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What Part of “Compassion” Does America Not Understand?

By , Tempe, AZ
I can’t quite blame the public for feeling such ill-will towards illegal immigrants in the United States; the media makes them seem so scary. They cross the international border in order to wreak havoc and commit crime. They prowl our streets bearing their drugs and weapons, preying on decent, hard-working Americans. They steal jobs from our firm, patriotic grasp, and use the profits to fund family members in – gasp – another country. They speak in tongues, steal our cars, and cause blood to run through our otherwise pristine streets. When our elected officials – people who should represent our state with the utmost dignity – start talking about citizens’ decapitated heads in the desert, it can influence the public to believe that illegal immigrants come to this country with the sole intent of making the lives of native citizens worse.

However illegal the action of crossing the border without documentation is, must we treat illegal immigrants with such disdain? Sometimes it seems like undocumented workers have the humanity taken out of them; they are not people, they are their crimes personified. It is true that our porous border with Mexico is cause for worry – our country should know what goes in and out of its borders. Nevertheless, do we have to treat these immigrants with such contempt? We treat them with a lack of dignity (read: Arizona SB 1070). We treat their undocumented children with a lack of dignity (read: the failure of the DREAM Act and attempts to throw immigrant children out of public schools). We even treat their documented, legal citizen children with a lack of dignity (read: the proposed changes to the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution). Yes, they crossed the border illegally, but does that mean they have no rights in our country? When adolescent volunteers get threatened with criminal charges for assisting illegal immigrants in southern Arizona (and by “assisting” I do not mean the smuggling of humans or drugs – I mean providing water to those who will die without it), it is evident that the vitriol felt toward illegal immigrants has reached its peak.

What I cannot grasp is why some claim that the United States is founded on “Christian values” and then turn around and renounce the Golden Rule: love thy neighbors, regardless of their citizenship. With the exception of those in the drug trade, illegal immigrants do not come to this country to make the lives of citizens more difficult. They come here because this is their last chance for a job, their last chance to make money for their family, their last chance to escape the turmoil of violence that plagues their home country, their last chance to survive. They risk their lives to come here because they long for the “American Dream.” My cousin married an illegal immigrant a few years ago, and it is a very tough life. He cannot go home to Mexico to see his mother, because he will not be allowed back into the country. He cannot travel by airplane, because he does not have valid documentation. He works hard every day as a manager of a national restaurant chain to provide his beautiful son with opportunities that he never had. And now, extremists are not only calling for his deportation, but also that his son no longer be considered a citizen because of one illegal parent.
Breaking the law does not make one less than human. A victimless crime such as a lack of documentation shouldn’t ethically place someone in the same category as murderers and rapists. I hope that, in spite of their crime, “illegal” immigrants can be treated with the respect they deserve as fellow human beings.





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