Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!

29.7.05

The saga of the Wilson 4; or, how law and justice sometimes don't get along, as Matt Murdock could tell you

Last Thursday, the 21st of July, the saga of the "Wilson 4" was settled for the moment. I wonder if most of the country knows about the Wilson 4. Maybe they heard about them a few years ago and forgot about them, but here in Arizona, it's big news. It also brings up interesting contradictions in our immigration policy and what exactly we are doing in this country.

Okay, some background. In 2002, Wilson Charter High School in Phoenix competed in an international solar-powered boat competition in upstate New York. While on a sightseeing tour to Niagara Falls, four students - Oscar Corona, Jaime Damian, Yuliana Huicochea, and Luis Nava - were detained when trying to leave the country. It turns out they were illegal ("undocumented," as our newspaper likes to call them) immigrants, having been brought here from Mexico by their parents as children. So the government decided to deport them.

Now, these were apparently excellent students. They were all in the top of their class, and they were never in any trouble. These are, if you want to be snooty, the kind of people we should want immigrating to the United States. I always wondered why they didn't just push through the paperwork to make these people legal. It turns out that although federal law requires schools to educate students regardless of status, it also says that if you came here illegally after 1986, you need to return to your country of origin for ten years before you can apply for legal status. One of the biggest objections people had to deporting these kids was that they had lived here all their life and had no idea how to live in Mexico. Except for a piece of paper, they were Americans.

The case took so long to come to trial because of a damned activist judge, who will feature prominently in this tale. In September 2002, a month after the four were detained, U.S. Immigration Judge John Richardson granted them a 14-month extension. Many saw this as giving lawmakers a chance to pass the DREAM Act. Ah, but what's the DREAM Act?

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act was introduced by Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) in 2001. The bill was to accommodate college-bound students by allowing states to determine the students' residency status and to cancel their deportations. It has failed to pass yet despite changes to it, such as denying undocumented students federal education grants and placing them on an international student tracking system. Detractors of the Act say it would reward parents for breaking the law and fear it would open the floodgates to broader amnesty efforts for illegal immigrants. Those objections seem kind of weak, if you'll allow me an editorial comment.

In September 2004 Judge Richardson granted the students another extension, this time of 10 months, and in December 2004 Congress recessed without having passed the DREAM Act, which was deemed too controversial for a vote in an election year. Politics is very interesting in that way - things are all interconnected, and God forbid we appear "soft" on illegal immigrants in a year when Warrior Bush was campaigning on a "We need to kill foreigners" platform (sorry, I'm still a little bitter). By this writing, the DREAM Act has yet to be re-introduced.

So the Wilson 4 went to court last Thursday. In what many considered a shocking move, Judge Richardson threw the case out. The justification? He said the government engaged in racial profiling, detained the students simply because they were Hispanics, and violated their constitutional rights against illegal search and seizure and that officials unlawfully obtained evidence against the four. Linda Walters, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement lawyer, said the government will appeal.

There's a lot of interesting stuff going on in this case. The students' teacher asked the border officials if it was okay for the students to return from Canada with only their student identifications. The students testified that they were held for nine hours, never offered food or water, and that the officials made several racially insensitive remarks. The officials, of course, deny this. They also say that they didn't target the students because they were Hispanic, which makes sense because all nine of the students going into Canada were Hispanic. It's also interesting that the teacher asked the officials about the students returning to the country. I had no idea of my students' legal status unless they brought it up, and in my three years of teaching, only two did (they were both working on getting their citizenship and both had green cards, unless they were lying to me). Perhaps the trip to Canada was a spur-of-the-moment thing and the teacher didn't think of telling anyone to bring along proper identification. I don't know - that point hasn't been in the papers. It's just interesting.

So now the fallout has begun. This case, not surprisingly, has divided our fair state, because illegal immigration has pretty much divided it. Although the government has said it will appeal, it really hasn't gone after the Wilson 4 all that hard, which makes one wonder if they care that much. And then there were the letters to the editor. If you'll indulge me, here are some excerpts (both pro and con):

"Granted, they were smuggled here as children by their parents, which is not their fault. But they are still illegal immigrants, and should be deported. ... They should all be able to make an excellent contribution - to Mexico."

"Laws made here in the United States are good if - if - they serve us well. But if there are special circumstances, such as these students have, isn't it better to make allowances for such people?"

"We have a solution that would benefit both the 'Wilson Four' and the country without having to change laws. In fact, we have five solutions: Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard. Any of the services would be glad to have them."

