Paquin: How to prove who’s legal, illegal

Claude Paquin's picture

In this political season, a lot of folks are getting all steamed up over illegal immigration, so I thought it might be helpful to bring a bit of fresh thinking to the subject.

Illegal immigration can take place two ways. One way is to run real quick across the border in a place where no one is looking. That seems to be the way most people think it happens.

But illegal immigration also happens another way. A non-citizen can cross the border at a border crossing point for a special purpose and a limited time, and then abandon his purpose and forget to leave. He (or she) becomes a permanent visitor.

I have crossed the border with Canada by car so many times that I know the routine by heart.

As you pass the U.S. border crossing point on your way out of the U.S., you can wave if you wish, but there’s no one looking at you. Then you slow down to enter a line of cars waiting for a Canadian border services official.

You observe that some of the cars have Canadian auto tags, and others have American tags. It seems to take a bit longer for the Canadians to go through. That’s probably because they are queried a bit more about what they bring back into the country and the possibility they owe Canadian tax on it.

When you reach the border crossing officer, you lower your driver’s side window, and without turning off your engine, you can say this as the officer glimpses at the inside of your vehicle:

“Good morning (or afternoon)! I am accompanied by my wife and we are both U.S. citizens. We are coming into Canada to visit relatives and are planning to stay five days before returning to the U.S. We bring no gifts having a value in excess of sixty dollars, and we have no alcohol, tobacco, firearms or illegal drugs.”

Whereupon the Canadian official may say, “You’ve answered all the questions I would have asked, have a pleasant stay.” After saying, “Thank you,” you press on the gas and go.

A more recent version of this has you handing your passports to the officer at the beginning of your monologue, and receiving them back, unstamped, after they have been scanned into a machine you cannot see.

Less experienced travelers wait for the officer to ask all the questions that would produce the information I provided above, and while a bit more time is consumed the result is the same.

Have you noticed something peculiar about what I stated here? Probably not yet, so we’ll come back to this in a minute.

Coming from Canada to the U.S. by car, the process is quite similar. Here’s the monologue you can engage in as you hand your passports to the officer:

“Good morning (or afternoon)! I am accompanied by my wife and we are both U.S. citizens. We are coming back from visiting relatives in Canada where we stayed five days. We are bringing back a few gifts with mostly sentimental value and merchandise worth about a hundred dollars, and we are bringing back no fruits, vegetables, meat, or other farm products.”

At that point, you may be asked a few questions about the items you acquired in Canada, but chances are the border official will be relieved to see someone so well prepared and will simply wish you a good day when returning your passports. You step on the gas and are on your way. (Just a thousand more miles until you reach Georgia!)

You can pretty much reverse this for Canadians coming into the U.S.

One question that may come into your mind is how many days can I tell the officer I’ll be in his country and still be let in. The answer for someone coming into the U.S. as a visitor from Canada is six months. Thus Canadian snowbirds can go spend the winter in Florida, all the while supporting the U.S. economy, with minimal border-crossing inconvenience.

You still have not noticed what is peculiar about this process, so I will relieve the suspense and tell you.

Many visiting tourists in this country are not given any papers showing they are in the country legally. They have nothing. Zilch. Nada.

So a Canadian tourist drives south through Georgia, on either I-75 or I-95, and for his impatience on being on the road for three days gets a speeding ticket. The arresting officer notices the foreign tag and the foreign driver’s license. Is the officer dealing with an illegal immigrant? How can he know? How can the motorist prove he is in the country legally?

So what’s the matter with the Arizona law making it a crime to be in the U.S. as an illegal immigrant?

How do you prove that you are not an illegal immigrant if you are clearly not a U.S. citizen, and even admit to it, if nobody will give you a simple document showing you are here legally?

The Arizona law, and any others like it, makes sense only if the federal or state government is willing and able to give everyone who is here legally, including citizens who may speak or look like they are “not from around here,” a convenient document (perhaps akin to a driver’s license) establishing their right to be here.

I think I am talking common sense, here, but I am not sure. A lot of people are opposed to our having national identity cards on the ground, I think, that it offends their dignity.

My dignity is offended every time I remove my shoes to go through airport security, but I am smart enough to understand we live in a modern age where my security is best assured by having the other guy remove his shoes. If the other guy’s security depends on my taking off my shoes, I consider it a fair trade.

All the huffing and puffing in the world about illegal immigration won’t do a bit of good in a world of people deprived of common sense. Until we get the equivalent of national identity cards, which I agree seems to bring us closer to a totalitarian state, laws like Arizona’s current law must be seen as deeply flawed and impractical.

Will you agree to our having, and carrying, national identity cards, or not? Think about it.

[A Fayette county resident, Claude Y. Paquin is a retired lawyer and actuary.]

PTC Observer
PTC Observer's picture
Joined: 04/23/2007
Papiere, bitte

Papiere, bitte.

Wohin gehst du?

