Donald Trump has begun action to deport most if not all of the people presently living in the United States without proper documentation. On its face, his action here has a prima facie justification. These millions are, by definition, in violation of the United States’ policies regarding legal entrance into our country. One need not, however, look much beyond that surface reasoning to see the issue as far more complex.
The slightest reflection raises several questions, the very first of which is: How did it happen that this country allowed eleven million people to enter the country without documentation, and how did it allow these eleven millions to take up residence and support themselves, in many cases for decades, and to raise children — feed them, clothe them, educate them, all with little or no reliance on public contributions?
The answer is as obvious as it is embarrassing. We allowed them in. No, more than that. We invited, no, lured them in. We wanted low prices for goods, and low prices require cheap labor. So we enticed these millions to come to work our fields and our factories for little wage and no benefits. We worked them and even housed them in the most miserable of conditions. We took tax money from them knowing that they could never expect any return. We routinely denied them the protections of safety ordinance, worker’s compensation, health insurance, any and all benefits rightfully belonging to the average worker. There is, for instance, a plant in an obscure town in northern Wisconsin in which the majority of workers are undocumented. It does not even approach rationality to think that these unfortunates just happened to wander their way from the Mexican border all on their own to this one small northern town and all employ themselves at this one factory.
So the presence of eleven million undocumented workers is, in large part, of our own doing. We brought them here, and we profited from them, and we took advantage of them. And now, when those in power find it to their advantage, they propose to chase them all out of the country. In doing so, they completely ignore their own complicity in allowing these millions of men, women and children to think that they had, by their tireless (and poorly compensated) contributions to our economy, been given a de facto right of place in our community.
So there it is. There are eleven million undocumented aliens in this country because we brought them here. Because we did, we at the very least owe them the opportunity to have a reasonable path to staying here. A reasonable path. Not sending them out and letting them wait years to return. That smells far too much of the rank injustice of the internment of Japanese Americans. These good people took their meager earnings and turned them into homes. They raised families who know no other country than this. They contributed in myriad ways to their communities. Tearing them away from all that requires a reason far more significant than political advantage.
Justice is the calculated resolution of a multiplicity of valid claims. When we we became a party to bringing these millions into the country, we granted them an equitable claim to remaining. Ignoring that claim is simply an injustice. Yes, there are countering claims and issues. But to simply throw them out is more than injustice. It is thuggery.