Conservatives cite “legal/illegal”, as often the loudest argument (other than “personal responsibility”) to bolster cruel policies---policies that are not applied equally. The latest example of this is Trump's Executive Order ending President Obama's Executive Order DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), that protected almost 800,000 undocumented, young immigrants, known as the “Dreamers”, who were brought to the U.S. as children, at the average age of six.

A decent society does not hold children responsible for the actions of their parents. 

The vast majority of the Dreamers know no other country except the U.S. Ninety percent are in school, employed or in the military. About 25% of the Dreamers now have American-born children of their own---children who are American citizens.

 One would think the so-called “family values” crowd would be raising their voices against immigration policies tearing families apart---but, they have been silent since Trump ended DACA. Here's what the fundamentalist Christian organization, Family Resource Council (FRC), led by Tony Perkins says about immigration in their 25 Pro-Family [sic] Goals for the Nation:

 *Currently, an infant born on U.S. territory automatically becomes a citizen of the United States, regardless of the status of his parents. Congress should act to correct or reform

the unchallenged application of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution that has created this “anchor baby” policy.

*Minimize chain migration of adult family members of naturalized citizens. The United States should return to the pre-1965 policies of sponsorship whereby spouses, children,

and parents are preferred in legal immigration.

*Continue temporary, nonrenewable and nonadjustable guest worker programs based on employer sponsorship. (FAMILY RESOURCE COUNCIL)

There's the already (largely unenforced] E-verifiy policy against employers. When raids are conducted in meat-packing plants or on construction sites, undocumented workers are arrested, but, it seems little to nothing is done to the employers who hired them. While the FRC also includes more enforcement against employers who hire undocumented immigrants, their inclusion of “nonrenewable and nonadjustable” guest workers reveals their support for continuing to have a hyper-exploitable workforce who is scapegoated for unemployment and used to lower wages for all. That the FRC uses the repulsive term “anchor babies” exposes their racism and is yet more evidence that “babies” are only an empty symbol for their authoritarian agenda.

 One of my family-members says “enforcing immigration doesn't break up families---just deport them all.” which it seems would also include family-members who are American citizens born here.

 In spite of Trump's repeating the lie of Mexican immigrants as “rapists and drug dealers”, FBI statistics prove that there's a lower crime rate by immigrants than native-born Americans. Another way to think of this is that native-born Americans commit more crimes than immigrants do.

One has to dig more deeply when looking at what's illegal. Marijuana possession is still a crime in most states, but, the law is primarily enforced by targeting poor communities and arresting Black and Latino people---at eight to 16 times the rate that whites are. College campuses with majority white students do not face relentless stop-and-frisk by police, resulting in arrests for marijuana---although countless studies show a higher level of drug use by whites than people of color. Those whites who are arrested for “drug crimes” are far more often given probation and drug treatment than the prison time people of color face.

My same family-member who endlessly repeats undocumented immigrants broke the law has also used marijuana since he was a teenager in the 1970s. He does say “if you don't like a law, change it.”---something increasingly difficult to do when politicians are bought and paid for by corporations and the Super Rich.

 My deceased father—who was also obsessed with denouncing issues based only on “That's against the law!” --- was arrested in the 1990s for taking a pistol into a New Orleans bar. (He spent a short time in jail and paid a fine, with his gun returned to him). He was outraged at the “injustice” of a law that was intended for public safety through the common sense idea that weapons and intoxication are a dangerous mix.

This idea of “legality” as the only measure of our responses demands closer examination.

Slavery was legal for 245 years.

One of the least acknowledged horrors of slavery is that James Marion Sims, known as the “father of gynecology” and inventor of the speculum, still used today----performed countless surgical experiments on enslaved Black women and children, without anesthesia--- believing that “Africans do not experience pain as whites do”.

 It was illegal for women to vote for 188 years. Although Black men had the legal right to vote, it was denied in southern states until the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

 Racial segregation in all areas of public life was legal from the 1880s until the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Anti-discrimination laws are still too often only “paper justice” as they have never been adequately enforced.

 Husbands could legally rape their wives until 1993 (when finally all 50 states declared “marital rape illegal). Penalties remain far less severe and evidence of “violence” are far higher in marital rape cases. Violence (assault) and rape are still minimized or ignored when the victim and perpetrator know each other, which is a a hideous contradiction that's rarely recognized.

Until the 1930s, workers had no rights to decent hours (workdays were typically 12 to 14 hours long) , reasonable wages, health and safety protections on the job or anything else. Since 1981, from the Reagan Administration to now, unions have been under attack and Department of Labor enforcement has declined----another example of “paper justice”. Wage-theft---employers simply not paying workers for hours already worked—has become a growing problem, equaling an estimated $1B in lost wages. Shoplifting is more likely to be prosecuted than employers' wage-theft. Even when workers are killed on the job due to (often long-term) violations of health and safety laws, no executives go to jail. In effect, employers have the right to murder for profit.

 It's now illegal under local ordinances in many cities to feed the homeless in public parks and people are being arrested and jailed for this “crime”---many of them people of faith who take seriously Jesus' command to “care for the least of these and you have cared for me.”

  Courts grant police officers impunity to beat, strangle and shoot to death civilians---in effect, given the rarity of indictments on serious assault, manslaughter or murder charges. Supreme Court rulings back officers even when they violate department policies (use of illegal choke-hold in the killing of Eric Garner, as just one example). When an officer is later fired----as was the cop who murdered 12-year-old Tamir Rice, playing in a public park with a toy gun---it's for a technicality, not for the violent crime.

 Do these things warrant your support on the basis of “legality”. Is it relevant to consider right and wrong, ethics, compassion or “Christian morality” (as exemplified by Jesus, not fundamentalist televangelist millionaires)?

 Few Americans know the history of U.S. immigration laws or that U.S. policies have been driving undocumented immigrants for the last 40+ years. When the U.S. government supports and arms military dictatorships in Latin America, is it right to deport the people fleeing death squads? When poverty is increased in Mexico due to NAFTA, how can workers struggling to survive be considered “criminals”? Kevin Young's essay “The Huddled Masses Were Never Welcomed” in CounterPunch exposes the facts about U.S. immigration, that those screaming the loudest for Trump's Wall and “deport them all” most need to read.

True justice requires asking not “is it legal?” but, is it right?

 Lydia Howell is a Minneapolis-based independent journalist and producer/host of “Catalyst:politics & culture” on KFAI Radio

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