A Challenge to Law-Abiders
Other kids were standing over the kindergartner’s assigned seat, yelling that Xander was slumped over.
“Help, he’s not moving,” she recalled during a recent court hearing. “We can’t wake him up.”
So she ran to the bus, up the steps and to the landing. The driver told her she couldn’t get on the bus. It’s against the law.
Keener kept going. “My focus was on my son,” she told a judge.
What happened on that bus Dec. 15 has earned Keener a misdemeanor charge of unlawfully entering a school bus. She’s now awaiting trial in Perry County Court.
Here’s the challenge: If you have ever insisted that immigrants shouldn’t enter the country illegally — because it’s against the law — tell me how you differentiate this woman’s case.
I invite whatever rationales you can come up with, but I’ll warn you. For every one of them, I’ll happily answer: “It’s against the laaaawwwwwww!”
UPDATE: I see now some people aren’t understanding this post. My point is well expressed by RTod, who writes:
[T]here is a growing strategy I hear a lot on talk radio, for those advocating a wall/border patrol/etc. This strategy is that when ever the opposing view point makes an argument of any kind, or ventures into visualizing how the immigration system might be changed, or really says anything at all, the reply is:
“But it’s *illegal.*”
I think it’s this particular strategy that Jason is making fun of.
This is it. The argument “it’s illegal” is only sometimes a telling one. Clearly not always. The reason we can’t always rely on it is because it begs the question of whether the law itself is just. The justice of our immigration system is precisely the issue that pro-immigration folks (like me) are trying to raise.
If “it’s illegal” were a slam dunk argument, then it would apply in this case too. It doesn’t, so it isn’t. Sometimes laws really are unjust.
To add a further complication, however, sometimes the common sense that we use to amend the law can also be grossly unjust. RTod writes:
Recy Taylor was a 24 year old woman walking home from church with friends when six men pulled up in a car, forced her into at gunpoint, and drove her a few miles away. You can probably guess what all six men did to her at gun and knife point, repeatedly along with a savage beating, before dropping her off back near where they had picked her up.
There were many witnesses to her being picked up, and since it happened in the small town of Abbeville, everyone who had seen the perpetrators knew exactly who they were. With all the evidence at hand, it should have been an easy trip up the river (or the chair) for all six of the rapists.
However, unfortunately for both Recy and justice, the town of Abbeville was in Alabama and the year the crime was committed was 1944. After reviewing the case, the police and prosecutors made a determination similar to the one we might have wished those in charge of the school bus fiasco had made: Sure, if you want to be nit-picky, the brutal abduction and gang-rape was *technically* against the law; but these were upstanding white boys and she was black, and so really what harm was done? After all you can’t legislate morality, and why try to prosecute laws that go against the natural order of things? So they walked…
I always think of this case when people argue that government officials should just use common sense when deciding when to either follow or ignore the law. Common sense can lead people to funny places.
It’s a very good point. The written law is an attempt to express our common sense of justice in words, in a way that can be the most generally agreed upon. Sometimes the law fails, and sometimes our attempts to “improve” it are the real problem. If all that were needed were common sense, there would be no need for a written law. And if all that were needed were a written law, then we would have no need of common sense. Clearly neither is the case.