March 21, 2013

How Is an Illegal Alien?

Hatched by Dafydd

Get yer huge, irritating, enraging defense of illegal aliens right here!

I use words with clarity and precision. To avoid lexical misunderstandings, here are four definitions of what I, personally mean by certain hot-button words:

  • Immigrant: A person who moves from one country to another intending to live there permanently.
  • Alien: A person (human or otherwise) who is so different from the local population that assimilation or even interaction is virtually impossible.
  • Criminal: A person who habitually engages in unlawful, immoral, or extremely anti-social behavior for disreputable purposes.
  • Lawbreaker, illegal: A person who violates any law, ordinance, regulation, or rule, regardless of motive or reason, and without consideration of the morality or even sanity of the regulation being violated.

Note that under these definitions, an alien need not be an immigrant or criminal, nor is an immigrant required to be criminal or alien.

Not only that, but by my definitions, necessary or moral lawbreaking is not criminal; and a person living under perverse law can obey that law to the letter, yet still be a criminal nevertheless. Think of those who operated the "underground railroad," helping black slaves escape to free states in the North -- illegal but not criminal; and contrariwise, the law-enforcement officials who hunted down escaped slaves and abolitionists and threw them in prison -- morally criminal but perfectly legal.

The four definitions are independent of each other.

All right, admin stuff out of the way; let's jump in...

For a great many conservatives, when they look at illegal aliens they see nothing but criminals.

They certainly are lawbreakers: Having "broken the law," they are subject to arrest and trial. But by the same reasoning, so were the abolitionists.

But the vast majority of illegal aliens are not "criminals" in the sense in which anybody but a lawyer would mean that word: The vast majority are not thieves, nor assassins, nor rapists; they are not arsonists, kidnappers, robbers, nor intruders; they are not traitors, nor terrorists, nor even check kiters.

Yes, they broke American law; but motive matters: And in most cases, their motive was to save their families from being murdered, raped, or robbed... or worse, to prevent their children from being recruited -- oft by force -- into drug cartels or radical-Islamist terrorist cells, thus turning these brainwashed or frightened kids into monsters themselves.

At least, that is likely the perception of the illegal-alien parent or young adult: They wanted to flee a land whose only patrimony was poverty, disease, and hopelessness, in favor of the land of liberty, upward mobility, and rational hope. Maybe their perception is wrong, maybe exaggerated; but even if their fear is overblown and unreasonable, that still doesn't make them criminals -- overwrought, perhaps, or hypersensitive, or just plain mistaken.

If we had a properly functioning legal-immigration policy, one that gave everyone a fair shake and didn't play favorites based upon race or country of origin, then those who incessantly decry "amnesty!" might have a legitimate point. Suppose applicants for residency and citizenship had a real path to follow:

  • Where decisions are made on the basis of assimilability and Americanism;
  • Where all applicants are processed equally under the law;
  • Where every immigration requirement is rational and achievable;
  • Where no decision is arbitrary or capricious, corrupt, random, or perverse;
  • Where no applicant is "timed out" by delays no fault of his own, forcing him to start over from scratch on an administrative whim;
  • Where applicants know at any point in the process what they need to do (and refrain from doing) to keep moving towards their goal;
  • And which is predictable, so that the same inputs yielded the same outputs.

Under such circumstances, those who would be a net asset to the United States would be admitted; while those who would be disruptive, criminal, parasitical, or useless would be rejected. If that was the case, then it's reasonable to say illegals who sneak in are bums who should all be rounded up and deported.

Alas, we don't such a system or even a close approximation. We never have had. Instead, we have a system that is irrational, unpredictable, arbitrary, and perverse. So what are would-be immigrants supposed to do, facing such a broken systme? What would you do, if you and your family lived in day-to-day dread in Venezuela, Angola, Iran, or Juarez, Mexico?

This is not a rhetorical question: What would you, personally, do if you applied several times to immigrate into the United States, and they repeatedly rejected you without explanation? But at the same time, you see USCIS admitting thieves, terrorists, and welfare-sucking layabouts. Would you simply resign yourself to seeing your kids raped or murdered, see them become beasts you don't even recognize anymore -- because to spirit your family across the border is breaking the law?

