A right to enter illegally? Wrong

April 03, 2006|By GREGORY KANE

Boy, I'm glad I don't live in the same world some folks live in.

Some Baltimoreans gathered in Fells Point a little over two weeks ago to express their defiance of a proposed federal law that would make it a crime to help illegal immigrants. They said they'd willingly go to jail rather than obey that law.

OK, fine. I can sympathize a little with that. The proposed legislation does sound a little bit Fugitive Slave Law-ish in its penalties.

Then, this past week, there were rallies across the country in which many illegal immigrants were talking about their "rights."

Now this one I ain't feeling at all.

I'm not aware of the doctrine in U.S. jurisprudence that says people have a "right" to break America's immigration laws. But that's not what bothers me with the attitude of those who are holding the demonstrations. I can understand why someone who is desperately poor might feel the need to sneak into a country to look for work.

I don't understand people who sneak into a country, break its laws and do so with a sense of entitlement, as if we owe them something.

I figure people immigrate to this country seeking better opportunities and a better way of life. That means they owe America something. That means their attitude should be, "What can we do for our adopted country?"

That's probably the attitude of the thousands of immigrants who entered the United States by waiting in lines, filling out the paperwork, going by the book and getting visas. You know the ones I'm talking about. The people who'd choose to wave American flags, not Mexican ones. The folks who came here legally.

Now I can hear the objections from the pro-illegal-immigrant lobbyists - the ones whose greatest wish is to stand at the U.S.-Mexico border holding signs reading "Enter America Illegally Here" - before they even make them. Who cares about the law? Wasn't slavery legal at one time in America? Wasn't the Fugitive Slave Act the law of the land?

All that's true. But we should be leery of apples-and-oranges comparisons. Only in this case, the comparison isn't between apples and oranges.

It's between apples and hand grenades.

We have laws about entering the country legally for some pretty darned sound reasons. Immigrants are screened for health and criminal backgrounds. I really don't think any of us wants someone with, say, bird flu skulking into the country illegally.

Nor do we want - at least I hope we don't - members of MS-13 sneaking unimpeded across our borders. MS-13 is, according to the San Antonio Express-News, a "notoriously violent [gang] formed in the 1980s by undocumented immigrants in the Los Angeles area."

"Undocumented immigrant" is the latest politically correct term for "illegal immigrant." Apparently, we can't bring ourselves to use the word "illegal" even when it applies to those who engage in violent crimes. Not all illegal immigrants are here for the same reasons. Most are, indeed, here to find work and better opportunities.

And then there are those like Ebner Anibal Rivera Paz.

Authorities believe Paz is the leader of MS-13. He was arrested in Texas a little over a year ago doing what those Baltimoreans who met in Fells Point two weeks ago swore they would protect his "right" to do: entering the country illegally.

About four months after Paz was arrested, authorities caught two more MS-13 members who had sneaked into Texas. Cops said the guys didn't even try to run.

Why should they, with folks here advocating their "right" to enter the country illegally? Even if they're deported, they know they'll be back soon.

Before his arrest, Paz had broken out of jail in Honduras, where he was being held in the 2004 massacre of 28 people.

Let's hypothesize for a moment: Suppose Paz had eluded border authorities and made his way to the Baltimore-Washington area. That's not unlikely: MS-13 activity has been reported in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Now suppose he had remained at large until H.R. 4437, the proposed Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Act of 2005, was passed. Suppose he ran across some of those folks in Fells Point and identified himself only as an illegal alien who needed their help.

According to the folks gathered, they'd help him. They'd probably think they were doing a noble act.

It's one thing to be noble with your own safety, quite another to be noble with everybody else's.

Here's the way it should work: Illegal immigrants should be able to go the nearest immigration office and take steps to make themselves legal without fear of deportation. If they're here to work, they should be able to provide proof of employment and then get those health and criminal-background checks that legal immigrants had to get. If they pass, we should give them a green card. If they don't, we should send them home.

Sounds simple, doesn't it? That's why it'll probably never work.

greg.kane@baltsun.com

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