Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Our Friends at the 7-Eleven

Got a job around the house and looking to save some money? I know of several hard working folk who only charge $10 per hour and are available for immediate work. Where can you find such people? Any day of the week, standing outside the 7-Eleven, next to the Aberdeen-Matawan train station, are several eager beavers looking for work. Of course, it would help if you could speak to them in Spanish. And ignore the fact that they’re here illegally.

Before discussing illegal immigration, we need to first acknowledge several facts.

First, these “undocumented” workers are here illegally. They broke our laws when they came and they break our laws when they stay. The only way for them to be in accordance with our laws is by leaving our country.

Second, it is illegal to employ “undocumented” workers. The “I didn’t know” defense isn’t plausible. All employers have a legal obligation to determine their employees’ residence statuses. Additionally, it would be quite unconvincing for a contractor to claim that he assumed the non-English-speaking Mexicans were here legally.

Yet, we also have great sympathy for immigrants, both legal and illegal. Our country is a nation of immigrants. Our forebears came to this land as conquerors and slaves, adventurers and refugees, skilled and unskilled. We recognize that America is the Land of Opportunity, that these illegal immigrants are coming here, not to steal, but to earn a better life for themselves and their families. And, put in the same situation, we would likely do the same.

Does our town have an obligation, legal or ethical, to enforce those laws that are contrary to our interests? Legally, the answer is no. Law enforcement has discretionary power. We can choose to not prosecute jaywalkers, cars traveling only 5 MPH above the posted limit, or people making too much noise. Ethically, we should enforce those laws that, when not enforced, could pose a danger to the violator or others. For example, people stepping into traffic, driving much too fast, or disturbing their neighbors, should be cited.

Should our town enforce our nation’s immigration laws? Legally, we are not required to do so. Ethically, we should if the illegal immigrants in our town are causing harm to themselves or others.

The three main areas of harm from illegal immigration are crime, healthcare, and education. While these are certainly problems, would they be alleviated in any way if our town unilaterally chose to enforce immigration laws?

As for crime, the answer is no. Our Aberdeen and Matawan are blessed with a very low crime rate and there’s no evidence that illegal immigration is a significant contributor to local crime.

As for healthcare, the answer is, again, no. Enforcing immigration will simply push the immigrants to neighboring towns. They’ll still be using the same area hospitals.

As for education, the answer is, sadly, yes. Over ten percent of our students are classified as learning disabled. Special education services can cost upwards of $50,000 per pupil. There is no way to know how much of this goes to students who are illegal residents because the school does not track such information. In Pyler V. Doe, a divided Supreme Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment requires schools to provide the same services to illegal aliens. Still, we are only required to educate children who actually live within our district.

I would not support converting our school staff into law enforcement; however, our elected school board is another matter. As policy, our school board should not authorize any special expenditure on a student’s behalf until the board first verifies the student’s residency status.

Though I agree the child is innocent, I do not believe we should be providing special services at taxpayer expense to children who do not live within our district.

Unless the government at the national or state level chooses to truly tackle the illegal immigration problem, our police are acting correctly in leaving unmolested our friends at the 7-Eleven. Our school board, however, should restrict special funds to students who are entitled to them.
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