Or would you say, "I'll get my wife and kids into America no matter what it takes, because I want them to live in freedom, security, and the rule of law!"

Most of those people you call "criminals" are really just -- parents.

Are these illegals really so "alien" to us? Are they so different, so bizarre, that we cannot interact with them, and they can never assimilate into our culture? Are they really any different than the millions who entered this country before any of us was even born?

Some of my immigrant relatives came from shtetls across Russia, Germany, and Poland; others came from Welsh coal miners and English nobility. None had much if anything in common with the Americans already in the country -- nothing but a love of liberty (to the extent they even understood it), the willingness to work hard and support themselves and their families, and a sense that America was different, unique, exceptional. And that was enough.

Now we have different groups trying to immigrate here. And if we were to focus on assimilability and degree of Americanism, they would give the same benefit to our country as did those immigrating from Europe, China, and Japan.

I maintain that an illegal immigrant who --

  • Has lived many years in the United States --
  • Speaks English --
  • Is not a criminal --
  • Has consistently supported himself and his family by honest employment --
  • And has invested in America by buying a house, starting a business, and sending his kids to school, and participating in his community --
  • -- is a better prospect for assimilation than a young, single adult without work experience, without much English, and evincing no burning desire to become an American... even if the latter entered the country completely legally.

    Some illegal immigrants are "alien" to the United States, but I am quite certain most are no more alien than the legal immigrants who get lucky with the one-armed bandit of Citizenship and Immigration Services.

    Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 21, 2013, at the time of 7:17 PM

    Comments

    The following hissed in response by: South Park Conservative

    So identity theft is not a criminal act? In order to function openly in the U.S., an illegal immigrant has to pretend to be a legal immigrant. That means taking the identity of someone legally here. The victim of that theft would probably not consider it to be a justifiable or moral action. What are your thoughts on that, Señor Dafydd?
    I respectfully ask this as a long-time Big Lizards fan.

    The above hissed in response by: South Park Conservative [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 22, 2013 10:27 PM

    The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

    South Park Conservative:

    If the illegal immigrant steals the identity of a real, living person, thus disrupting that person's own life, credit record, and so forth, then that falls under the heading of "criminal" as defined above.

    But let's consider a different scenario. Suppose the illegal immigrant had completely fake documents made up and uses those? Suppose he has a fake birth certificate -- or maybe one from somebody born around the same year he was but who died in infancy; suppose that instead of stealing somebody else's SSN, he simply applies for one of his own, showing his fake birth certificate.

    I must assume that you would have no moral problem then, since no living person is hurt by the fakery. Right?

    Dafydd

    The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 23, 2013 12:17 AM

    The following hissed in response by: South Park Conservative

    Dafydd:

    This illegal immigrant has good enough ties to the criminal world that he can get (and pay for) a completely false identity through your scenario, yet breaks no other laws and is otherwise a model citizen in the making once he's here? That theoretical immigrant would be a rara avis truly worthy of staying here. The explosion of identity theft over the last few decades points to illegal immigration of a much less noble type.

    Yes, the current legal immigration system is horribly unfair and broken, but a sovereign nation has the right to choose who may and who may not immigrate, however badly it is done.

    The above hissed in response by: South Park Conservative [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 23, 2013 10:08 AM

    The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

    South Park Conservative:

    So it appears that the only disagreement we have is the factual question of how many illegal immigrants steal the identities of living people; and how many either don't obtain falsified papers at all, working entirely under the table, or else obtain falsified papers in a way that does not steal the identity of a real, living person.

    I believe the latter far outnumbers the former; my reasoning is that if most illegal immigrants were stealing real, living people's identities, we would have six million cases of immigration-based identity theft at the very least.

    This does not seem to be the case; in fact, I'm pretty sure the great perponderance of ID theft is committed for reasons of monetary theft and has nothing to do with immigration.

    If all you're interested in is living in America without being deported, it's much easier and safer to get false documentation that doesn't steal the identity of a real, living person. For one reason, the victim will swiftly become aware that his identity has been hijacked, and the illegal would have to keep changing identities every few weeks. For another reason, the illegal immigrant might simply prefer not to hurt somebody else, much as you discount this possibility.

