The pursuit of illegal aliens has become a high government priority. Congress has made it illegal to hire an undocumented alien who has managed to get into the US. Although discrimination in other contexts is illegal, for the undocumented it is mandatory.
Impeccable logic underlies this requirement. A major reason people want to move here is our employment opportunities and higher wages. If you cannot be hired, sneaking in is much less attractive.
Mandatory employment discrimination cannot do the whole job, especially since enforcement has been sporadic and half-hearted. So auxiliary measures are needed, and a recent court decision in Arizona illustrates what some of these measures might look like.
In June 2009, a federal jury convicted Walt Staton of littering. His littering consisted of leaving jugs of fresh drinkable water in an area near the Mexican border for entering aliens who might otherwise have died from dehydration (as a great many indeed have).
The 27-year-old graduate student was sentenced to 300 hours of community service, a years probation and banned from the National Wildlife Refuge in which he had done his evil deeds.
The logic behind making it a criminal act to give someone a drink of water is also impeccable. If more illegals die from thirst, this will make crossing into the US less attractive and reduce the burden of policing the border.
It is clear what the next step needs to be: We must make it a criminal act to give or sell food to anybody who cannot document that they are a citizen or here with official government approval.
After that, I am not certain. Allowing or requiring everybody to shoot down undocumented people on the spot might, by more soft-hearted Americans, be regarded as going a little too far. But this, too, would be a logical response to a problem that so many people are concerned about.
I guess the real question is: Once we assume that such a category of people as illegal aliens is a legal and moral possibility, where do we draw the line in doing something about it?
An alternative which would not require us to draw any such line would be to abandon the whole concept of an illegal alien and regard every human being on the planet as a member of the human race and a citizen of the world. Inside the United States no matter what state we were born in, we automatically acquire state citizenship merely by moving there. Thus I was a citizen of Michigan for 36 years despite having been born in Oregon, and my wife is a citizen of Oregon despite her birth in Connecticut. There is no reason why this system could not work at the world level, and I am sure that at some future time we will have such a system.
In the meantime we have to live with a different system, but we need to recognize just how crazy this system is and the impossible choices with which it confronts us.
Christians, for example, including fundamentalists (perhaps especially fundamentalists!), need to think about the implications of their faith here:
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me ... (Matthew 25:35)
Does anybody really want to live in a world where it is illegal to give a fellow human being a drink of water?
Paul F. deLespinasse is professor emeritus of political science at Adrian College in Michigan. See his blog: (gusquibble.blogspot.com).
From The Progressive Populist, April 15, 2010
News | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links
About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us