the enforcement-only option

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Dec 16, 2006

My nephew Jim is a very good driver, with aspirations to join the NASCAR circuit. Last week he was pulled over by a state trooper, who thought Jim's speed-- clocked at 114 mph-- was excessive.

Now notice: nobody was hurt; no harm was done. The road was clear and dry; Jim was fully in control. The fact that he's 14 years old, and doesn't yet have his driver's license, is a technicality that should not obscure these facts. Jim's lawyer issued a statement:

It is regrettable that instead of choosing to implement comprehensive traffic reform that can be just and equitable, we have chosen the enforcement path as our response to the traffic problem.

Hauling Jim down to police headquarters, where he was separated from his parents, was an "inhuman" act, the lawyer said. Waxing eloquent, he continued:

I believe that we need a strong, clear and fair traffic policy. It must serve our country's security and prosperity and at the same time be based on the moral values on which all our lives must ultimately rest.

OK, I made up the story. But the quotes (slightly altered) are real. Substitute "immigration" where you see "traffic," and you have the gist of the statement issued by Bishop Arthur Tafoya of Pueblo, Colorado, condemning the "inhuman" federal raids on meat-packing plants where illegal immigrants, using false IDs taken from real citizens, were employed.

Bishop Tafoya said that it was wrong to arrest the illegal workers, wrong to have a law that required them to provide proof of legal residence, and wrong to say that when they gave the names and Social-Security numbers of actual US citizens, they were engaged in identity theft. If the bishop said that it's wrong to break immigration laws, and wrong to pretend that you're someone else, those comments didn't make the paper.

Now think back to my fictional nephew Jim. If he really could operate a car safely at 114 mph, should the law recognize his skill? You could make that argument. Some moralists, however, would make the novel argument that the laws on the books should be obeyed. This is what's known as the enforcement-only option.

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