… Claire. If things were different, they wouldn’t be the same.
That’s one of my all time favorite quotes from my all time favorite show in the universe. Law & Order. The original. You can tell by the person being spoken to, that it was an early-ish episode; season 5, episode 9, “Scoundrels”. The bad guy had been in prison for a pyramid scheme defrauding hundreds of people of their life savings. He was out on a work release program. Jack McCoy and Claire Kincade were trying to prosecute “Scoundrel” Willard Tappan for bank rolling a conspiracy to murder a lawyer who was going to reveal his continuing schemes. Willard Tappan was played by a soap veteran who had made his bones playing a slinky, slimey villain, so arrogance, greed, and ick come through the small screen with a glint in his eye and the tilt of his head. He does it well and that sentence spoken with just the right amount of hubris has always made me love it and hate it at the same time. Because it’s true, yet I want to kick over it’s traces and scream at it. Punch it in the eye and give it a bloody nose. Make it run home, crying to it’s mama. I don’t like it.
If things were different, they wouldn’t be the same. We all know that. And we’re all frustrated by it to greater and lesser degrees. I think we know the things that could be. The rightness that isn’t. The injustices we see and those we cannot, but rail against anyway.
So it was last month when a tragedy befell my community. In the wee hours of the morning there was a traffic accident. Two cars collided. One car driven by a young man who had imbibed too much the night before and was on his way to …. ? I do not know. But it was likely a day laborer job. A hard work job, sweating in the sun. The other car bore three elderly women driving from Richmond to the Benedictine Monastery. They were/are nuns. None of the people in the cars ever achieved their destination on that August morning. The young man is now in prison awaiting trial. One of the nuns has gone to her eternal home. The other two were hospitalized with grievous injuries.
The young man who was at fault in the accident had also been drinking and his blood alcohol was significantly raised. This was not the first time he had been driving while under the influence and he had had his driving privileges revoked. He should not have been driving. This is true. If things were different, they wouldn’t be the same.
The young man was also in this country without proper documentation.
I do not use the term illegal immigrant for a reason. It is inflammatory and it is wrong. It is also an oxymoron The word “illegal” implies a wrong actively done to someone else; a theft or a rape or a fraud. People who come to this country without going through the proper channels are not always doing those things. Sometimes they then also commit crimes while they are here, but so do our citizens as we see in our very obese prison system. The word immigrant implies that someone is here using the proper channels and will stay. So how can someone possibly be an illegal immigrant? Those who come here without proper documentation are undocumented aliens; strangers in a strange land.
So it is that this young man is and was an undocumented alien who was driving without a license and with several DUI’s to his name. He is still being held by the authorities as charges have been brought against him for felony murder, a charge which holds the possibility of 40 years in prison. The outrage against this young man for his undocumented status is palpable in my community. He is being charged for felony murder (rather than the lesser count of involuntary manslaughter, the usual charge given for a death while under the influence) simply because of where he was born and his lack of papers. He came here with his parents when he was NINE! It’s not as though he had a choice. He is also being charged at the higher count because of his victim, an elderly and saintly nun.
Shortly after this accident happened, a similar accident happened in my community. It was in the wee hours of the morning and two cars collided sending people to their death. Alcohol was involved. This time though, there were no undocumented aliens in one car and no nuns in the other. Simply a couple of intoxicated young (white) men in one car and a young (white) woman in the other. There was one short article commemorating the young people, a few comments and it was over. No outrage. No jacked up prosecutor. Just heartbroken families and grief. Which might be as it should be for all such cases; even those including nuns and undocumented aliens.
This is part of the September Synchroblog discussing Immigration Issues. Please also take some time to read what the following bloggers have to say …
Mike Victorino at Still A Night Owl – Being the Flag
Liz Dyer at Grace Rules – Together We Can Make Dreams Come True
Sonnie Swentson-Forbes at Hey Sonnie – Immigration Stories
Matt Stone at Glocal Christianity – Is Xenophobia Ever Christlike?
Steve Hayes at Khanya – Christians and the Immigration Issue
Ellen Haroutunian – Give Me Your Tired …
Bethany Stedman – Choosing Love Instead of Fear
Pete Houston at Peter’s Progress – Of Rape and Refuge
Joshua Seek – Loving Our Immigrant Brother
Amanda MacInnis at Cheese Wearing Theology – Christians and Immigration
Kathy Escobar at the carnival in my head – it’s alot easier to against immigration reform …
Jonathan Brink – Immigration Synchroblog