Many people do things that are illegal. Most people speed in their cars; many people drink before their 21st birthday. Some parents will even say that their children are only 11 when they are really 12 so they can pay less to watch a movie. I won’t mention the more serious crimes of which we are all aware.
The crime that people are guilty of when they are in the United States illegally is Entering Without Inspection. This is a misdemeanor crime. That means that it is a minor crime like underage drinking or petty theft. When people cross the border into the United States they are required to check in with Homeland Security.
When a person does not check in with the border patrol they do not become illegal anymore than an underage drinker becomes illegal. A person cannot be illegal. A person can do something illegal; a person can be in the country illegally. A person cannot be illegal.
We would do well to welcome the stranger, believe that all life is sacred and ask some questions. Why do people want to come into the United States? What responsibility do we, as citizens and residents of the United States, have for the conditions in their home country? What responsibility does our government have? Leaving home for a foreign land is never a decision taken lightly. An easy first step we can take in this matter is to treat all with dignity and never refer to a human being as illegal.
Comment posted on NYTimes.com