"This is yet another glaring example of how the U.S. government allows Mexico and Mexicans to dictate our laws by not doing the right thing - enforcing existing laws. Perhaps it is time to burn the law books and allow the lawless to rule - they seem to be already. ... How will these four illegals put their education to use in the United States, anyway? Oh, that's right: They don't have to be here legally to get a job! One of the Wilson Four said, 'I feel like an American.' As a partner in a same-sex relationship of seven years, I feel married, but that does not give me the right to be legally married ... or does it, Judge Richardson?"

"I, too, know three young men (18, 15, and 13) who are undocumented and who have lived in the United States for the past eight years. They are exceptional students (consistently on the honor roll), have high standards and morals and are motivated to become productive U.S. residents. Should they be punished and banned from here because their parents brought them to this nation for a better life? These are not terrorists that we fear coming across our borders."

"Now that a judge's ruling makes it appear that it's legal to break the law of the land, where do we go from here? And now a new problem arises. How can the judge be permitted to continue in his capacity?"

"This incident occurred only one year after 9/11.[Knew that would come up!] The border agents were just doing their job well, while the judge in this case is breaking the law! What do law officers have except their senses to tell them whom to question? Should we search only every fifth bag on the subway, while ignoring four Islamic-looking men in heavy coats (in 90-degree heat) and backpacks, because we're afraid of offending Muslims?"

"Shame on our federal and state governments for not having had the courage to really fix the problem. Their denial of the problems of illegal immigration has placed children of illegal immigrants in a horrible position. Those authorities are accountable to these children and others. They are the cause of this dilemma, and need to protect these young people who did not come here by choice and know no other home."

The Arizona Republic, naturally, agreed with the decision (hey - they call illegal immigrants "undocumented" - what do you think they're going to do?), saying that Judge Richardson "put an intelligent, lawful yet compassionate face to the U.S. government, one consistent with the highest ideals of our nation. ... The case ... might, in the words of Phoenix attorney Judy Flanagan, 'kick start' the DREAM Act in Congress ... That is the goal, after all, of Oscar Corona, Jaime Damian, Luis Nava and Yuliana Huicochea. America is their home. It's the only home they know. They are Americans. ... They see the American dream. They can touch it. It's not in their grasp. But today, for them, it's closer. For us, it's a reassurance. America is still a welcoming nation, with common sense, compassion, and opportunity."

Now, because I'm a dirty, treasonous liberal, I think what the judge did is great. This is a case of the letter of the law failing and a judge being activist to interpret the spirit of the law. Hard-liners don't want to admit it, but there is a difference between law and justice. Most of the time they coincide, but occasionally, we need to rise above the letter of the law and serve justice. What good would it do to send these kids "back" to Mexico? They know nothing of the country, and it's not their fault that they're here. They don't cause trouble, they are good students, and they want to live a good life here. How is sending them back "justice"?

Those people who say we must uphold the law have a point, but there's a difference between deporting illegal immigrants who come here, subvert the laws, go on welfare, commit crimes, etc. and these kids, or indeed most illegals. Most illegals are here because they can make more money here than they ever could in Mexico, and we in America are taught from birth that making money means more than anything. We are taught this by our parents, our culture, and our politicians. Why should these illegals be any different?

The case of the Wilson 4 once again points out the failure of our immigration policy. Like the war on drugs, we're looking at the problem the wrong way. Illegal immigrants are a problem, but they're a problem because of employers who hire them. We don't crack down on those employers, although politicians are starting to realize it starts there. People will always look for work, and if there is a supply of jobs for these immigrants, they will fill them. We have made manual labor a dirty word in this country by destroying unions, keeping the minimum wage low so that those who earn it are already under the poverty line, and marginalizing people who perform manual labor, and therefore Americans don't want to do these jobs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with landscaping, but Americans don't want to do it anymore. We are a country that has become soulless, in that we look for external trinkets to give us worth (witness these gold-collar kids I just posted about) instead of believing in an honest wage for honest work. The problem of illegal immigration is one we all share in, because we have allowed businesses to get away with employing these people and because we have fed this idea that we're too good for some jobs. It's ridiculous.

