An Immigration Morality Tale

by Victor Davis Hanson // PJ Media 

If there are executive orders overriding federal immigration law to extend amnesty to foreign nationals, without legal residence, and to continue their educations, there are also de facto all sorts of un-Dream Acts that simply allow anyone wishing to enter the United States without much audit. In other words, one of the strangest things about illegal immigration is that a nation that is monitored, taped, videoed, and bugged, that is struggling now with the AP, IRS, and NSA scandals whose common theme is excessive government intrusions in our private lives, knows absolutely nothing about those who arrive illegally into the U.S.

The following story is a tragedy, involving the most heartrending of all crimes, the alleged killing of an infant, born into the world entirely dependent on the good will and caring of adults. It reports allegations of murder, not proof of it. Much must be inferred rather than confirmed. But all that said, the preliminary account is emblematic of a deeply sick society, which in its loud protestations of mercy and charity is often heartless and uncharitable:

Madera teen held in death of newborn found in cabinet
The Fresno Bee February 5, 2014

A teenage girl has been arrested on suspicion of killing her newborn girl after the child was found wrapped in plastic and stuffed in a bathroom cabinet, the Madera County Sheriff’s Department said Wednesday.

The 17-year-old girl, whose name was not released, showed up at an area hospital last Friday, where doctors discovered she was suffering from postpartum bleeding, the Sheriff’s Department said.

The girl denied giving birth, and because of a language barrier — she speaks Mixteco Bajo, a dialect spoken in Oaxaca, Mexico — it took doctors and deputies hours to learn where she lived.

Deputies went to the home on Chapin Street near Avenue 16 in Madera, where a resident allowed them to search it. When deputies found the infant, they returned to the hospital and confronted the mother, who admitted giving birth but insisted the child was born dead.

Autopsy results show the baby was delivered alive and then killed, the Sheriff’s Department said. The cause of death was not released.

The girl, who comes from a village in Oaxaca, Mexico, arrived in Madera three days before giving birth, the Sheriff’s Department said. She is being held in Madera County Juvenile Hall on suspicion of murder. Her bail is set at $1 million.

Let’s explore what’s behind the language employed in the above news article, beginning with:

“Showed up at an area hospital last Friday”

I do not know what that means other than someone desperately in need of health care went to a hospital and was given top-flight help, a fact known to anyone who has gone to any San Joaquin Valley emergency room. We should be proud of such charity that does not hinge on one’s financial circumstances, but we should also remember that this has been long true of American culture, including during the Obamacare debate when charges flew that a callous society was turning away the indigent in need of treatment.

“The 17-year-old girl, whose name was not released”

A number of questions arise. How do we know the girl is “17”? As the story goes on to show, she has lied about not giving birth, and lied about her child being dead upon birth. Why should we assume that she was truthful about her age, especially given the common knowledge that being 17 and not 18 offers some legal advantage? Or does she have an ID, and if so, how exactly would one who arrived in Madera three days earlier, without either Spanish or English, have one that is recognized as authentic and can be so verified?

It has long been American journalist practice, with support from the legislature and courts, that the privacy of those under 18 charged with most crimes trumps disclosure of their identity. I’m not sure that is any longer wise.

One, today’s 17 year old is far more mature and our society far more conditioned to that maturity than was true decades ago. Second, the well-meaning practice of shielding juveniles has often had the unintended effect of shielding those arrested from the full focus of their peers. In ancient times, we called this a “shame” culture (yes, it can be excessive, as we know from Hesiod to Nathaniel Hawthorne) in contrast with our present “guilt” culture. But the point of identification was not so much gratuitously to shame or to deter a suspect, by apprising all citizens that committing felonies is serious business, and that being of age to commit violence de facto translates into being of age to be identified as such.

Surely we should consider lowering the age of disclosure to 16, given the epidemic of violence committed by those between 16 and 18. At some point allegations that someone took a defenseless newborn and proceed to have her/him “wrapped in plastic and stuffed in a bathroom cabinet” should outweigh the thought that a 17 year old is not an adult. (See postscript below.)

“The girl denied giving birth …”

Bringing an unwanted child into the world, perhaps alone, is, of course, a tragic circumstance for any mother, but often even more tragic — and dangerous — for the newborn. Unfortunately this may not have been the first untruth the suspect offered — given that she likely entered the United States under untruthful circumstances. Yet it surely was the most consequential, given that her mendacity made the critical discovery of the newborn infant (e.g., “it took doctors and deputies hours to learn where she lived”) all that more difficult. We are told only that the baby was not stillborn, but allegedly murdered after birth; whether the baby was still alive when the suspect visited the emergency room, and delayed investigating officials, we were not told and probably will never know.

“She speaks Mixteco Bajo, a dialect spoken in Oaxaca, Mexico”

I think anyone who has resided for long in hinterlands of the Central Valley understands this disconnect. There are literally tens of thousands of Mexican nationals without legal residence in California who either do not speak Spanish or speak it poorly, and sadly do not read it at all. It was about twenty years ago when I noted occasionally that at the local bank, a few customers made marks in lieu of signatures, or at local grocery stores the Spanish-speaking check-out personnel were not able to understand their customers.

