Two days ago, my colleague Chone wrote about Jessica Colotl, a young college student who had been pulled over for a moving violation. She also had no driver’s license, and as police looked further into her case, this pre-law senior turned out to be an illegal alien — her parents had brought her here from Mexico when she was 11. She had attended public schools, then been admitted to Kennesaw State University.
According to her supporters, this is an outrage. She was pulled over for a minor moving violation, and her registration had an old address — she hadn’t updated it. And since she was an illegal alien, of course she didn’t have a driver’s license.
There’s an old aphorism that there is no such thing as a single lie. As soon as a lie is questioned, it almost demands more lies to protect it. Similarly, Colotl might not have been guilty of the “original sin” of entering the country illegally — her parents brought her, and only an idiot would hold a child responsible for the actions of their parents — but she is responsible for her own actions since she became an adult.
The original charge against Colotl, the one that drew the attention of the police, was “impeding the flow of traffic.” The particular statute seems to cover stopping in an intersection (causing gridlock), blocking traffic, going too slow, or in general being a pain in the ass to other drivers. It’s a piddling charge, and I’m sure most of us have done that sort of thing in our lives. (Personally, I remember with great chagrin the last time I entered an intersection I wasn’t sure I could get through, and spent an embarrassing amount of time blocking traffic. And I’ve cursed out others for doing just that.)
So, should Colotl be deported for this incredibly trivial motor vehicle violation? No.
Likewise, she hadn’t updated her registration after moving. That’s something else I’ve done, and it is technically providing a false address to the police. In most cases, it’d get you a scolding or perhaps a fine, unless she actively gave her old address to the police. Again, not the sort of thing you throw someone out of the country over.
But she was also driving without a license. Yes, as an illegal alien, she wasn’t eligible to have one. But dammit, there’s a line in an old Bob Dylan song: “to live outside the law you must be honest.”
When you’re already a wanted person, you have to toe the line even tighter. You have to be incredibly paranoid and follow every single law as best as you can. You have to make certain you don’t get caught breaking any laws and drawing the attention of the police. And when you’re an illegal alien, whose very presence is a violation of the law, you have to be exceptionally careful.
Colotl was driving without a license. That is a serious offense, and “I couldn’t legally get one” is no excuse. If you can’t get a license legally, don’t drive. Period.
But her entire story raises a host of questions that no one else seems to want to ask. Wizbang commenter (and occasional PITA) “bobdog” raised quite a few in a comment on Chone’s piece. Since he was recently a pain in my own ass, I’m going to steal his and expand upon them.
She was driving her own car, which she did legally register (albeit didn’t keep up to date, but the registration was current). That’s good. She didn’t have a driver’s license (which, as noted, is bad), but one needn’t have a license to register a car.
But did she have the legally mandated insurance on that car? That raises an interesting dilemma — as an unlicensed driver, she’s pretty much presumed to be at fault in any accidents she gets into, as she has no legal right to even be on the road.
How did she get the car? She couldn’t work legally, so she had no legal income. Her parents are still also illegal aliens, so they can’t legally work either — certainly not enough to afford vehicles.
How did she pay her tuition? She was granted in-state tuition, which reduces the cost of her education, but again that’s a significant amount of money.
As part of the admission process, KSU verified that she was a resident of Georgia to qualify for in-state tuition — a highly significant savings. Why doesn’t the school also verify that the would-be student is also here legally? I am personally rankled that she was accorded better treatment than I, a United States citizen, would receive.
Did Ms. Colotl have an on-campus job as part of her student aid? I knew a lot of kids who used “work study” funds to get through school. Did the school verify her eligibility to work then?
Did she have any job while going to school? Again, if so, how did she pull that off?
Once she graduated from KSU with her pre-law degree, and then completed her law degree, what the hell did she plan to do with it? She can’t work legally in the United States, and I can’t imagine an illegal alien being admitted to any bar. Her only hope for pursuing her “dream” of being a lawyer in the United States would have been for an amnesty program of some sorts. Absent that, she’s going to be another “undocumented,” unhireable worker with a fancy degree heavily subsidized by the people of Georgia.
But the one thing that offends me most is this statement from one of her lawyers:
Her criminal defense lawyer, Chris Taylor, said Friday that his client’s case is a perfect example of why U.S. immigration law needs reform.
“Jessica may not have the documents that show that she’s an American citizen, but she’s an American,” Taylor said. “She’s an American in her heart because she believes in the values of this country.”
No, Mr. Taylor, being an American isn’t simply feeling like one and wanting to be one. Being an American is defined as citizenship, which falls into two simple categories.
If you were born here, you are an American by birthright. You have documentation to prove it. And unless you renounce it, you will be a citizen until the day you die.
If you were not born here, you can be naturalized. You can ask to become an American. You demonstrate your respect for the nation by following all the rules, passing all the tests, and proving that you are worthy of the privilege of becoming an American.
Ms. Colotl is a citizen of Mexico. She has, apparently, never taken a single step towards changing that in the three-plus years she was here illegally. And she was fully aware of her illegal status, which interest in a legal career even more intriguing.
An argument can be made that her situation is tremendously unjust. And I am sympathetic to that. But the original “sin” at the root of her problem was the actions of her parents. And while, as I said, we should not punish her for their offense, nor should we allow her or they to benefit from it.
Ms. Colotl’s grievance is with her parents, for engineering the situation she now finds herself in. And as sympathetic as her plight may be, it simply isn’t our responsibility to make amends.
No, our responsibility is to the countless other would-be Americans who are following the rules and trying to gain citizenship the right way. To reward a “line-cutter” like Colotl or her parents would be a gross insult to all those others, and they do not deserve that.
No, they deserve our apprecation and our respect.