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4.5.07

It Is About Immigrant Rights

Commenting on the May Day protests, RonF writes:

But these marches aren’t asserting immigrant rights; legal immigrants, such as the ones I work with (2 of whom just got their citizenship after years of following American law) have no problems that I know of. These marches are specifically asserting and demanding certain rights for illegal immigrants, and to call them marches for “immigrant rights” without making that distinction seems deliberately deceptive to me, making it sound as if people are trying to withhold rights from legal immigrants.


I find it "deliberately deceptive" the way RonF, like many conservatives, insists on foregrounding the "illegal immigrant" versus "legal immigrant" distinction. The protests were simply about "immigrant rights." First and foremost, one of the critical rights the protesters were demanding is the right to be an immigrant. Ceteris paribus, nobody would want to be an illegal immigrant if they could be a legal immigrant -- but the fact is that the US immigration system is so arcane and restrictive that legal immigration is simply not a feasible option for the vast majority of people who want to come here.

Secondly, it's hugely ignorant to claim that legal immigrants "have no problems." I can't say for sure if these issues were on the minds of all the protesters in LA, since they tend to get forgotten in the focus on people who entered illegally, but the immigration advocacy community is certainly concerned about it. If you're not a citizen, you have to walk a very fine line lest you find yourself thrown out of the country. There are dozens of crimes -- some as small as posession of drug paraphernalia -- that can make you deportable, not to mention non-criminal violations of visa conditions like being enrolled in one two few credit hours of classes or taking a job when you're on a non-working visa. And getting deported isn't just a matter of being put on a bus to Nogales. Anyone that ICE wants to get rid of will get sent to prison* for a month before they even issue the charges, and then process your case so slowly that you start to wonder whether they're deliberately stalling in the hopes that you give up and accept deportation just to get out of jail.

*Technically it's non-punitive detention, but that hair-splitting is a farce when ICE detainees are sharing cells with people serving sentences for felonies.

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