The Baton Rouge Advocate, for which I write opinion columns, presented a quality entry into the contest to write about sympathetic people in the country illegally now faced with deportation. The story discussed how the number of deportations in Louisiana, following national trends, had escalated considerably since Trump took office, with the vast bulk of higher numbers comprised of people not wanted for criminal activity other than being illegal aliens.
To personify the issue, it centered primarily on the owner of a bricklaying business out of Prairieville, in the country illegally for many years. It describes him as a homeowner with a family and employing 10 people, who in 2014 Pres. Barack Obama’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement found illegally in the country but which unhooked him and threw him back into the sea, telling him to stay out of trouble. He has paid federal income taxes for a dozen years.
As part of this probation he reported annually to ICE, but on his most recent trip the now Trump-led agency told him either to pack his bags and leave the U.S. by Oct. 10 or face immediate arrest. This is presented as some kind of betrayal by ICE, as he had “held up his end of the bargain,”
Representative of special interests, when informed of his case and in commenting on the broader context, expressed high dudgeon. “No prioritization” one cried. “It’s whoever they can get their hands on,” despaired another. “People are afraid to leave their children at the bus stop,” bemoaned yet another, adding “They're acting without any regard for children's welfare or humanitarian factors.” And as another profiled illegal alien observed, “Only God can protect you.”
Of course, God helps those who help themselves, and this guy has an easy way to do that – go back to Honduras, where he transfers his money earned illegally in the U.S. to pay for his children’s college education. That was the plan of the business owner, to retire to Mexico eventually but not at present, who appears befuddled by all of this. “We are not the criminals as many are depicting us. We're just here working and helping this country.”
Really? Undoubtedly, he has committed no crimes of violence; he may not even have jaywalked in all his time here. But whether he has not acted as a criminal and has been “helping this country” is best determined by the answers to these questions:
And, why did he not, when caught and knowing the heat was on, begin the process to obtain citizenship, which begins with acquiring legal residence (that is, getting a “green card”)? Maybe because he intended to transfer as much wealth as possible from the U.S. back to Mexico for his retirement and could not bring this plan to fruition if he had to renounce his Mexican citizenship? And that activity, along with apparently breaking laws right and left, is “helping the country?”
One can debate the overregulation of American entrepreneurship as a defense for skirting the law. Yet at the same time, what makes America exceptional compared to places like Mexico is fealty to the rule of law, and breaking with impunity reasonable statutes such as American immigration laws irreparably erodes that respect. It cannot be tolerated, even in the case of a industrious participant in the economy.
Likely the reason he left Mexico was because civil society there did not permit him to deploy his talents fully. Maybe if fully enforced, American immigration laws would deter enough people like him from coming here, forcing them to stick around there and giving them every incentive to vote and engage in other efforts to prompt Mexico to evolve into a civil society more like America’s, solving a problem for both countries.