From the AP, emphases mine:
Immigration rights advocates more than 500,000 strong marched in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, demanding that Congress abandon attempts to make illegal immigration a felony and to build more walls along the border.
The massive demonstration, by far the biggest of several around the nation in recent days, came as President Bush prodded Republican congressional leaders to give some illegal immigrants a chance to work legally in the U.S. under certain conditions.
Wearing white shirts to symbolize peace, marchers chanted "Mexico!" "USA!" and "Si se puede," an old Mexican-American civil rights shout that means "Yes, we can." They waved the flags of the U.S., Mexico and other countries, and some wore them as capes.
"They say we are criminals. We are not criminals," said Salvador Hernandez, 43, of Los Angeles, a resident alien who came to the United States illegally from El Salvador 14 years ago and worked as truck driver, painter and day laborer.
Elsa Rodriguez, 30, a trained pilot who came to Colorado in 1999 from Mexico to look for work, said she just wants to be considered equal.
"We're like the ancestors who started this country, they came from other countries without documents, too," said the Arvada resident. "They call us lazy and dirty, but we just want to come to work. If you see, we have families, too."
Now, is it just me, or is there not a serious incongruity in the first set of boldface text? A person admits to crossing an international border, without documentation or passing through customs, and claims to not be a criminal? For me, that is the root issue here.
Illegal immigrants are simply that: people who broke the law to get into this country. Their intentions are possibly good: doing it to build a better life for their children and/or sending much needed money to their families in their home countries. These are good things to aspire to, and I will not begrudge them their reasoning. Yet they, in their haste to do so, still broke the law. (Warning: link leads to long file that requires much digging to get anything of substance from.) And thus, logically, they actually are criminals. Criminals with good intent, certainly, but the law does not always recognize the intention behind an action that violates the law. And those it does recognize, such as self-defense for an example, tend to become codified into the law itself.
What else would the expected final result be? Would people actually expect a completely different country to allow non-citizens to recieve absolutely all of the benefits of citizens without actually becoming citizens? Of course not. Not even Mexico has free-ranging rights for non-citizens, so why should people who are not American citizens expect the same from this country? It seems to me that this is among the largest double-standards in the known universe.
And now for the second misconception I boldfaced in the article: that the people who started this country were themselves "without documents" just like modern illegal immigrants. For this, we must naturally delve into the history of this country. Particularly, we must delve into the concept of colony. From the definition as found in the American Heritage dictionary:
A group of emigrants or their descendants who settle in a distant territory but remain subject to or closely associated with the parent country.Got that part? Good. For people who went through the American education system, this is an obvious point to make, yet it is obviously lost on the person quoted in the article.
This country was started off by subjects of the British Crown. The land of the original 13 Colonies was part and parcel of the British Crown, and the people living on it were subjects of King George the Second, by the Grace of God, King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc. and it was all considered to be one great big country. (Aside, of course, for certain misunderstandings, misconceptions, and that whole rebellion thing. This has been the history of the American Revolution condensed into 20 words or less, and my high school history teacher rolls over in her grave.) As such, they needed no documentation, just as we need no documentation to move from California to Florida.
(Admittedly, many Native American tribes would consider a vast majority of us to be descended from undocumented immigrants. After all, they were living here at the time, and suddenly all these palefaced strangers show up and start pretending like they own the place. Therefore, I will accept this type of argument from a Tribal member. I'm not too unreasonable.)
For a hypothetical example, what would happen if the State of Alaska was to suddenly declare itself independent from the United States? Would those people currently living in Alaska be considered as being "without documentation"? I doubt it. Of course, it would all depend on what kind of citizenship determinations that they would settle upon in an entirely hypothetical situation such as the one I described.
Indeed, aside from the current situation, there has only been one series of "illegal" immigration that I can think of: the slave trade. After all, I highly doubt that a bunch of African tribal people decided to wait in line to be densely packed into ships, fed only at subsistence levels, whipped, beaten, raped, sold into servitude for the rest of their lives, whipped and beaten some more, and forced to live in what we would now call inhumane conditions until the day they dropped dead. So of course, by modern standards, they must have been "without documentation", right?
Personally, at least two sets of my ancestors came here via Ellis Island. (I haven't researched the geneological records of my mother's side of the family yet. That will be my next big project over the next few years.) They went through the lines. They answered the questions. They watched as other, not-so-fortunate souls boarded a ship to take them back to the countries they came from. They made it through the immigration process.
So why can't you? It takes too long? Fine. So don't get mad when you get called out for jumping the line.
The only illegal immigrants I have any positive viewpoints towards are those who were children when their parents decided to cross the border. They had no choice in the matter and, as such, should be given the benefit of the doubt. The rest of them, however, can wait in line.
It starts over there. Currently, there are a little over 10 million people in front of you, so you might want to take a good book while you wait. If living in America means that much to you, then you should go about it in the right way.
UPDATED 27.03.2006 0329:
NewMexiKen brings up something in the comments that I've heard about before, and I feel it needs mentioning. "Or perhaps we should give California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Texas back to Mexico." This "original ownership" argument has been brought up before. With these lands, the United States has become a great country. But with these lands, would Mexico have become a great country as well? In the very next sentence, Ken says that they were taken by "military force" which, according to both my memory of various American History classes (Admittedly faulty at best.) and this synopsis provided by HistoryGuy.com, was an expansion of the conflict from when the Republic of Texas declared it's independence from Mexico. (Remember the Alamo?) So shots were already being fired before the American army even got into the conflict. We did not get into that war with the goal of gaining all these territories, but to defend the territorial rights of people who chose to join the United States. Instead, we ended the war by saying "Okay, you give us this or we keep kicking your butts all the way to Honduras." Which, in the resulting Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, ended up with the United States paying fifteen million dollars in reparation for that territory.
That and it is a route that is too easily taken into a reductio ad absurdum argument, such as giving Mexico back to the Aztecs, Mayans, and Olmecs. After all, the lands of Mexico were forcefully taken by Spain, weren't they, and wasn't that just as illegal? Which, of course, would next shove the entirety of North, Central, and South American governments back towards the European colonial powers, because our various wars of independence were taking lands by force, who would then have to revert control of those lands to non-Indo-Eurpoean-language-speaking persons. (See? Couldn't resist it, could I.) So unless you speak Nahuatl fluently...
And would moving the current border north a few hundred miles do anything to change the current situation? Seriously, this is a question that begs for an answer to the question: Would the rest of the United States continue to draw illegal immigration should this happen? More likely than not, yes. It has been found that Idaho, Virginia, and North Carolina have their own "undocumented worker" difficulties, and they aren't within the land boundries as determined by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago, are they? The draw is not the land, or the riches, but the way of life (and particularly the opportunities to improve upon said ways of life) that are the draw for illegal immigrants to jump the line.