Summum Ius, Summa Iniuria: Measuring Mercy in Immigration

The New York Times reports:

“Esmeralda, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico in Alexandria, Va., is trying to find a new place to live with her 2-year-old daughter after her husband was deported to Mexico after a routine check-in at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office. She is now wondering if she should apply for a visa — which could end up in her becoming legal, or put her at risk because it notifies the government of her presence here.”

If this does not rankle your very soul, I am sinfully inclined to believe you do not have one. Those in support of this new surge in immigration enforcement tout the law as some immortal defense against accusation of injustice. They scream for law and order, yet their idolization of the law has brought on a serious disorder and a misunderstanding of the purpose of law. And before I am inundated with memes about how Obama did more, the facts are that he did not. We have not seen this level of deportation. The Obama administration did precisely what conservatives most moan about i.e. those undocumented immigrants who have committed dangerous crimes. Trump has expanded on who gets deported so that women and children get deported as well, even if they are citizens.

Now, I do not say that a nation does not have the right to control who comes through their boarders. Screaming about being pro-open boarders is a strawman. What I am saying is that pursuing the law to the extreme results in extreme injustice. Consider the example of Shylock who pursues the payment of a pound of flesh. Legally, the contract he and Antonio made is sound and Antonio owes Shylock a pound of his flesh. Here we see the law being taken to an extreme and putting a life in danger. Shylock’s murderous demand is check, ironically, by the law itself; since taking a pound of flesh would cause Antonio to die, Shylock would be liable for Antonio’s life and therefore be guilty of murder.

When we push the enforcement of the law to exclusion of all else, we do more damage than good. We want people to be here legally. If our enforcement makes those who are here illegally move further into the shadows, we are working against ourselves. When the advantages of remaining illegal remain greater than the advantages of becoming legal, then we can all admit that our immigration policy is backwards.

We see another example in Javier, who pursue Valjean to extraordinary lengths because he cannot conceive of a law breaker doing anything good. Javier’s persistence in following the letter of the law damages numerous people and, when he sees that a man can change through the mercy of Valjean, it inevitably consumes his life.

If we remain focused on the law being executed without mercy, we see grave injustices. We treat people like they are scum that need to be removed from an otherwise pristine nation, then we are the scum, not them. It is written, after all, “Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor him. The wicked are overthrown by their evildoing, but the righteous find a refuge in their integrity.” Our danger does not come from a now single mother and her toddler; our danger comes from our unwillingness to show mercy. It will eat at us until it eventually consumes our lives. In the end, it is a lack of mercy that will destroy America. Perhaps we should make an Executive Order about that. After all, it worked for Poland.

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