The government, as I mentioned, says it's going to appeal the judge's ruling. This may go to the Supreme Court. Who knows? Guess who's paying the tab for persecuting four young people who want to go to school and get an education? That's right - you and me. Don't we have more important things to waste our money on? Aren't there Iraqi civilians to kill and forests to cut down? The immigration problem in this country is a perfect example of how we don't take things seriously and how we want everything to be easy and flashy. Sure it would be easy and flashy to deport these kids to a place they don't belong and say we're getting tough on illegal immigration. It would be more difficult to identify the illegals who are really causing the problems, and the employers who are cutting corners by hiring them, and try to sort through the "good" immigrants and start talking about an amnesty program. That's right, I said amnesty. Sue me. It's better than building walls on the border like some crazy people want to do.

I don't know what's going to happen with the Wilson 4. I don't know what's going to happen with illegal immigration, especially in the current political environment of "Don't trust any swarthy people!" I do know that I'm very proud of the judge for treating this case like the waste of time and money it was, and I hope the four students and the thousands like them can be helped to gain citizenship and begin contributing in a real way to what makes this country great. Maybe this case will have significance far beyond its limited purview. I hope so. Just like many things in this country, we need to deal realistically, compassionately, and wisely with this issue, and this is a tiny first step in the right direction.

For more information:
This is the story about the judge's ruling.

This is a story about the thousands of kids who are in the same situation as the Wilson 4.

Migrants in court often get different treatment than citizens. That makes sense, I suppose, but not in the way they mean. Congress has almost complete authority to regulate cases about immigration law.

Laurie Roberts mentions the illegal triple murder suspect who has been in custody twice but not deported. I can't remember his name, but again, it shows the stupidity of our immigration policy. Someone please tell me why we're worrying about these four students when this guy is on the loose?

10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why, it's because they'll grow up to take high-paying American jobs! And those jobs aren't for them - migrant jobs are for Mexicans, m'man.

29/7/05 8:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whereas the triple-murder suspect probably doesn't have too many great character references on his resume and probably works a manual labour job already, like good immigrants are supposed to.

29/7/05 8:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where I work the majority of the employees are illegals. They get paid about 7.50 which isn't that bad for an illegal. That just comes to show that sometimes illegals are better workers because they value the true meaning of a dollar. My bosses are some white ladies that go to Rocky Point every weekend to get drunk and get plastic surgery. I asked them why they didn't hire american employees. They responded, "Americans are lazy and can't work for shit" I don't agree that ALL americans are lazy but, so far that's all I have seen.

29/7/05 9:33 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

I don't know about all Americans being lazy, but I do think we expect things to be easy for us these days and we have been told that we're entitled to everything. It comes with success, I suppose, but it means that others appreciate hard work more than we do. It's a difficult tightrope to walk - we're successful, so we don't have to work, but our success is based on hard work.

30/7/05 6:49 AM  
Blogger Roger Owen Green said...

Very interesting story. No, if it made the papers in the Northeast, it was on page 17 below the fold. The notion of "activist judges" is quite intriguing to me, because a judge ruling in favor of a DIFFERENT position (e.g., overturning Roe v. Wade) would NOT be considered an "activist judge" in some circles, only "setting things right."

30/7/05 2:05 PM  
Blogger Krys said...

'Comedian' George Lopez (I use quotes because I don't find him particularly funny!) once said that the difference between an American worker and a Mexican worker fixing a roof is that if the American fell off, he'd be filing for workman's compensation; if the Mexican fell off, he'd be climbing back up so no one would find out he fell off and thought he couldn't do the job.

Interestingly enough, though, he also gave an example of Mexican workman doing a job at his house--he heard a commotion and looked outside to find all the workman swimming in his pool. When he went outside, one worker spoke to him (in Spanish), saying "C'mon in--the owner isn't home!"

30/7/05 3:13 PM  
Blogger Krys said...

Whoops! I meant to say "workmen"

30/7/05 3:14 PM  
Blogger ymelendez said...

Excuse me! but, Mexicans are capable of doing other jobs besides migrant ones.
Also, I don't want to say that all Ameicans are lazy but, Take this for example : When I am driving by a Home Depot store I see a bunch of illegals waiting to get picked up for a job. Then as I am about to merge onto the freeway I see "american" homeless guys begging for money w/ a sign that reads, "Hungry"! What kind of shit is that. I am so positve that they get welfare and if they don't they can always apply for it since they are Americans.

30/7/05 3:45 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

I think (and hope) that was sarcasm, Yazil. It's not always evident on the computer, like it was when I used it in class. I think your example helps prove some of my points. Now go back to Mexico!

30/7/05 4:56 PM  
Blogger ymelendez said...

I don't think I can go back since I was really never in Mexico. To be honest I can't stand being there for more than one week. I thank god that I was born in good ol' America!

31/7/05 2:16 AM  

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