This was taken from a recent letter to the editor in the Arizona Republic. The woman, Alice Wilson, goes on to say, “Legal citizens are not allowed such luxury. If all of us chose the laws we liked and ignored those we didn’t, we would have anarchy.”
While that’s a good attempt at a logical reason for why we should obey any and all laws, it’s too general of a statement and doesn’t hold up under examination.
I decided to respond to the writer with my own letter to the editor, but it wasn’t printed. So instead I’ll share it, and better yet, expand upon it here.
First of all, undocumented immigrants are not the only ones who pick and choose which laws they will obey. So do American citizens. We pick and choose each day if we’ll obey the speed limit or come to a complete stop at the stop sign. We pick and choose each year if we’ll follow all of the tax laws or try to get around some of them.
It’s true that speeding and other traffic violations are generally classified as misdemeanors but so is crossing into this country without legal documentation or overstaying a visa.
The writer goes on to say, “I have nothing against immigrants but would like a level playing field. I want all of us in this country to adhere to the same laws.”
To that, I agree. I would like to live in a country where the rich aren’t allowed greater access to justice because they can afford a better attorney or a higher likelihood of overcoming a long-term illness because they can afford better or more comprehensive medical care. Nor should they be allowed additional tax breaks because they can afford a better CPA and more powerful attorneys to lobby Congress on their behalf.
This is, in essence, the argument of the Occupy Wall Street protestors, those angry that the one percent seems to be on a much different playing field than the rest of the country. I’m not sure if Ms. Wilson is part of the Occupy Movement, but it seems they agree on this point.
Ms. Wilson ends her letter by saying, “I object to some being allowed to flout our laws and then demand more concessions from legal, taxpaying citizens.”
I enthusiastically agree! I am greatly disturbed that I, as a taxpayer in Maricopa County, have had to pay for Sheriff Arpaio’s millions upon millions of dollars ($50 million and counting) in lawsuits, including lawsuits that allege a disregard for the U.S. Constitution. Nor do I believe I should have to pay for the millions of dollars that will be racked up by his office because he refuses to cooperate with the federal government, a government duly elected by the American people.
Whether we’re speaking about American citizens or undocumented immigrants, we all pick and choose which laws we will obey. What differs, though, is the intent behind it. If the intent is to cause harm, then the punishment should fit the crime. For the vast majority of undocumented immigrants, the intent is not evil but rather one of desperation in search of a better life. I’m not sure I can say the same thing about Sheriff Arpaio’s attempts to skirt the law and silence his detractors.
No, undocumented immigrants should not be allowed a “free ride,” nor should they be punished or spoken of as if they are rapists or murderers. To categorize the undocumented in this manner or exult an elected official for his crimes is to disregard the very tenants of justice this country was founded on.