    Recollect what I wrote at the beginning of this post? "For a great many conservatives, when they look at illegal aliens they see nothing but criminals."

    I think you are illustrating this precise syllogism:

    1. Illegal immigrants are by definition lawbreakers.
    2. All lawbreakers are criminals.
    3. All criminals incessantly commit terrible crimes against decent, law-abiding people.
    4. Therefore, all illegal immigrants incessantly commit terrible crimes and are just bad people. QED

    Do you apply that same reasoning against other incessant lawbreakers, such as those Americans of Japanese descent who pretended they were of Chinese descent to avoid being sent to Manzanar? Did they have the duty to report to a concentration camp on the basis of their race, because of mass "yellow-peril" hysteria? Since many had to obtain false ID, should they have been prosecuted as felons, even after the war was over?

    How about black Americans who were light-enough skinned to "pass" as white during the days of Jim Crow, and who falsely signed documents claiming white ancestory in stark defiance of the duly enacted laws of their state? More criminals?

    Do you make any distinction whatsoever between lawbreakers and criminals? Or do you reject the distinction as meaningless?

    Dafydd

    The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 23, 2013 1:00 PM

    The following hissed in response by: South Park Conservative

    Dafydd:

    Per the Federal Trade Commission, most of the states that have the highest rates of identity theft in the U.S. are also border states. No coincidence, that.

    Identity thieves often target children's SS #'s, which means that detection can be delayed for upwards of a year, or when a tax bill comes due.

    Even if no identity theft is intended, a randomly generated SS # has a good chance of being someone's actual SS #. Besides, this is identity fraud, which is a felony like identity theft. Ignorance of whose SS # you are stealing is no defense.

    You wrote that the best prospect for assimilation is the immigrant who supports his family with honest employment and buys a home or starts a business. Getting honest employment, buying a home, and starting a business all require documentation that an illegal immigrant can't get legally, so your best prospects will have committed document fraud several times over.
    Respect for the rule of law is a big component of being a good citizen. Starting your quest to be an American by disregarding the rule of law is not good citizenship.

    Regarding your syllogism:
    -illegal immigrants are by definition lawbreakers
    -almost all criminals are by definition lawbreakers
    -a crime doesn't have to be terrible to still be a crime
    -so an illegal immigrant who commits identity or document fraud can be a good person but still be a criminal

    The Japanese in WW II were already here legally and broke the law to survive here. Most blacks in the time of Jim Crow laws were born here, so their lawbreaking was again to survive here. Illegal immigrants, of any color or nation of origin, purposefully break the law to come here then keep on breaking it to stay here.

    With the sheer number of laws now on the books in the U.S., every one of us is an accidental lawbreaker at some point. A criminal breaks the law purposefully. So, yes, I do see a distinction.

    In my last comment I did agree that any illegal immigrant who could obtain fake documents to come here and then commit no other crimes to stay here should be welcome here. I just think that immigrant is a rarity.

    The above hissed in response by: South Park Conservative [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 23, 2013 4:43 PM

    The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

    South Park Conservative:

    I believe my point carries: You may say that you see a distinction between "lawbreaker" and "criminal," but in reality the only distinction you draw is between an "accidental lawbreaker" and "a criminal [who] breaks the law purposefully."

    All you have done is substitute your own, different definitions for those two words, in place of my own. You still believe that anyone who knowingly and intentionally violates any law whatsoever is a "criminal."

    Ergo, you necessarily argue that one must obey a tyrannical law the same as a good law, else be a criminal. You reject the idea of transcendent rights we derive from "Nature and Nature's God," as TJ put it.

    (Which means you reject the Declaration of Independence, among other American doctrines. Fancy that!)

    To be consistent, you would have to believe that blacks who intentionally sat at "white's only" lunch counters or used "white" bathroom facilities were criminals, as were Americans of Japanese descent who evaded being sent to a concentration camp during the war.

    As a defense for the anti-Jim Crow, anti-internment lawbreakers, you cite the argument that violating a democratically enacted law is acceptable if the violator is doing so "to survive here;" yet you do not develop any principled argument why that should be so. (And of course, in both Jim Crow and internment, obeying the law did not jeopardize one's survival, only the free exercise of one's fundamental rights -- which you must necessarily reject.)

