Remember when your English or history teacher back in high school figured out which side of an issue you leaned toward and then, out of sheer spite and/or teaching acumen, had you take the opposite side in the debate? You'd end up scratching together a few gray-area points and then arguing the heck out of them. This is all I could think of when reading Ernesto Portillo Jr.'s column in the Arizona Daily Star a few Sundays back.
It was titled "Missing mud flap leads to possible deportation." It should have been titled "Missing pieces of the story lead to false impression of nobility." According to the story, 27-year-old Jesus Ramon Gonzalez was driving along minding his own business when he got pulled over by a Tucson police officer because the truck Gonzalez was driving didn't have mud flaps.
(According to Arizona law, common pickup trucks do not require splash guards unless they have been modified "from the original bumper height design to raise the center of gravity of the pickup truck." All it says in the column is that Gonzalez was driving a "Chevy truck," so we don't know whether it required splash guards or not. On this point, there are three possibilities. Either his truck required splash guards, or it didn't require splash guards and he got pulled over for nothing, or he got pulled over for something else and claimed that it was because of splash guards. We may never know.)
What we do know is that after Gonzalez got pulled over, he was found not to have a valid driver's license (which is a crime) and he got arrested. While at the Pima County Jail, Immigration and Customs Enforcement checked on his legal status and put him in the system for possible deportation. This sucks for him because he's got three kids and a sister, and a dad who needs an operation. We're supposed to feel crappy right about now, but it turns out that there's more.
By Portillo's own account, the "sympathetic" central character in this piece:
• Had a serious involvement with illegal drugs.
• Was either driving on a suspended license or with no license, depending on which part of the article you're reading. Both are crimes.
• Had served two years in prison and then;
• Had been deported to Mexico upon his release from prison.
After reading the column, all I could think was "And I'm s'posed to feel sorry for this motherf-----?!" (I'm sorry; I often think in the vernacular.)
Portillo is a talented wordsmith, but since he didn't have much to go on in terms of actual facts, he just threw everything at the wall in the hope that something might stick. He wrote: "...Gonzalez returned home (to Tucson) after being deported." Well, I'm sorry, but if you committed a crime and then got deported, home is wherever your sorry butt ended up.
Portillo went out his way to let the readers know that Gonzalez's father and Gonzalez's three kids (the eldest of whom is an eyebrow-raising 12 years of age) are all U.S. citizens, but never mentioned the main character's citizenship (which couldn't have been U.S. because he got deported). The reader is left to determine how everybody else in the family is here legally but Gonzalez isn't. Call me a cynic, but my best guess is that he was too busy being involved in illegal activity and fathering children at the age of 15 to learn that there are 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Gonzalez's father is quoted as saying, "He deserves a second chance." He got a second chance when they let him out of prison. Nowhere does it say that he deserves a second chance to be in this country illegally.
I guess Portillo tried to make it an indictment of what's left of SB 1070, which was a dumb, reactionary law. It was so bad a law that the right-tilting U.S. Supreme Court gutted most of it. The Tucson City Council doesn't want its own police force to enforce what's left of the law. But this isn't about a bad law. Neither is it a matter of a law "tearing families apart." I hate that argument. You don't get to break a law and then argue for humanitarian relief for a situation that is a direct result of your having broken the law in the first place. That's like the kid who kills his parents and then pleads for mercy because he's suddenly an orphan.
I've been politically liberal all my life. But I'm not one of those guys who says, "I'm an old-school liberal and now they're moving the goal posts on me." I understand that times change, situations change and maybe even the definition of liberal might change somewhat. What doesn't change is the definition of stupid. This guy has led a wayward life and it would be stupid of me to feel sorry for him.
Maybe it's my rough upbringing, but I've never had a soft spot for the guy who smokes crack, beats his wife, robs a liquor store and then finds The Lord. I prefer the story of the person who does things right from the jump. If you're looking for the poster child for immigration reform, please use somebody in the latter category.