Friday, April 14, 2006

Liberty and Justice For All?
By Chanel

AP English 11

April 14, 2006

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door! (Lazarus)

This is the famous saying that is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty that welcomes immigrants into America, “The Land of Opportunity”. Currently, it seems as if immigrants are far from being welcomed into our great melting pot. In fact, the new proposed legislation, HR4437, punishes illegal immigrants who are hard working members of our society. It criminalizes not only undocumented people, but anyone who “’assists’ an individual without documentation ’to reside in or remain’ knowingly or with ‘reckless disregard’ as to the individual’s legal status” and they “would be liable for criminal penalties and five years in prison.”(Justice for Immigrants) This proposed law will criminalize many innocent and hardworking members of society and hurt our country’s economy.

Not only will this bill not do anything to help our economy, instead it will actually drive our economy down. As it stands now, if an undocumented person is caught in the United States, that individual would be deported and will have simply committed a civil violation. If HR4437 passes and becomes a law, that same person would now be a felon and have to spend up to five years in federal prison. Also, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would be allowed to continue to detain any undocumented persons after they are released from prison on the assumption that they are “a dangerous alien”, even though this is violating the Supreme Court rulings that bar “indefinite detention.” (Legislative Analysis) In the state of California, in the year 2003 the minimum annual cost to keep an inmate was $25,327. (United States Department of Justice) In the year 2005, also in California, the cost of an inmate for the year increased to $26,690. If the annual per-inmate cost were to stay the same for the next five years, and an undocumented person was to be arrested and incarcerated for five years, it would cost the taxpayers of the state of California a minimum of $133,450 for that one person. This dollar figure does not include the cost of medical care, surgeries, or any other miscellaneous expenses. With California’s large deficit, it is one of the last states that should agree with this costly bill.

It is a huge part of human nature to strive to do the best possible and protect family. Once upon a time, America had the nickname of the Land of Opportunity. That name actually meant something. People knew that they could come to the United States of America and not have to suffer under a corrupt government; they had the opportunity to have a better life. That dream seems to be quickly deteriorating. With HR4437, that hope is gone. People who come to the United States fleeing corrupted governments and just want the best for themselves and their families will be felons. If they are undocumented, these individuals will be locked behind bars with some of the worst and most violent criminals in our country.

Even law-abiding, document-carrying citizens of the United States will become felons due to HR4437. Doctors, priests, teachers, social workers, and many more people will be in violation of the law for associating with any undocumented persons. (Chavez) If a doctor sees an illegal immigrant woman in her pregnancy, if a priest give an illegal immigrant a jacket or sits in a confessional with one, if a teacher allows for an undocumented child to sit in their classroom, or if a social worker helps an undocumented family, then all those people are breaking federal law even if they had no idea of the legal status of these people.

On the fourth of July in the year 1776, 56 of the colonial leaders got together and wrote one of the arguably most important documents in the history of our country, the Declaration of Independence. This document set out the main reasons why the thirteen colonies should be independent from Great Britain. The majority of this piece of writing was a list of all the terrible things that King George III had done to the colonists and it successfully showed just how unfair and how much of a tyrant he was. “He [George III] has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of the new Appropriations of Lands.” (Declaration of Independence) It seems as if the colonists would have disagreed with HR4437, seeing as it fits under this description in our own Declaration. Now the government is attempting to control who comes into this country just as King George III did in the dawn of our nation. This proposed legislation goes as far as to declare that the United States of America will refuse admittance all together to any country who will not accept the return of immigrants who have committed any crime in the United States. This includes countries such as China, Vietnam, and Cuba. (Justice for Immigrants, 2005) Not only are we going to strictly control who comes into this country due to the assumption that an immigrant could be a potential terrorist, but it will refuse to allow any nationality admittance. Is the U.S.A. trying to create a perfect race of citizens as Adolf Hitler attempted in the twentieth century?

HR4437 must be stopped. It will hurt our nation’s economy and turn honest people into felons. If this passes, families will be ripped apart and lives will be ruined. If HR4437 becomes a law, this country can no longer honestly say that we have the good of the people at heart. HR4437 is a terrible way to thank our forefathers for the effort they went through to create a government that has “liberty and justice for all.”

Works Cited

Chavez, Erica. “Immigrants around nation oppose bill, demand rights.” The Sacramento Bee. (April 11, 2006) A1-A14.

“The Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies.” [Online] 04 July 1776.

Ferris, Sarah. “Youths denounce border proposals.” The Sacramento Bee (01 April 2006): A1-A20.

Justice for Immigrants. “Major Provisions of HR 4437” [Online] 16 December 2005.

Korber, Dorothy. “Unity’s theme at Capital as more U.S. flags flutter.” The Sacramento Bee. (April 11, 2006) A1-A14.

Lazarus, Emma. “New Colossus.” (1883) Located on the Statue of Liberty.

Legislative Analysis. “Legislative analysis of HR4437.” [Online] 23 December 2005

San Francisco Community College District Federation of Teachers. “Cut Corrections Funding, Fund Education.” [Online] 09 April 2006.

United States Department of Justice. “Federal Prison System Operating Cost Per Inmate.” [Online] 09 April 2006.

Note: Chanel is a high school student from Sacramento. This article is posted with permission from the author's parents. ~PSL


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