    I believe that there is a cosmic right and wrong that supercedes State power; and when sovereign States violate fundamental rights and liberties, citizens or residents (legal or il-) are not bound to obey such tyrannies.

    We can argue which particular rights are truly fundamental and how egregiously a State must violate them to be rightly dubbed tyrannical; but the basic premise is clear.

    However, you seem to argue that sovereign States have authority not only to define legal and illegal but right and wrong themselves. That is as concise a definition of Statism as one can find. As Mussolini put it, "Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state."

    As so often happens, it all boils down to one's premises.

    (Out of curiosity, are you an attorney at law? I've noticed that an extraordinarily large percent of bloggers in the dextrosphere are lawyers. As for me, I am not now, nor have I ever been a member of any organization devoted to the wanton promulgation of law and legal process. <g>)

    Dafydd

    The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 24, 2013 2:22 AM

    The following hissed in response by: South Park Conservative

    Dafydd:

    I am merely agreeing with you:

    If the illegal immigrant steals the identity of a real, living person, thus disrupting that person's own life, credit record, and so forth, then that falls under the heading of "criminal".

    I just have a broader definition of 'criminal'. I do not stipulate your definition so I substitute it with one of my own.

    While there are many tyrannical laws in our justice system, the laws being broken here (identity/document theft/fraud) are not tyrannical. The policies that lead to this lawbreaking, are. So hate the policy and love the law.

    'Surviving' can mean more than living or dying. I refer here to the survival of "the free exercise of one's fundamental rights".
    However, one does not have a fundamental right to violate another country's borders, and then commit (more) crimes to stay there.

    You seem to think that the right but illegal should be legal, and the wrong but legal should be illegal. So who's defining all four terms right now?

    Am I an attorney? So what if I were? Are you a proponent of 'first...kill all the lawyers'? I think Shakespeare was referring to what you do first if you want to break down society.

    Thank you for your time here. I am really enjoying this debate/argument.
    Respectfully,
    SPC

    The above hissed in response by: South Park Conservative [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 24, 2013 11:10 AM

    The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

    South Park Conservative:

    See next post...!

    Dafydd

    The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 24, 2013 3:07 PM

    The following hissed in response by: South Park Conservative

    Dafydd:

    A whole blog post? For me? You're sweet.

    Oh, and you're welcome.

    SPC

    The above hissed in response by: South Park Conservative [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 25, 2013 12:01 PM

    The following hissed in response by: kentuckydan

    Criminal: A person who habitually engages in unlawful, immoral, or extremely anti-social behavior for disreputable purposes.

    Being in the country illegally for an extended period of time is not habitually engaging in unlawful behavior?

    Your definition

    The above hissed in response by: kentuckydan [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 1, 2013 2:13 AM

    The following hissed in response by: kentuckydan

    They certainly are lawbreakers: Having "broken the law," they are subject to arrest and trial. But by the same reasoning, so were the abolitionists.

    You are equating people who were fighting against slavery to people who think anyone who wants to should be able to walk across our borders at their own discretion?????

    The above hissed in response by: kentuckydan [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 1, 2013 2:15 AM

    The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

    KentuckyDan:

    The case of the ominous omissions...

    In your first comment, you correctly quote my definition:

    Criminal: A person who habitually engages in unlawful, immoral, or extremely anti-social behavior for disreputable purposes.

    But a moment later, you seem to have forgotten the part I underlined above, making the defintion of a criminal identical to that of a lawbreaker.

    The whole point of this post is (a) that not all lawbreaking is morally wrong, and (b) that some circumstances -- including a great many of those who flee to the United States to save their families from Hell on Earth -- make even continued lawbreaking morally right. By dropping the requirement that a criminal must have mal intent, you make it much easier to respond to my resolution... via Argument by Convenient Non-Sequitur.

    Your second comment expresses outrage that I would equate "people who were fighting against slavery to people who think anyone who wants to should be able to walk across our borders at their own discretion."

