Norman Rockwell And The Founding Fathers
The anti-immigrationists's favorite slogan is "What part of illegal don't you understand?" We believe this is more than just a slogan, this is a philosophical position on whether natural law can conflict with civil law or not and how such conflicts, if any, should be resolved.
At one extreme is the position of Thomas Hobbes who said, "nothing the sovereign representative can do to a subject, on what pretense soever can properly be called injustice or injury." This position argues that civil law is supreme and does not recognize any distinction between it and natural law. The anti-immigrationists are arguing this position. At the other extreme, are David Thoreau and Mahatma Gandhi who held that when there is a conflict between natural law as perceived by an individual, and civil law, the individual should not merely criticize that law and make an effort to have it reformed, but he is obliged to in fact actively disobey the unjust law. By this position, therefore, natural law is supreme and civil law must give way in case of conflicts. Between these two extremes is the position held by Thomas Aquinas and John Locke and of course, the Founding Fathers. In the immortal words of the Declaration of Independence "... But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security...". This position holds that natural law is supreme but that civil law should be followed as much as possible (aptly summarized by the Jeffersonian idea that while evils are sufferable, they should be suffered).
By upholding the Hobbesian position, the anti-immigrationists are in fact, going against the fundamental principles of the Declaration of Independence. In that sense, anti-immigration is fundamentally anti-American. The proper retort to "What part of illegal don't you understand?" is "What part of the Declaration of Independence don't you understand?" This point can even be grasped visually. Take a look at the quintessential American illustrator Norman Rockwell's "A Family Tree". Note particularly the pirate at the bottom of the family tree. Those who argue that their forebears immigrated legally forget that immigration restriction of the kind that we have today was largely absent for much of American history (e.g. for those who violated immigration law the statute of limitations allowed them to become citizens after a few years of illegal stay) and that their ancestors would be inadmissible by today's standards. It is likely that many of the anti-immigrationists's ancestors are criminals by today's definitions in immigration law. While we do not argue that all undocumented immigration would be supported by natural law, at a minimum it appears safe to say that the reuniting of biological families would follow from natural law. Those who cross the border unlawfully to be with their biological families are following natural law and their violation of civil immigration law cannot be penalized by the standards of the Founding Fathers. So, perhaps, the best retort to "What part of illegal don't you understand?" is "What part of American don't you understand?"
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I totally agree with C. Prego and Paul's letters to the Editor (09/28/06 ID) in that all legal immigrants, many of them high skilled and hard working, paying taxes for years, separated from their families and unable to take advantage of even basic benefits like in-state tuition for their dependents or Unemployment, are in the worst position. They are totally ignored and excluded from this whole debate, since they do not provide a large enough votebank for the greedy politicians. What the govt is doing now is to encourage illegality, because how many of these legals who have built their lives in this country for so many years will now go back? They will resort to going underground once their visas expire, or turn to fraudulent marriages, or find some other means.
These bickering politicians are not only destroying families and careers, but also destroying America's future by encouraging illegality.
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