it’s best to avoid the word “Illegal”. It’s nothing more than someone’s opinion.

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