Sie sprechen mit einem komischen Akzent.

Ihr nicht von hier bist du?

Ihre unter Arrest

Sound familar? Be careful for what you ask for Mr. Paquin.

No to a national ID card!!

AtHomeGym's picture
Joined: 01/18/2007
PTO & Invented "German" version of an immigration stop

Pretty good, but you improperly mix the formal and informal versions of "you" and some verb language--but so what? I applaud your attempt. Of course you do know that such an interview would not most likely happen these days what with mostly no border stops in Europe.

MYTMITE's picture
Joined: 02/14/2008
Well, Claude, I really doubt that many illegal aliens are

driving around with foreign license plates. Most of them have forged papers and if they have a driver's license and car tags they are local and have been obtained, in many cases, illegally from that ring of forgers and many others like it that was featured in the news recently. Illegals coming over know exactly where to go to obtain these bogus documents. Yes, there also are many others who come over on a visitor or student visa for a period of time and for much too long we, as a nation, have been remiss in making sure that these people either renewed their visas legally or moved to deport those who stay illegally. Until we do all the things we should do and enforce the laws we already have on the books, we will continue to have this situation. And, further, as long as employers, like chicken processing plants, carpet manufacturing plants, and yes, even the local roofing companies, and our own landscaping company, continue to hire illegals while our politicians turn a blind eye as they accept the large donations made to their campaigns by those employers we will continue to have this problem on this level. No one seems to have the gonads or desire to change it in spite of all the pretty speeches and rhetoric being spewed, especially at election time. A great place to start would be to outlaw any contributions to any political campaigns, but it 'ain't' gonna happen--not in our lifetime at least.
The amounts of money received and used by politicians to get elected to an office that pays a measly few thousand dollars a year is obscene. Of course we all know that the benefits received once in office far exceed that paycheck and the blind eye turned toward the use of illegals by the companies writing those campaign checks more than make up for that contribution. A perfect example of a symbiotic relationship. And the everyday citizen foots the bill and is the loser in this triangle.

Courthouserules's picture
Joined: 07/02/2010

Well another card for everyone, OK.
Sure would make for another big industry----making false ones.

Just who and when do you ask for papers and who do you not ask? That seems to be the problem in Arizona and even here.

Then how do we ask 30 million illegals and the 30 million Mexicans who ARE legal for their papers and what do we do with them if we can even determine whether or not their papers are fake.

If we see obvious Mexicans roofing a house can we ask for their papers but not the contractor's papers. Why did he hire them anyway---maybe they had fake papers, huh?

Wouldn't it be easier to jail those companies who hire illegals or those who contract someone who hires illegals.
No job, no stay!
Simplicity is not the answer to sorting 30 million illegals from 30 million legals (Reagan forgave a lot of those). AND, what about the hundreds of thousands of kids born here to illegal parents?
Want to raise them for the parents you send back? Want to send American citizens (the kids) back also?
No, just build a fence---that sounds good for a politician to say.

Cyclist's picture
Joined: 05/15/2007
Hey Claude,

I'll let you on a little secret. When a non-citizen enters another country the immigration officer interviews and then stamps the passport with an entry date. The idea here is that this acknowledges that individual as a legal visitor to that country for a defined period.

As for the Canadian and US bilateral entry agreements, passports are not stamped. So to answer your question, if the officer ask that Canadian driver about his or her status all he or she had to do was to show a passport. This is not; however, the case for other countries such as Mexico. Additionally, there are others bilateral agreements with respect to the use of immigration cards rather than traditional passports.

You know this is a pretty simple process, that is, until it became political. Now we seem to be so hamstrung with concerns of the poor person that is here illegally that some have forgotten the bigger picture - this nation's well being.

S. Lindsey
S. Lindsey's picture
Joined: 12/31/2008
CY it is truly amazing how some try to justify

not enforcing something as simple as legal status. Claude is way over thinking it and does not get it.

If you by intent or otherwise come across the border without permission then by Federal Statute you are here Illegally. Entry agreements not withstanding proving ones status if you are here legally is the same as any other Country's requirement.

Cyclist's picture
Joined: 05/15/2007
I know SL,

It's not overly complicated. Every country I have visited - and it has been a few - has laws that have to be followed. Violate those laws, like over staying your visit, and guess what; you get booted out.....period!!!

In my view the answer is to do a better job of controlling the borders and if an illegal gets caught they are booted out. If an employer fails to take due diligence and hires an illegal there should be consequences.

I got to get off this soapbox as it is too close to bedtime.

Davids mom
Davids mom's picture
Joined: 10/30/2005

In my view the answer is to do a better job of controlling the borders and if an illegal gets caught they are booted out. If an employer fails to take due diligence and hires an illegal there should be consequences.

Such a clear-cut solution. Too bad politics and 'business' greed gets in the way! Millions of illegals are in our country - working. (and they have been here for years - long before the present or even last administration)

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