Killer Immigrants

Damon Winter/The New York Times
There was so much about Donald Trump's speech last night that was dangerous and disturbing, but a little piece of it was also philosophically interesting.  I hasten to add: not in a good way!

Trump's case against illegal immigration partly turns on the fact that sometimes illegal immigrants commit crimes.  He furiously shouted every bit of the speech, but especially ranted about a "border-crosser" who murdered a young woman named Sara Root in Nebraska--someone who had just graduated from college with a 4.0 GPA (he said).  Of course this is very, very awful, but does it create a strong case against illegal immigration?

For some reason, it's tempting to think so, but the logic here is fraught with problems. One issue is whether illegal immigrants commit more crimes than people here legally. Apparently, they don't--in fact, they commit fewer crimes, as David Brooks has pointed out.  I suppose you could say the lower rate doesn't matter, that any crimes committed by illegal immigrants should be held against allowing them to stay or making it harder for them to enter the US.  But there's another issue here.

If the bad deeds of illegal immigrants are a reason to keep them out, then how could you avoid thinking the good deeds of illegal immigrants are a reason to let them in?  A couple of good deed stories were in the news recently--the valedictorians at two high schools turned out to be illegal immigrants.  Even more impressively, if you google "illegal immigrant saves life" you come up with plenty of examples.

A curious inconsistency is that when conservatives talk about abortion, they sometimes have just the opposite focus.  Abortion might have eliminated the best among us.  I hear this sort of thing from students sometimes.  What if an abortion had eliminated Martin Luther King or Steve Jobs or even that genius, Donald Trump?  Tougher immigration laws, on the other hand, would eliminate the worst among us!

No. If you're going think about the crimes committed by illegal immigrants, you really do have to think about their good deeds as well.  You might not think the bad deeds are exactly cancelled out by the good deeds (does one saving-of-a-life cancel out one murder?) but it makes no sense at all to only focus on the bad deeds.

1 comment:

s. wallerstein said...

Trump's version of Sarah Root's death leaves out some details:

‘One more child to sacrifice on the altar of open borders,’ Trump said, briefly touching on someone other than Hillary Clinton and her legacy of ‘death, destruction and weakness’. He was talking about Sarah Root, a 21-year-old Nebraskan who died the day after she graduated from college. In Trump’s phrasing the ‘border-crosser’ who ‘ended the life of an innocent young girl’ might have been a cold-blooded killer and perhaps a rapist. In fact, a drunk driver from Honduras called Eswin Mejia crashed into Root’s car, went to jail, got out on bail and skipped town. Root’s parents, who support Trump, are pushing for a law that would prevent the undocumented from being released from custody when they’re charged with a crime that results in death or serious injury. It’s a sad story, disingenuously presented, but it’s a pure distillation of what got Trump to Cleveland.