Brandon Bartlett is a philosophy junior and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed in this column do not reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.
I was scrolling through Facebook the other day when I saw that a friend of mine posted a link to a list of scholarships for students living in the country without legal permission. That’s right, folks: there is a section of the population who, as an act of charity, decided to give money only to students whom are actively breaking the law.
There are now two groups of you reading this: those who are just as appalled and flabbergasted as I was, and those who are appalled and flabbergasted at the fact that I was appalled and flabbergasted. I would like to explain myself to the second group.
But before I do, allow me to make a disclaimer: the following is not a solution for the many problems that riddle our immigration system. It is merely an attempt to express why my gut churns every time I see those signs on Cal Poly professors’ doors promising a safe space for immigrants without legal permission to live in the United States.
The law trumps compassion
Most every argument I have heard in favor of allowing illegal immigration (I will be using the term “allowing” as a catch-all for the variety of proposals which, in effect, remove legal consequences) hinges on some heart-wrenching story about a family getting torn apart.
Allow me to first admit that I am a human with emotion. I too feel this pain and suffering is utterly disgusting. Unfortunately, this is equally true for most crimes. How many times have you heard heart-breaking stories about a child stealing food for his sick mother or a wife who kills her abusive husband while he sleeps in order to protect her children?
We cannot selectively apply the law when it is convenient for all parties involved. The beauty of the law is its objectivity; it says what it is going to do and follows that to the letter. Who quantifies the need of a given violation? If the child stealing for his starving mother qualifies, then does the student who is malnourished because he has been living off Top Ramen? Or what about me when I am “forced” to “poison” my body with preservatives and fats because I do not work enough to afford Whole Foods?
The point is this: Even if we were to say that violating the law in select circumstance is justified, it is clearly absurd to generalize a violation, as is done when we open our arms to all immigrants entering the country illegally.
This is because the law is only secondarily there to punish the malevolent; its primary duty is to dissuade the average citizen with one too many justifications for their criminal behavior.
Secondly, there is a fundamental problem with generalized political compassion: it always demonizes someone. Consider the mother grizzly bear: she will tear you apart, limb from limb, and leave you as a mess of screaming blood and flesh because of her compassion — compassion for her cubs.
This is both the strength and weakness of compassion. It is why we hate the child rapist even though he may have had a tough life, but it is also why my Black Lives Matter activist friends “joke” about killing cops, and it is probably why you were appalled by my opening paragraph.
So, when we have compassion for people entering illegally, who do we demonize? None other than those brave men and women who risk their lives everyday for our safety to keep immigrants from illegally crossing our borders. That, in my estimation, is both appalling and flatly unacceptable.
The good citizen respects authority
To all of you who would say, “We need to question authority,” you are right. Power corrupts, and it is our job to watch and correct those above us. But let us not forget that the only thing that allowed you to get to class safely is that you didn’t question the arbitrary law demanding that you drive on the right side of the road.
The only purpose of establishing a country is that we might unite a variety of different people, each with conflicting desires, under a body of laws such that each is bettered. And so why should I invite someone into this sphere of trust whose first action is to give the finger to Lady Liberty?
Hopefully that is enough to explain my gut reaction.
So, in conclusion, allow me to admit the fact that the world is more complex and messy than my initial inclinations; not every immigrant who entered the country illegally should be seen merely as a criminal, and there is room for instances of mercy within civilized society. But if we are to govern a country, let us at least be as complex as the playground: every four-year-old knows that if you want to be invited to play, you first need to follow the rules.