The Corner

The Flip Side to Illegal Immigration

Forgotten in the latest hype about illegal immigration is the cycle of lawlessness that follows illegal entry into the United States. The simple fact is that once someone chooses to enter the U.S. illegally and remain here illegally, breaking the law, either deliberately or through indifference, becomes easier and habitual: obtaining false IDs, avoiding normal bureaucratic requirements, violating zoning laws, etc. And when the host, whether federal, state, or local government, sends a message that the issue is now entirely political rather than legal, often the illegal immigrant senses that he is (and should be) generally exempt from the mundane laws that others must follow. 

About a few hundred yards from my farm, there are several trailers, and dozens of people living out behind a single-family dwelling, in violation of zoning laws, and general water, sewage, and health codes about outdoor structures. I am currently waiting to hear from authorities that the dogs who bit me last week on a morning bicycle ride prove not to be rabid; the owners, who did not speak English and were not willing to volunteer any information to me, had several dogs without vaccinations, licenses, leashes, etc. who, without their owners’ worry, run into the (busy) road to bite those who happen to pass by.

In essence, in rural central California, the most highly regulated among the states, there are de facto no longer building codes, dog ordinances, health requirements, or any of the basic rules and regulations of a civilized or caring society. To the degree that the state cannot ensure near-instant parity for the arriving impoverished foreign national without English, education, or legality, it is felt to be culpable, without much worry about the new arrival’s responsibility to come legally, learn his adopted country’s language, and follow all his new country’s laws.

Most drivers now assume that there is some chance that in any rural car wreck the other driver may flee the scene, leaving his abandoned vehicle without registration or insurance. You now cannot walk or ride a bike on a rural road you grew up on without fear of being bitten by unleashed dogs without rabies vaccinations; if one finds the addresses and owners’ names amid the trash thrown out weekly alongside rural roadsides, there is a general understanding that the authorities—in a state that shut down 250,000 acres of irrigated farmland out of purported worry for the delta smelt—will not do anything, and wants that known to avoid bothersome calls. In rural California, everything is now seen as open game for recycling and therefore in danger of disappearing—from copper wire to an ancestral iron plow in the yard. I say “everything” since my town’s manhole covers and commemorative bronze plaques on churches and buildings have also been disappearing.

In general, the message of the myriad ramifications of illegal immigration is that the offenders are exempt from any government oversight, the hosts must make accommodations, those who pontificate on the issue live, work, and attend school far from the areas of concern, and to write a brief note about such an illiberal practice as illegal immigration earns the charge of illiberality. Meanwhile, as California faces a $16 billion annual budget deficit, the state legislature is discussing whether we should accept multiple parents as legal entities.

Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

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