    • Outrage, high dudgeon, being aghast, dropping one's jaw, and clutching one's head while shouting "Woe is I!" are not arguments. They are emotional reactions, whether warranted or un-.
    • I "equated" nothing; I compared several instances of lawbreaking that were in fact moral and appropriate. Then I made a case that saving one's spouse and children from the Lovecraftian horror found in many countries of the world justifies breaking American immigration laws. (I also made a prima facie case that those immigration laws are so corrupt, arbitrary, and perverse that they themselves constitute a "crime" by my definition.)

    Not every illegal falls into the category of "deserving;" some are terrorists, some criminals (by any definition), others are lazy pigs who just want to suck up our welfare, while some are just so dumb they really don't understand that there's a border there. On those folks, we agree: Deport them, as soon as they finish serving any prison sentence they've drawn (if any).

    But surely you cannot believe that every illegal immigrant, without exception, came here for thoroughly disreputable reasons! Those who didn't, those who came here for good reason but were stymied by our vile and unworkable immigration regime, they are the ones on whose behalf I argue.

    Would you steal food to save your family from starvation? If the United States became a nightmare of National Socialism under, say, Obama's successors, would you consider fleeing north and hoping you could pass as a Canuck?

    If you lived in Juarez, and you saw your children being threatened daily with death, you saw your neighbor's children pressed into service as drug drones and mules, you saw children being raped and murdered; and if you tried to immigrate legally into the U.S. but were rejected multiple times (though never told why) -- do you assert that you would just leave it at that, saying "oh well, I tried," because you cannot break any law under any circumstance?

    And if you admit that you would probably try to get your family into America even if it meant being illegal aliens -- but alive and not enslaved by drug gangs -- then why such animus against those who made exactly that choice under precisely those circumstances?

    Dafydd

    The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 1, 2013 1:41 PM

    The following hissed in response by: kentuckydan

    Would you steal food to save your family from starvation?

    Yes I would, but I would not pretend that stealing something that belongs to someone else is not a crime.

    ) that some circumstances -- including a great many of those who flee to the United States to save their families from Hell on Earth -- make even continued lawbreaking morally right

    There are a lot of people in the world who fit your definition of being morally right to enter this country.

    I submit no matter how "Fair" one makes our Immigration policy there will STILL be people who fit your definition who will break our Laws.

    Why is it every time the subject of Immigration Reform comes up, what we hear the most about is how to let the ones who broke the Law to be here stay?

    The above hissed in response by: kentuckydan [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 1, 2013 11:17 PM

    The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

    KentuckyDan:

    Actually, at least 80% of my writing on immigration focuses on how we should reform our legal immigration policy. Deciding what to do about those already here illegally is an afterthought.

    Dafydd

    The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 1, 2013 11:47 PM

    The following hissed in response by: Dick E

    Dafydd-

    The words contained in the dictionary (paper or pixel) on your desk, when combined by a reasonably skilled wordsmith should be adequate to convey any message you wish.

    Arguing like Humpty-Dumpty is for scoundrels and, I thought, beneath you, Sir.

    Arguing with Humpty-Dumpty is most tiresome, so I won’t.

    The above hissed in response by: Dick E [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 2, 2013 12:08 AM

    The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

    Dick E.:

    Dictionaries are of some marginal use to check spelling and generic definitions, but they're fuzzy on nuance. Bring, fetch, and convey are not interchangeable, and neither are thug, criminal, and lawbreaker.

    Dafydd

    The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 2, 2013 12:22 PM

    The following hissed in response by: Dick E

    Dafydd-

    A thesaurus is also useful.

    But neither dictionaries nor thesauri contain every last nuance or subtlety the writer may wish to convey (or obscure, if that is the preferred outcome).

    That’s where the wordsmithing comes in: Using the tools available to communicate what you mean to say. (And by tools I mean dictionaries and thesauri, to be sure, but I include all the other resources available -- education, experience, intelligence, prior writings by oneself or others, etc.)

    Bring, fetch, and convey are not interchangeable, and neither are thug, criminal, and lawbreaker.

    Of course they’re not -- no one said they were. But when you create a nonce definition for a word, you confuse the reader and make him/her skeptical. (See above re H. Dumpty.)

    (Nonce words are also problematic and best left to those whose first name is William and last name is Shakespeare.)

    The above hissed in response by: Dick E [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 2, 2013 6:22 PM

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