I liked Cory Monteith (Yes, I sometimes watch GLEE). Cory was the nice guy named Finn Hudson on the popular TV show set around a High School Glee Club. He always projected this nice guy, somewhat naïve, football quarterback persona. In real life, he was a talented actor and singer, even though he had no formal singing training. He also had a drug problem and recently he was found dead as a result of a drug overdose at the too young age of 31. He had been in drug rehab several times, most recently in April this year. He was beloved by fans.Tributes to Cory Monteith, aka Finn Hudson, abounded in the press and social media after his death. I have this bad habit of reading the comments to the articles I read online. Many of them are insanely stupid and written under pseudonyms, I assume, so that the writers do not have to list their own real names and have the world observe how biased and uninformed they really are. Some of the meanest things I’ve ever seen written were reader responses to news items online.
In the case of Cory Monteith, however, I saw nothing but praise and a sense of tragic loss for such a talented young life. I expected at least one snarky comment, but there were none. No one said, “he got what he deserved because of using drugs.” No one said he belonged in jail because of “breaking the law and using illegal substances.” But he had committed crimes. He had acted knowing the possible consequences of his behavior, but we overlooked that because we loved Finn.Contrast that with the reader comments you get whenever there is an article about immigration. There is an almost total lack of sympathy for persons in the United States without legal authorization. No punishment for this predicament is apparently too much. People routinely comment that unauthorized immigrants should be lined up and shot (or shot from helicopters like feral hogs as one legislator put it), that they should face permanent banishment from the United States and their families, that they are a drain on our society, are selfish takers with no rights to claims under the law or to even human dignity. Even immigrants brought here as children (the “Dreamers”) are not exempt from the vitriol displayed online.
In one case a year or so ago, a girl in the northwest was brought here as a child, taken from her parents by the state and put into foster care, and eventually adopted by a U.S. citizen family. The adoption was done legally, but the family failed to file papers with the immigration service to fix the status of the little girl. They had even asked the immigration service at the time if they needed to file anything else, and were told “no.”Honestly, these are very complicated laws and even the agencies entrusted to enforce them often get it wrong. So the parents relied on that and assumed their adopted girl was a U.S. citizen. She also grew up believing she was a U.S. citizen -- until it became time for her to apply for her first driver’s license and realized that she did not have a U.S. birth certificate. Moreover the immigration service decided that she was not authorized to be here and should be deported back to a country that she did not know and whose language she did not speak.
Upon hearing this tragic story, an acquaintance on Facebook posted that it was good that the immigration service was finally doing its job by deporting her. I responded that it was not the job of any U.S. agency to separate innocent children from their families. And I was accused of (and I have often been accused since then) not giving due regard to the law, even though I am a lawyer.In my heart I’m asking, “Where’s the pity for this poor child and her family?” When we point out that she did nothing wrong, we’re told that it is unfortunate that she has to suffer the consequences of her parents’ negligence, but the law must be upheld. If we don’t punish her, other immigrants will be emboldened to do the same thing. Inspector Javier from Les Miserables would have been proud.
So I wonder, how we can be so forgiving and nonjudgmental of actor Cory Monteith, whom we apparently did not know very well, and can be so unforgiving to our neighbors trying to get by like the rest of us? These people live among us, work among us, worship with us. They have become part of the fabric of our society. Over half of the people that are here without authorization have been here 10 years or more. A very large percentage of them live in mixed status homes – that is, at least one of the family members is here without authorization, but others within the family unit are U.S. citizens.Surely, there is a better solution than continuing to deport some 400,000 persons every year, most of whom are not criminals. Last year about 80,000 parents of U.S. citizens were deported from the U.S. It’s a humanitarian crisis of large proportions, but ignored by so many who dismiss them simply because they are “illegal.” The law may say this is required, but that does not mean that it is what is good for the U.S.
There are so many ways that a path to legalization makes good economic and moral sense for the U.S., but I do not intend to address all of those in this blog. Instead I want to ask, why do we so easily overlook the faults of someone like Cory Monteith, and so stridently want to punish the strangers among us, most of whom have committed no crime other than entering without permission to pursue a better life?In many ways, they’re just like us. They’re just like our ancestors who immigrated to this country and found a way to stay. They deserve better. They deserve mercy. They don’t deserve to be called “illegals.” They deserve to be called “neighbors.” Not only will it be better for them if we choose this path; it will be better for the rest of us.
By: Roger McCrummen
McCrummen Immigration Law Group, LLC