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Regarding immigrants, why do we have to be mean?

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Date published: 2/2/2014

In a recent discussion regarding illegal immigrants, I heard the sentence uttered so often by so many: "But they're here illegally." Every time I hear this attempt to justify heartless treatment of other people I cannot help but ask myself: Since when is it normal to consider any and all crimes equally grievous?

I see hundreds of lawbreakers every day. From jaywalkers to litterbugs, to those who drive 70 mph in a 65-mph zone. I also read about murderers, rapists and traitors. We can agree that these groupings are at opposite ends--with ample space between--of a broad spectrum in terms of the severity of crime. Overstaying one's visa is a crime, but it is a relatively minor one. It is an administrative failure, no more relevant than failing to renew vehicle registration on time. I condone neither, but I rarely hear people calling for the forfeiture of any and all future driving privileges and the immediate confiscation of a car as fair punishment for those who renew late. We accept that a ticket or a late charge is sufficient penalty.

Why do we equate an undocumented resident with high treason? Why is it that a path to citizenship--behind others already in line, with hoops to jump through and fines to pay--does not meet the threshold of an acceptable remedy? If an undocumented person commits a severe crime then punish him accordingly. For lesser crimes, they must be accountable as well, but to the lesser degree indicated by the crime. But let's stop assuming that the worst thing to do in our society is to simply exist and be here illegally. Every day I see our native sons and daughters do far worse.

We can be grateful that we do not treat ourselves with the same unwavering severity that some would wish on our brothers and sisters of foreign birth. Fear, ignorance, prejudice and hypocrisy appear to be the four cornerstones of American values. If we truly want God to bless America, we should act as though we deserve it. Step one is treating others as we would wish to be treated ourselves.

William J. Dowling