The Real Lie: We’re All Illegal

By Tracy Kronzak Sep 10, 2009

I enjoyed President Obama’s speech last night, and I want to especially thank Representative Joe Wilson for eliminating any possibility of a cogent Republican response. But I’m not satisfied with the new health care plan by any means, and find it especially troubling that the sound of every undocumented person in the United States being thrown under the bus was “YOU LIE.” As if this were a Good Thing. That we’ve been reduced to fighting for a healthcare plan that violates the sanctity of the principle that we all deserve to be healthy, regardless of whether or not we hold citizenship. As if the next time I witness an auto accident, my patriotic duty is to check everyone’s immigration status before I call an ambulance. The real lie here is that we’re all illegal, and there’s no way of reframing this to make it anything but the truth. The United States began as a colony by a colonial empire, yet we behave as if we’ve always been here. As if the sins of our past conquest make us better than the crisis of globalization we’ve helped to create and the people caught within it. The whole notion of “illegal” is an artificial construction designed to dehumanize, deprioritize and deport without any tugging on our American heartstring. I’m not an “illegal” because I’ve run a red light, pirated software, cheated on taxes, or am Queer – because these actions don’t violate the notion that I’m still an American citizen. But take away that citizenship, built on a false sense of global security and conquest, and somehow I’m not human? The problem, to me, is simple: for all of President Obama’s talk about the “character of America,” one of the greatest demonstrations of our country’s character was completely debased: compassion. Our Declaration of Independence, which we crafted on the backs of every American Indian, elegantly decries that “all men are created equal” and that we all deserve “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Instead of arguing about who gets health care and life, lets argue about why we’re not compassionate enough to stand up to this promise and take back the moral compass. So before everyone breathes a sigh of relief that President Obama actually said the words “public option” last night, and sadly remarks how unfortunate it is that “illegal immigrants” won’t benefit from health care, I suggest instead we raise hell. Not only does the Obama Plan relegate millions of people to emergency room care only (which, by the way, costs more than preventative care), it does so because the moral construction of “illegal” has make it OK.