Monday, April 10, 2006

When Is a Crime Not a Crime?

I’m a speeder. I admit it. I almost never drive under the speed limit. Usually in a 55 m.p.h. zone, I’m running between 65 and 70, and if the limit goes up to 65 or 70, I may be doing 80.

I know it’s a crime. I also understand the costs to society for my criminal behavior. I’m using extra gas, thus increasing demand and raising prices for everyone else. I’m creating more pollution. I am a greater risk for accidents, due to the longer stopping distance and reaction distance resulting from my higher speed. And of course, any accident I’m in will be worse due to the greater impact energy. And yet, I persist in my crime – and quite successfully. I haven’t gotten a ticket in my last several years of speeding.

In fact, I’ve persisted so long and so successfully, that I feel it should no longer be a crime for me to speed. After all, I’ve been doing it for so long, I should now be entitled to keep doing it. I feel the government should issue me a card that authorizes me to go up to 10 miles an hour over the limit from now on.

Does that make sense to you? It doesn’t really make sense to me, either. It doesn’t make sense to grant immunity to a speeder just because he’s been doing it awhile. Most businesses will fire you for lying on your resume even if you’ve done a good job since you were hired. If you lie to the Army when you enlist, you can be thrown out years later for Fraudulent Enlistment, and not only be convicted of a crime, but also be required to give back your paycheck for however long you were in. And staying in the United States illegally for several years should not suddenly make you a legal immigrant.

I know a lot of people feel that a person who has been here for years, has put down roots, contributed to the community, and so on, should be allowed to continue their life here without the threat of deportation. I’m sorry…but they knew the risks when they started. They knew they were subject to deportation at any point. In order to secure that position in society, they’ve had to lie to their employer (who probably knew better, and ought to face some prosecution, too) and either lie to the IRS or just avoid them entirely – while still benefiting from tax-funded services, like roads, schools, police and fire departments, and so on. Some of them have even collected money directly from the government, and Immigrants’ Rights activists seek to increase that.

I’ll skip lightly over the national security issues. Certainly a border that is porous enough to allow several hundred thousand people through illegally every year is far too porous to keep out a single dedicated well-funded terrorist – or a dozen, or a hundred, or a thousand. But that’s not really the issue, since the border security measures that WOULD serve to keep out most of the illegal immigrants would still not prevent terrorists from getting in. It would only make their task a little more difficult and a little more expensive – worth doing, but not a real national security solution.

The biggest reason for keeping illegal immigration illegal, though, is simply to discourage more of it. As long as we continue to legalize the illegals from time to time, we encourage more people to enter illegally, and then wait for the next amnesty. The current policies remind me of drawing a line and daring someone to cross it…then when he does, drawing another line, and another, and another…I’ll admit that it worked for Bugs Bunny when he got Elmer Fudd to walk off the cliff, but should we be developing our national policies by watching Loony Tunes?

I’m also aware of the benefits that illegal immigrants bring to our society. Cheap labor doing jobs that legal Americans won’t do. Keeping farm costs down, yard work costs down, maid service costs down. Enforcing our existing laws would end a lot of that, and raise prices throughout our economy in an ever-expanding ripple effect. Well, I’m sorry for that – but we need to decide what’s important, and then find a legal way to get there. If we cut illegal immigration, maybe we can expand LEGAL immigration. Or maybe we’ll just have to accept higher prices for everything. But a law that isn’t enforced isn’t a law. Either police the border, PREVENT illegal immigration and get rid of the illegals that are already here, or admit we can’t do it, open the border to everyone, and deal with those consequences. Meanwhile, I’ll keep speeding…but with the knowledge that sooner or later, I’m going to get a ticket.

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