When is a law unjust?
Published 7:09 am Friday, March 15, 2019
Not all laws work as intended. Some, if not many, laws present unintended consequences that compromise the intended effects of the law.
Other laws prove not to be timeless, like those forbidding American women from voting.
Still, others seem, by moral standards, extreme and indefensible, like cutting off a hand for stealing a loaf of bread.
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So, imagine, if you will, that you visit a grocery store with a 3-year-old child. After paying for your groceries and leaving the store, you are stopped in the store parking lot by a security officer and asked to return to the store. Child in hand, you comply and are taken to a small private office in the back of the store.
There, the security officer plays a video that shows your daughter reaching out of the grocery cart to snag a small package of Skittles, which she drops into her play purse, giggles and looks away.
Watching the video now, you laugh and kiss her on the cheek, discover the Skittles in the little purse, and reach into your handbag to pay for the candy. But the officer then explains that the solution is not that simple. A law was broken, and this store enforces the laws against theft in 100 percent of cases, executing a no exception policy.
The officer then explains that the store will be filing criminal charges, not against you, because the evidence shows you to be unaware of the theft, but against your 3-year-old.
You start to laugh, thinking this to be a joke when the officer tells you that the law has no exception for the age of the person so charged, and since all are prosecuted, your daughter will have to be arrested.
Is the law always the law, to be followed and obeyed regardless of its application and effect? Should your 3-year-old, who many U.S. laws grant reduced legal responsibility for their actions, be arrested, or should the law be ruled immoral, ineffective, and ignored?
You explain to the officer that should your child be convicted, the conviction could later keep her out of some universities, some grant programs, that the small bag of Skittles could damage her future when she could not possibly know what she was doing in taking the candy.
This is exactly the position of the DACA children, now grown into young, productive adults, college age. Children who came to America in the arms of their illegal immigrant parents when they were three, and are now being told by some of our elected officials and by our current laws, that their illegal act, at age three, requires them to be expelled from the only country they have ever known…because the law is the law.
But did the three-year-old in the arms of an adult really commit a crime? Of course not, children are not expected to have legal awareness before they can read or write. To expect so would be unreasonable and to punish for this fictional crime would be immoral.
But even more immoral is the degree of punishment demanded by some for the DACA kids by those who would demand they be sent to a foreign country they have never known. They would leave behind everything, their family, their friends, their jobs, their service to the country, to be forced to start all over again in a nation they have never known and perhaps with a language they have never spoken. The punishment is no less extreme than cutting off a hand for stealing a loaf of bread. And for what crime? The crime of being born in the wrong place.
As a nation, we must have the moral strength to do the right thing and protect these young Americans, and, yes, they are Americans, from unjust laws and immoral actions. It is time for our Republican friends to stop using these lives as bargaining chips in immigration policy wars.
Grant citizenship to the DACA kids.
Jim Crawford is a retired educator, political enthusiast and award-winning columnist living here in the Tri-State.