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Dear Editor:

I've been reading with some interest the debate in the Letters to the Editor on ILW.COM regarding illegal/undocumented aliens in the US. I am a natural-born US citizen, and I have a few thoughts.

1. These people are breaking the law.

This appears not to be in question by anyone involved in the debate. What is in question is whether the law is fair, and whether the law needs to be followed. I feel that everyone is expected to obey the laws of the country that they are in. The US State Department in its travel-related bulletins takes pains to explain to US travellers going abroad that they are subject to the laws of the country that they visit, and that the US government cannot exempt them from such laws or even help beyond referring the traveller and their relatives to lawyers in the country. To put it simply, US citizens are expected to obey the laws of the country that they visit. Why should it be different for those who visit the US? If US laws are unfair, then anyone has the freedom to try to get them changed (a freedom that is not present in some other countries). However, the laws are created by US citizens to apply on US soil. Our government is set up that way for a reason - our Constitution and government are created to do the will of US citizens, who by definition are the creators and electors of that government. Yes, non-citizens do have nearly all of the rights of citizens, but it is still US citizens that make the rules.

Some have said that perhaps the US doesn't want residents who have shown a propensity to break the law. I agree - why would you want a neighbor whose first act in your neighborhood is to break the law?

I'm a little less sure of my opinion in the case of laws that make aliens in the US illegal when they may have entered legally under prior laws. Our constitution provides protection against ex post facto laws. If these laws truly changed the rules for some aliens, they should be challenged in court.

2. Undocumented aliens are performing jobs that US citizens won't do

This may be true. However, there are many US citizens out of work as well, who might take these menial jobs in order to survive. I refer you to my response to #1 - US citizens are the ones making the rules. This rule will not be changed until our citizens decide that there is a problem. Clearly, US citizens have not decided that a shortage of janitors or agricultural workers is a problem today. Perhaps the government has to enforce the laws as written and thereby create the problem that would be caused by the loss of 9 million workers - that would drive our citizens to change the law.

3. These undocumented aliens are not bad people, and therefore the law is bad.

I agree that by and large, undocumented aliens as a group are good people, and some of the hardest-working members of our society. That has generally been the case in US history - recent immigrants have always been the hardest working segment of the population.

Therefore, perhaps the law *is* bad. However, it's still the law. All of us, citizens and non-citizens, are expected to obey the law while fighting to change it. Even those who resist the law (by protest, passive resistance, or just sitting at the front of the bus) are subject to it. If you do the crime, you do the time - that's part of the expectation for those who break the law in order to get it changed.

The people who have to be convinced to change the law are the rank and file US citizen. Many elections where immigration was a key issue have shown that the government continues to be made up of people who support the will of the majority of their electors. It's those voters who need to be convinced that more immigration is necessary. I used the word "convinced" for a reason - in the US the right answer on matters of governmental policy is determined by the will of the majority of voting citizens. There is no absolute truth when it comes to issues that involve people.

Mark Smith
New Jersey

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