Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Rule Of Law in Chicago & Mexico

In itself I do not find it so troubling that Chicago and Cook County are not systematically enforcing immigration laws, because limited resources should be directed towards apprehending dangerous criminals. And contrary to far right wing narratives, few immigrants, undocumented or otherwise, commit serious crimes. But, I  find it unsettling that given the extent to which immigration laws are violated, we now don't even have the option to choose to systematically enforce them. Given demographic and economic realities, doing so would cause greater damage and dislocation than continued non-enforcement.

While I sympathize with the mostly good and hard working families that have been driven by desperation to cross the border, it is a troubling precedent that a law has in effect been overturned not through the democratic process, but  because the extent of its violation has made it virtually non-enforceable. This is exacerbated by the nature of the Chicago Machine, a patronage system in which individuals and groups believe that their electoral and financial support for a political machine entitles them to economic and political benefits, including immunity from the law. A repeated theme in discussions led by Univision Anchorman Jorge Ramos is that the federal government should enact amnesty, not so much because it serves broad national interests, but because electoral support for Obama has entitled Latinos to it. 

So, in effect the decision to enforce a law has now been determined by its violators and not by the will of the public. Is this not the very phenomena that has rendered Mexico, a country rich in human and natural resources largely ungovernable? The problem is not that Mexico lacks laws and regulations, but the extent to which they are disregarded by the public and the collusion of key segments of the police and politicians, has created widespread impunity for minor and major offenses alike. Is this not the foundation of Mexico's endemic corruption? This holds true for "harmless offenses" like the bootlegging of movies and music, unregulated food vending and littering, as well as more serious violations, like drug trafficking. It has been speculated that the reason why illicit industries are allowed to operate with a considerable degree of impunity is that they now constitute such a significant portion of the economy that their elimination would cause a sharp economic decline in the "lawful sectors" of the economy, like banking and transportation.

I am not for one second comparing undocumented immigration to the drug trade, because whereas the former has offers some economic benefits, the latter is almost entirely destructive. And in no way is an undocumented drywaller or dishwasher comparable to a vicious drug trafficker. But, the underlying principles holds true: the unwillingness or inability of political elites to enforce existing laws and regulations, even ones that we do not entirely agree with, erodes the rule of law. Overtime the social, political and economic repercussions of allowing the rule of law to deteriorate renders cities, states and nations ungovernable, if not unlivable. 

One thing is for certain, we the people cannot expect change to come from our rotten politicians; if we wish to clean up our city and our country, we  must first affirm the rule of law in our daily lives, in our public and private conduct, in the board room and classroom, in the toll booth and voting booth. Whether we are in Chicago or Mexico, we cannot seek to gain rewards and immunity from the law, through the pursuit of political clientelism and expect our politicians to behave any more responsibly. 

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