Aliens: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

This NY Times editorial highlights the fate of two young women in NYC who were arrested and accused of plotting to become suicide bombers.

If there is a real reason to believe that charge, officials are obviously right to have acted. But so far, they have said little about the evidence against the girls, and the girls’ friends and families have offered accounts that suggest the charges could be completely false. NY Times, April 12, 2005

The Detainment blog documents efforts to help free these two women from what appears to be a terrible miscarriage of justice that has the potential of destroying the lives of two innocent people. Since the two women live in the US without papers, the debate about their case centers around the rights and status of undocumented aliens in the US. Saurav posted some facts about the economic contributions of the “undocumented” or “illegal” people living in the US.

Beyond the economic issue, however, there is also another, more important (I think) question about the level of commitment of this society to some fundamentally American principles.

In the U.S. of A, everyone has “certain unalienable rights” Thomas Jefferson and his fellow revolutionaries declared, and added “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Is it not self-evident that it behooves law enforcement and government agencies in general to respect and protect the rights of any human being in this great country? Is the petty, bureaucratic distinction between “legal” and “illegal” aliens not a sham to stir resentment and discontent that serves the rich and powerful? Wealthy mega-corporations like Wal-Mart have a vested interest in keeping a cheap labor pool of undocumented people in America. Most of these people are working hard, get no benefits and lousy pay. They are scared of getting deported, which makes them very vulnerable to all kinds of abuse and exploitation. Yet, the corporations who exploit these men and women, fly large American flags on the 4th of July, but contribute very little on April 15 to support the services this country provides.

The hypocrisy of the “illegal alien” game is an affront to American values that undermines the fabric of this society. Everyone in this country ought to be afforded the same rights and duties, irregardless of their immigration status. But the fear and resentment cultivated by the Bush administration, combined with the greed of corporate America, is gnawing away at the spirit of this great country and ruining the lives of many innocent people.

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