Being Illegal is NOT a Crime

In the next series of blog posts, I want to cover the issue of criminality and crime surrounding the notion of ‘illegal immigration.’ Hopefully, some of the information is new and compelling, and makes for an interesting read.

Contrary to popular belief, maintaining ‘illegal’ presence in the United States is NOT a crime. Why do I feel compelled to note this today? Because I am tired of reading comments like “illegal immigrants are criminals, they should be deported!” Or “why are these students even allowed to register in our schools, they should be handed over to INS, prosecuted and deported.” Even worse are the misguided blog posts now and then that hype the criminal element of illegal immigration, depicting us as rapists and murderers who are responsible for the new crime wave and overcrowding jails and prisons. Never mind the fact that crime rates have declined steadily for the past two decades and there isn’t a preponderance of evidence to prove that immigrants, or illegal aliens, commit more crimes than Americans in general.

Lesson 1 – Being in this country illegally is not a criminal offense. It is a civil infraction. Deportation proceedings are NOT criminal proceedings; they are civil proceedings. See the video by Rudy Guiliani who dispels the myth of illegal immigration being a crime in the United States.

Now here is another point to ponder till tomorrow: if being ‘illegal’ is not a crime, should we step back for a moment and call the notion of ‘illegal immigrant’ a misnomer and a misguided term used to label and dehumanize migrant workers, undocumented students and our families? A motorist that runs the red light is not called an illegal driver so why are we calling migrants that live in the United States without proper documentation, ‘illegal immigrants’ and consequently, criminals?!

Tomorrow, we will expand more on the power of discourse, labels and the reclaiming of identity.

Disclaimer – I am by no means, justifying ‘illegal immigration’ by playing with words. I am simply pointing out that most people have already been played with words, including us. Our discourse has been shaped by the opposition and those in power, and in order to move past misguided perceptions, we need to reshape the dialogue on immigration and set some facts right.

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