The past year, and particularly recent weeks and months, have brought about many questions regarding the rule of law and its role in determining the fate of migrants attempting to cross the United States’ Southern border.
The American legal system can be thought of in two distinct sections: the word of the law and its implementation. That is why the United States has a Constitution and it has the Bill of Rights to follow it. There are rules, and then there are enunciations of the specificities of rules which ensure they are implemented fairly, deliberately, humanely and effectively. The law as it applies to the civil rights of humanity cannot be successfully applied free of feeling or heart because humanity is not free of feeling or heart. The Bill of Rights itself focuses on issues such as freedom of speech, freedom from unreasonable treatment by one’s government, and freedom from unreasonable punishment or pain, all rights put in place to save people from suffering. So why isn’t the American government trying everything it can to save people from suffering?
Many argue that the Bill of Rights does not apply to those people languishing on our Southern border today because they are not American citizens, because they have not passed through the arbitrary set of hoops necessary to become “one of us.” And here, once again, we must confront our usage of the law. What good are laws without humanity to guide them? What better are we than machines if we cannot decide on a case by case basis who needs the protection of our laws and who does not based on their personal situation, not based on their “citizenship status”? There are mothers fleeing certain death with their babies in tow, fathers desperate to work for American businesses just to scrape enough money together to feed their children back home. There is humanity in crisis right on our doorstep, and we have a way to help. We can grant these people some version of salvation after they have crossed through unimaginably dangerous territory to get to our border. That should be our prerogative, and we have the laws in place to make it so.
However, if we collectively listen to the interpretation of the law which comes from current leadership, we will lose sight of our power. As a nation we will become paralyzed by fear and blind to the incredible privilege our foremothers and forefathers have constructed for us; this privilege, to offer relief to those fleeing danger and possible death, is one Americans have fought hard for as we have built a strong and influential legal system. America is powerful, but the possession of power without heart is dangerous and, eventually, destructive. The law is not without heart because its makers are not without heart. We should not let men like Donald Trump convince us otherwise.
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