I have questioned at differing times the impact on children of “undocumented immigrant” of the new Alabama Anti-Immigrant Law. Will these children overwhelm our foster care homes? Will these children be arrested as delinquents? But what about an undocumented immigrant child that was brought here by their parents when they were 7 years old but turns 18 after September 2, 2011 (the day the bill become effective)? What are they supposed to do? What does Senator Beason believe is proper?
Is it cruel and unjust to arrest or deport a minor who has little or no choice in the matter, but fair-game once they turn 18? Take the case of Jose Vargas, a Pulitzer prize wining reporter, who outed himself as an undocumented immigrant on the New York Times magazine this past week.
One August morning nearly two decades ago, my mother woke me and put me in a cab. She handed me a jacket. “Baka malamig doon” were among the few words she said. (“It might be cold there.”) When I arrived at the Philippines’ Ninoy Aquino International Airport with her, my aunt and a family friend, I was introduced to a man I’d never seen. They told me he was my uncle. He held my hand as I boarded an airplane for the first time. It was 1993, and I was 12.
My mother wanted to give me a better life, so she sent me thousands of miles away to live with her parents in America — my grandfather (Lolo in Tagalog) and grandmother (Lola). After I arrived in Mountain View, Calif., in the San Francisco Bay Area, I entered sixth grade and quickly grew to love my new home, family and culture. . .
One day when I was 16, I rode my bike to the nearby D.M.V. office to get my driver’s permit. Some of my friends already had their licenses, so I figured it was time. But when I handed the clerk my green card as proof of U.S. residency, she flipped it around, examining it. “This is fake,” she whispered. “Don’t come back here again.”
. . . My grandparents were naturalized American citizens — he worked as a security guard, she as a food server — and they had begun supporting my mother and me financially when I was 3, after my father’s wandering eye and inability to properly provide for us led to my parents’ separation. Lolo was a proud man, and I saw the shame on his face as he told me he purchased the card, along with other fake documents, for me. “Don’t show it to other people,” he warned.
I decided then that I could never give anyone reason to doubt I was an American. I convinced myself that if I worked enough, if I achieved enough, I would be rewarded with citizenship. I felt I could earn it.
I’ve tried. Over the past 14 years, I’ve graduated from high school and college and built a career as a journalist, interviewing some of the most famous people in the country. On the surface, I’ve created a good life. I’ve lived the American dream.
I ask Senators Beason and Holzclaw the same question asked of National Review reporter Daniel Foster:
- If you were in Jose Vargas position, what would you have done?
- Upon turning 18 would you have left this country and returned to the Philippines because it would be “illegal” for you to stay?
- Would you have sacrificed the life you knew here out of a sense of unfairness to other potential immigrants we aren’t letting in, those going through the proper channels?
- Would you agree that the government should deport him?
Adam Ozinek answers:
I don’t think it is wrong for Jose Vargas to do what he could to stay in this country and keep the life he knew. I think Jose Vargas, and many of those who have risked much to be here, are the kind of people who would be alloted citizenship in an ideal and ethical system. He has the willingness and the ability to pay his way in any fair immigration scheme. He’s a net positive in our society. How many millions of immigrants a year are we away from a system where we have to tell highly skilled, highly educated people who believed themselves to be American that we are too full? I don’t think we will ever be that full, and we certainly aren’t now.
This example highlights the pickle into which the United States has gotten itself. While upholding the rule of law, how do we act justly towards the projected 11 million illegal immigrants that are here? Many (and their families) were implicitly lured here by US corporations and their sycophant legislators. Should we treat them all with the same sledge hammer? Should some consideration be given to those which were brought here as children? What about cases of undue hardship? What of those with children which are actually citizens? The Alabama Anti-immigrant simply mandates “arrest them all.