Posts Tagged ‘profiling’

Illegal immigrants: Treat them humanely or make their lives miserable?

April 15, 2010

Ethics can be confusing. Like the case of illegal immigration: how do we decide between compassion and legality? {Disclosure: My ideas may be affected by my family experience. My grandparents came here from Russia and Germany in the 1880s, when there was no such thing as illegal immigration. You just had to be free of TB and you were admitted. Had they not been admitted the whole family would likely have been subjected to fierce anti-Semitism, then murdered in the Holocaust.)

The Arizona House of Representatives this week passed America’s toughest state law against illegal immigration. It makes it a crime to lack proper immigration paperwork and requires police, if they suspect someone is in the country illegally, to determine their immigration status. It also bars people from soliciting work as day laborers. Its author, state Sen. Russell Pearce, explains, “When you make life difficult, most will leave on their own.”

I certainly believe in making life difficult for lawbreakers, but there’s serious collateral damage here. What about the “foreign-looking” people who will be challenged to prove their legal status? Like Graciela Beltran of Tucson, who, the Los Angeles Times reports, was asked for immigration papers while boarding a bus. And the other dark-skinned people who will be “profiled.”

And along with the lawbreakers there are innocents, like the U.S.-born children of illegals, who face having their parents deported. Or who face hunger because their fathers can no longer find day work from the Walmart parking lot.

Americans have contributed to the problem by allowing so many to overstay their visas or to enter illegally. Now it seems to me that we have an obligation to be humane in our treatment.

What’s an ethicist to conclude? Let me know your opinion.


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