My response to defenders of anti-illegal immigrant laws

My response to defenders of anti-illegal immigrant laws June 16, 2011

Several commenters here have argued (some of them being lawyers) that the bills I have complained about would never be used to prosecute humanitarians acting on behalf of needy illegal immigrants.  I think that is naive.

However, one attorney in particular (from California) posted a comment here claiming that IF a humanitarian were ever arrested on the basis of the Oklahoma, Alabama or Texas laws he would have no trouble getting the person acquitted based on case law.

I’m not a lawyer or trained in law, so I can’t argue competently with that claim.

However, EVEN THE ASSOCIATED PRESS interprets the Alabama law as criminalizing giving a ride to an illegal immigrant.  The article I cited did not say “if you’re a coyote.”

My point is–lacking the specific exceptions I’m asking for, these laws WILL inevitably cast a chill on individual humanitarian aid (such as giving a ride to work) to illegal immigrants.  If there’s one chance in a million of being arrested and prosecuted, even if there’s virtually no chance of being convicted if you can afford a good attorney, people will naturally shy away from offering humanitarian aid that might conflict with the literal wording of the law.

That a good attorney could get a humanitarian arrested under one of these laws acquitted does nothing to counter my complaints about these laws.  Their lack of clear, unequivocal exceptions for individual humanitarians offering aid to individual needy illegal immigrants speaks volumes about the legislators’ intentions.  They could easily have put that language into the laws to ease the minds of people who want to help a needy illegal immigrant (e.g., with a ride or temporary shelter, etc.).  That they didn’t says they don’t want people giving any help to illegal immigrants.

Anyone who has studied European history knows that seemingly innocuous laws that supposedly would never be enforced against innocent people were eventually used to persecute innocent people.  The first sets of anti-Jewish laws in Germany, for example, did not seem particularly harsh and most people, including Jews, did not panic.  They assumed these laws were political statements never to be enforced and that, if they ever would be enforced, they would only be enforced against true enemies of the state (e.g., communists–the Nazis said the anti-Jewish laws were aimed at communists within the Jewish community).  We all know what happened.  At first the laws were not uniformly or universally enforced.  Then they were.

Am I comparing the people who passed these anti-illegal immigrant laws with Nazis?  No.  I’m comparing seemingly innocuous laws with seemingly innocuous laws–that can have unintended consequences later.

To my mind, many people in the U.S. regard all Hispanics (perhaps other than the ones they personally know) as a threat and they are willing to scapegoat them (e.g., by allowing laws that clearly will be used to harass even legal Hispanics) because this relieves an irrational pressure within themselves.  Too many people simply don’t understand the phenomenon and mechanisms of scapegoating.  We have to be vigilant against this evil tendency in human life and insist that laws that could be misused, anywhere or by anyone, not be passed or be revised once they are passed to avoid their misuse for scapegoating (e.g., racial profiling) purposes.

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