Sunday, April 02, 2006

When does a law become wrong?

Thinking more on the BigLizards blog entry of March 28, particularly his comment at 1:28 PM, I have come to the conclusion that "rule of law" can be grossly misused - as it was when Janet Reno used that phrase during the Elian Gonzalez case (for an interesting take, see This phrase is often used by the critics of the President's guest worker plan - and often without a response.

Well, Big Lizards has shown some situations which show that maybe there is a response.

Quoting his 1:28 PM comment:

I didn't get into the story (because the post was long enough as it was), but my wife is a naturalized citizen. She had her green card for a long time; when she was trying to become a citizen, she jumped through all the hoops, checked off all the boxes, and finally got to the point where she was told she would be a citizen as soon as she took the oath.

But then they simply refused to set a date for her to take the oath. Weeks passed, months, and they wouldn't set a date, wouldn't tell her why, wouldn't tell he if there were any problem. Nothing.

Most of the people she talked to simply said they had no idea, she should just wait a few more weeks. But after those weeks, they told her the same thing.

It finally took a direct intervention from our then-congressman. It turns out the "problem" was that her file was sitting on somebody's desk, buried under a bunch of other papers that Mr. or Ms. Somebody also wasn't bothering to handle.

The reason they couldn't find it was -- they hadn't even bothered to look. It was nobody's responsibility to find it. Had it not been for our representative, she would still, six years later, be waiting for her bloody swearing-in ceremony... and would still not yet be a citizen.

Bureaucratic slowdowns, with no concept of the fact that there are people in this country. They could fall "out of status" due to misplaced or uncompleted paperwork. These are not the hardened criminals or threats to our country that Michelle Malkin or Tom Tancredo would have us believe they are.

Now, for the next story:

A few years ago, a friend of ours, who was here completely legally, lost his job because of a medical problem. Mind, he had been here for sixteen years trying to get a green card. During that time, he was totally legal, he was working, he owned a condo, he had health insurance, spoke perfect English, never committed any crime (it's possible he may have gotten a traffic ticket), everything that should have qualified him.

But because he couldn't get a green card (again, he never found out why), when he lost his job, he was simply told to get out. No discussion, no appeal: since his legal status was still tied to his job (as an accountant at a hotel), he was simply ordered back to Japan after sixteen years trying to become an American.

Sixteen years. No real problems with the law. A perfectly law-abidign citizen who bought a house, was taking part in the American dream. Then one health issue - and we're booting him out. No reason whatsoever.

I have heard a second-hand story in all of this. A family from Colombia found out their oldest son's school was slated for a "recruitment drive" by one of the rebel groups (I'm told the method reflects that used by FARC). They did everything they could within the law to protect their son's life (these kids are often used as cannon fodder). Finally, they came to the US on tourist visas and overstayed them. They are "illegals" - and if Malkin, Tancredo, and the rest of that crowd had their way, they'd be sent back forthwith. No ifs, ands, or buts. And all along, we are supposed to accept this in the name of the "rule of law".

It's like the 55 mile-per-hour speed limit. States imposed to to keep their highway funds, but it became a joke. Montana, for instance, made the penalty for exceeding it a very small fine - with no repercussions for one's driving record. Other states gave a bit of leeway, depending on the situation. Others would ticket anyone going over 55, using the speeding tickets to enhance revenue. It became a racket that was so bad that eventually, the national limit was repealed. But the deleterious effects are present today, as a national speedtrap database is online, telling people where police try to enforce the speed limit (or enhance revenue even further).

There comes a point when the law just doesn't do the job. Then it becomes time to change it, and to also make it right to the people caught up in the mess that resulted from the failures of the original laws. On immigration, that tipping point has passed.

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