Orphan Of The World

The Daily Bruin, the student newspaper for at least part of the University of California, has a rather dispiriting story. It’s the tale of Stephanie Solis, a young woman who has lived in the United States nearly all her life. It wasn’t until she was in college that her parents broke to her the unfortunate news: she was not an American, but a Filipino – and they had brought her to this country illegally.

With those few words, this young quintessential California girl’s life fell apart.

Feeling incredibly betrayed by her parents (and with good reason), she moved out and started struggling on her own, seeking an education and taking what jobs she could to support herself and further her studies. But she has run into barrier after barrier, thanks to her illegal status.

It’s a tough case, and there’s a saying that tough cases make for bad laws.

So, what should be done about her?

First up, her parents need to be punished for their actions. They brought her here illegally, and I find it very hard to believe that Stephanie could be here illegally while they were not illegal. So they need to pay the price for their misdeeds, especially for how they wronged their daughter.

But what about Stephanie?

That’s a tough one.

It seems to me that she is not guilty of the “original sin” here, of entering the country illegally. She was a child — the story is vague on her exact age, and age of entry to the US — and was little more than “baggage” at the point her parents entered the US. So I think it’s appropriate to waive that element.

The instant she discovered she was here illegally, by law she should have reported herself immediately. Instead, she fled her parents and struck out on her own. Not the smartest response, but under the circumstances, eminently understandable. She had just discovered that pretty much her whole life was a lie, and her whole world fell apart on her. She was not in the best state of mind for making rational decisions.

Since then, she has tried to do the best she can. She’s taken menial, under-the-table jobs. She has worked on pursuing her education, taking time off from school to raise the money for the next semester. And she’s managed to keep her nose clean, at least enough to not attract the attention of the authorities.

She’s still breaking laws, though, and that cannot be brushed under the carpet.

Here’s my solution. It would make a lousy general policy, but I believe that her circumstances are unique enough to avoid setting a precedent:

If she turns herself in and pleads no contest to the immigration and labor laws she’s violated, she’s given probation for five years (or so) and ordered to pay back taxes. At that point, she is given provisional legal status to remain in this country, as well as the privilege of legally working. After five years, if she’s stayed out of trouble and at least put a dent in the back taxes, she can request her record be expunged, and then can apply for citizenship.

At the crux of my anger over illegal aliens are a few elements: the “line-cutting” mentality, the sense of entitlement to come to this country and partake of the benefits without respecting the laws and rules, and the selfish disregard for our laws and our borders.

None of these apply in her case.

On the other hand, this nation did nothing to put Ms. Solis in the situation she finds herself in — that was solely the work of her parents. In a strict sense, we “owe” her nothing as compensation for the terrible wrong they did her.

But while we are not obligated to give her anything to atone for their misdeeds, we certainly can give her a chance to earn what she so desperately wants — legal status and, eventually, citizenship.

It won’t be a gift. It’ll take a lot of hard work and effort on her part to win them, and she’ll have the fear of not succeeding hanging over her head for several years while she struggles.

Reading the article, though, I believe she can do it. And when she does succeed, both she and we will be the better for it.

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