• S. Kyle

I too am Illegal

I too am illegal. An illegal citizen.

I've blazed past the speed limit. Probably broken a copyright law or two.

Once I drove fast because my wife's keys had gotten locked up somewhere and she couldn't get home. The risk of a speeding ticket was nothing compared to making sure that she was okay.

I think most would empathize.

Why then is it so hard to empathize with poorer, browner, men and women also breaking similarly minor laws...with stakes way higher than mine.... trying to survive?

If one's misdemeanors are indicative of their whole essence, as is suggested in the terrifying and dehumanizing designation 'illegal immigrant,' then I too should be thought of as an illegal.

Legally, morally, spiritually--I am no different. I too am illegal.

Laws are words made up by men and enforced by guns. That doesn't mean they aren't important. They are. But let's be honest about what they are: Arbitrary lines in the sand. Stepping over one doesn't make someone less human, less worthy of respect, less worthy of rights, less worthy of compassion. Most of us know this, but we don't apply it to our poorer, browner, neighbors. We are able to distinguish between more and less serious crimes amongst ourselves. Running over the border because you're desperately concerned for your family's survival, because this may be their only hope of a decent life, is not a serious one. It does not deserve branding your whole existence, nor being thrown in a cage for three months without showers, awaiting a trial.

Today the government has indicated its intent to engage in mass raids to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants; likely tramping upon multiple civil liberties and arresting many citizens in the process. It should make all of us shudder. But it won't. Many will cheer.

What if the government decided it wanted a 'zero tolerance' policy on speeders? What if it wanted to hunt us all down and lock us up? Would you cry out then? Why? We broke the law. We deserve what we get. It's a misdemeanor, just like crossing the border improperly. How is it different?

Why do we not think of ourselves as illegal citizens? Because that's exactly what we are. All of us. And if not us, likely our parents. In fact, unless descended from slaves, one of our ancestors probably came here without papers or process or legality as well.

Why can't we think of ourselves in the same terms? Because we've built walls in our hearts, borders in our minds. Based on arbitrary designations that make us feel good about ourselves. We're not like them.

But we are.

We all are.

Let the one who is without risk of litigation bang down the first door, throw on the first handcuffs, and separate the first family.

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