Immigrants and Bikes

I’ve seen the argument that DACA recipients are like “kids whose parents stole a bike and think they should get to keep it.” I think that’s a flawed analogy for many reasons.

But, let’s say that your parents acquired a bike in violation of some criminal or civil law. This includes kids whose parents stole the neighbor kid’s bike at gunpoint, parents who bought the bike not knowing that it was stolen, and parents who received the bike in compensation for work, were therefore supposed to pay taxes on it, and didn’t (some deliberately, some who honestly forgot or didn’t realize). The whole range of major to minor offenses, both criminal and civil, both deliberate and inadvertent.

Whatever your parents did, you had no control over it. You may have known that something was shady about your bike, or you may have been blissfully unaware. You just got a bike. With that bike, you got a paper route when you were 10 or 12. From that paper route, you built up some savings. Later, at 16, you used the bike to commute to your part-time job at the grocery store. You kept saving and eventually bought an adult-size bike, which you still ride. You went to college or trade school. Your paper route and grocery wages didn’t pay for the whole thing, of course, but they helped. And that second bike saved you an awful lot of gas money while you were in school. Even if you’d paid for the second bike another way, you probably wouldn’t have had the confidence or skill to bike commute in college, if not for all that time you’d spent on the first bike as a kid.

You get a job and start building an adult life. Maybe you get married and have kids, maybe it’s just you and your cat. Maybe you buy a house.

One day, a government official comes to your door and tells you that because of the way your bike was acquired, it’s now forfeit. Your second bike, which you still have and ride, is also forfeit. In fact, all of your assets are going to be taken by the government, regardless of their relationship to the bike. You have a choice. You can leave your current hometown, job, friends, and family, and start your life over from scratch with nothing. Or, you can go to jail. Indefinitely. Eventually, maybe after several years, you will have the chance to explain to a judge why you should not have everything taken from you and get to stay where you currently live. Because you yourself aren’t being charged with a crime, you have no right to a lawyer.

Regardless of the crimes or civil offenses committed by the parents, or when the child became aware of them, is this a just and reasonable punishment? Because that’s what we do when we deport people.

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