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Orange County | Dana Parsons

Crossing the Border of a Legal Argument

September 05, 2003|Dana Parsons

Let's not dance around the subject: There are far too many of them in our midst. Like you, I see them every day of the week and I'm sick of them. Their continued flouting of the law is a slap in the face to society.

Yes, they're fathers and brothers and sisters and might otherwise be perfectly fine people. But they're still lawbreakers. Are we a nation of laws or not?

What example does this set for our kids? They know what the laws are, yet they see these people brazenly defying it, usually without consequences. You couldn't blame the kids for thinking that laws don't mean much.

They're in every community, from Santa Ana to Newport Beach to Fullerton. Teenagers, adults, it doesn't seem to matter. They can't plead ignorance; they know exactly what they're doing. They act as if they own the place.

Law-enforcement officials say they're doing the best they can, but that there are just too many of them. Sounds like an excuse to me.

I'm talking, of course, about speeders. Year after year, they're the leading cause of traffic accidents, which means they cost us millions of dollars. That's before we even start counting the dead bodies and suffering they may leave in their wake.

Oh ... wait a second. You thought I was talking about another group of people?

Maybe you thought I was talking about those flagrant lawbreakers who cross the U.S. border every day -- those scofflaws on their way to doing horrible things like digging our ditches, building our houses, cleaning our houses, working our crops, taking care of our children, cooking our food.

OK, I'm too cute for my own good, but isn't it odd that that some of the loudest opponents of illegal immigration say they're angry because the perpetrators are, by definition, criminals? Our laws are in place for a reason, they say, and they shouldn't be violated.

I agree. That's when I ask those high-minded folks if they ever exceed the freeway speed limit.

They call me a chowderhead and say the issues are different. How? They can argue that the immigrants may cost society some money, but they can't argue that the immigrants don't give anything in return. Because they can't argue that, they then fall back on the fact that they're breaking the law, period, end of discussion.

I agree that people shouldn't break the law. I just balk when people build their argument on an obey-the-law foundation but wink at other violations -- like speeding -- every day.

Maybe the painful truth is that when a law can't realistically be enforced or when large numbers of people don't even want it enforced (such as all those Californians who benefit from cheap, illegal-immigrant labor), it's time to review the laws.

I don't like open borders, but we can't seem to control them. Does that mean we quit trying to put sanctions on illegal immigrants and acknowledge they're providing services and paying taxes? Yes, that's what it means.

There's no disputing that illegal immigrants cost taxpayers some money, but banish them from the Southern California landscape and see what happens to your personal out-of-pocket expenses for things like food or child care.

What I'd really like is for someone -- maybe one of these governor hopefuls -- to help Californians of all stripes make peace with illegal immigration. The issue rankles large numbers of people to their very core. Mental health experts will tell you that's no way to go through life.

Once California begins climbing out of its malaise, why not climb all the way out and put this immigration issue behind us, once and for all?

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Dana Parsons' column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. He can be reached at (714) 966-7821, at dana.parsons@latimes.com or at The Times' Orange County edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626.

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