“No Human Being is Illegal”

Today, there was a rally in the Diag by a student organization called Migrant and Immigrant Rights Advocacy (MIRA), as I am sure many of you saw. MIRA is an immigrant justice group, which today was protesting the pending deportation of a Mexican immigrant and Ann Arbor resident named Lourdes. Throughout the day, MIRA sought signatures of a petition on Lourdes’ behalf, while also protesting the classification of undocumented immigrants as “illegal”.

MIRA protesters in the Diag

From speaking with a member of the organization, I learned that Lourdes’ visa recently expired and she did not leave the country, nor does she wish to, because she has three children who were born in the United States and are American citizens. The MIRA member also told me that recently, the police raided Lourdes’ house without a warrant, arrested and deported Lourdes’ husband on the spot, and had her sign papers that put into motion her deportation process. Both Lourdes and her husband, I was told, held steady jobs and are able to support themselves monetarily. Articles from a separate protest in support of Lourdes here and here.

Admittedly, I don’t know all of the facts, so it is hard for me to say whether or not Lourdes should be deported. But using Shklar’s definition of citizenship, we can determine, per Shklar whether or not Lourdes is a citizen.

We know by now that Shklar bases citizenship on voting and standing, and working and earning. Regarding voting, Shklar would say that Lourdes, as an undocumented immigrant, is clearly not a citizen because she does not possess the right to vote. Subsequently, she lacks standing as she does not even have the right to remain in this country.  Regarding earning, however, Lourdes did work, earn and have monetary independence. Shklar has explicitly stated, “We are citizens only if we ‘earn’” (p. 67). Lourdes has earned in this country, yet she is being deported. So what is she?

Seemingly, Lourdes is in an in between state of citizenship, half within the realm and half excluded. She earns, yet she can’t vote. And because she can’t vote, and lacks legal standing as a citizen, she can’t stay in this country. Effectively, the government is saying she is less of a citizen than the millions of people who possess the vote, but are unemployed and do not earn. These people would not be considered citizens by Shklar either, yet are able to remain in this country.

I do think the multifaceted requirements to Shklar’s citizenship prove problematic in situations such as this one, where Lourdes is a half-citizen. It would be interesting to see what Shklar would say about someone like Lourdes, and whether or not she deserves to be deported. Certainly, she is not a citizen in the legal sense of the word, and that is why she is being deported. But she is an earner, so does she deserve to be deported? I know it’s a loaded question, but what do you guys think? Citizen or not? Deported or allowed to stay?

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3 Responses to “No Human Being is Illegal”

  1. stephmfarr says:

    This is a loaded question indeed, but a very interesting of Shklar’s notion of citizenship. I believe Shklar would argue that Lourdes was not a citizen, because she did not have the right to vote. Much like Douglass, earning a wage or even “doing citizenship things” does not make one a citizen. Without that feeling of belonging that accompanies standing, Lourdes would not be a true citizen in Shklar’s opinion. Knowing very little about Lourdes case, I would wonder what barriers to becoming a citizen had been in place for her? If she had three children in America, I would hope that she had time to apply for permanent residency- if, for whatever reason, she was unfairly prevented from becoming a citizen before deportation, then I think she was quite mistreated. If she herself neglected to become a citizen, perhaps the deportation isn’t as unfair a punishment after all.

  2. nmajie says:

    I would also agree that Shklar would not consider Lourdes a citizen. Regardless of if she has a job or not (thus is earning or not), her inability to vote implies that she is not a citizen. I believe that in order to be a citizen under Shklar’s terms it is necessary to have a legal status (i.e. valid US citizenship); however, having this legal status does not imply automatic citizenship. In a sense, the basic legal status is the “level of entry” for the steps toward citizenship according to Shklar. One of the main reasons why Shklar believes that the right to vote is so essential is because it implies a sense of standing in society both politically and socially. Without this basic legal right, it is near impossible to have standing in society.

    Taking this into account, however, I’m at odds with the decision by the government to deport Lourdes. After reading the two articles about her story, it is difficult to come to a conclusion simply because the details of her story are not fully explained. However, since she has lived here for 14 years, has three children, and a steady job, it does seem unfair for her to be deported. In Shklar’s terms, she is halfway to becoming a citizen, so she should be given the opportunity to complete the process. Just because she is not a legal American citizen, that does not give all the grounds necessary to support her deportation. On the other hand, I agree with the comment above that if she neglected to ever attempt to become a citizen, then possibly deportation is not completely unfair. It was her responsibility to take action to become a citizen.

  3. chrisjay44 says:

    First of all, let me say I think this is a very heartbreaking story. I personally don’t think it is right to deport someone after they have had children in this country. What is going to happen to the children? Their father was already deported. Do I think she should be a citizen, well if she takes all the necessary steps in order to become one. But I do thinkher vista should be extended until her kids are at least 21 years old. However, those are just my opinions. Shklar on the other hand would think differently. Although she works and earns, she doesn’t not have the right to vote and therefore would not be considered a citizen.

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