Rural motorists who run out of gas, suffer car trouble, get lost, want to throw out furniture and garbage, drive intoxicated and run off the road into nearby vineyards (often incurring thousands of uncompensated dollars in damages to vines), want a place to pull over and sleep, are casing the place, or are stealing something, etc., are too numerous to count. But I would say the more common benign instances as well as the rarer criminal ones occur on average at least once every two months at my place. After 35 years, I can offer a fair, if not low-ball, estimate of well over 200 such instances of having complete strangers showing up, almost always at night. I would also guess that about 40 of these visitors/intruders/criminals over the last 35 years did not speak English or Spanish, but an indigenous language of Mexico, and could not read either.

I mention this as a reminder that illegal immigration also entails linguistic challenges that cannot be remedied by official notifications in two languages, English and Spanish, or with bilingual translators, etc. The most recent wave of illegal immigration is heavily weighted from Oaxaca state, and a large minority of those arrivals are both illiterate and without rudimental knowledge of Spanish or English. We can see the tragic consequences of this by the matter-of-fact reporting “it took doctors and deputies hours to learn where she lived.” I suppose that means officials were seeking those who could both speak Mixtec and English, and the search was difficult and frantic — explaining why the deceased newborn was not found for “hours” at a time when officials hoped that he or she might still live.

And then there’s the following passage:

Deputies went to the home on Chapin Street near Avenue 16 in Madera, where a resident allowed them to search it. When deputies found the infant, they returned to the hospital and confronted the mother, who admitted giving birth but insisted the child was born dead.

Here the suspect lied again. Not content with denying recent birth, she now insists untruthfully that the child was stillborn. More important is the absence of any information about “the resident” who allowed deputies “to search it,” i.e., the home. I assume the deputies had no time to obtain a search warrant, given the urgency of finding the newborn in hopes she/he might still be alive, so counted on the compliance of the “resident.” But who was the “resident” and was he/she later taken in for questioning, to ascertain whether he/she was an accessory after the fact to murder?

“Autopsy results show the baby was delivered alive and then killed, the Sheriff’s Department said. The cause of death was not released.”

The Sheriff’s Department is to be congratulated for heroic efforts in rushing to the house in the vain hope that they might yet save a life. But note how everything weighs against their efforts: the alleged murderer seeks out the help of the state, not for her newborn, but for her own medical treatment. She then receives it, but frustrates the state’s effort to extend the same charity to her newborn, by lying twice — claiming that she hadn’t given birth, but then when she did, that the baby was dead.

All of which ultimately brings us to:

The girl, who comes from a village in Oaxaca, Mexico, arrived in Madera three days before giving birth, the Sheriff’s Department said. She is being held in Madera County Juvenile Hall on suspicion of murder. Her bail is set at $1 million.

The story does not ascertain whether she arrived in Madera directly from a “village” in Oaxaca three days before giving birth, or had first arrived in the U.S. at a different location, and then showed up in Madera three days before giving birth. (I note however that the journalist’s description of a “Madera resident” is misleading. The suspect is no more a “resident” of Madera after three days than I would be a “resident of a village in Oaxaca” should I arrive there, stay three days, and then be charged with committing murder. There might be various characterizations of my status (visitor, foreign national, tourist, transient), but “resident of Oaxaca” would not be one.

Note there is no mention of her legal status (why is this detail omitted?), but one assumes that her inability to speak either Spanish or English and her recent arrival in Madera from somewhere just three days before her delivery suggest that there is a good chance she did not enter the U.S. legally. (Or is the U.S. issuing visas to pregnant 17-year-old teens from villages in Oaxaca who speak neither Spanish nor English and have no funds for medical care?)

The further suspicion is that she may have arrived while pregnant on the assumption that the U.S. would offer her medical treatment not available in a village of Oaxaca state. This again raises several issues. In the midst of a national debate over immigration, is the border as secure as proponents of “comprehensive immigration reform” attest? Under recent California law, arrested foreign nationals, illegally residing in the state, cannot be turned over to federal immigration authorities for possible violations of federal immigration law. Does that statute apply here now as well; in other words, is the suspect to enjoy de facto exemption from immigration-related arrest?

Note the nature of the host country. As soon as she arrives at the Madera hospital doctors and nurses, as they should and must, offer emergency care. When it is ascertained, despite her efforts to deny that fact, that she has recently given birth, note again officials’ desperate efforts to locate the newborn in hopes of saving it. Note the plural “doctors” and “deputies,” as the state spares no expense in treating her, as it should; in questioning her, as it must; in desperation seeking a translator, as it is obliged.

Then there is the mission of mercy to her residence. No doubt the residence was quickly designated a crime scene, with all the attendant need for investigatory personnel. More doctors and staff were needed for the autopsy, to determine whether the baby was killed after birth. Then we enter the realm of county prosecutors (tried as a juvenile or adult?), judicial determinations (notification of the Mexican consulate?), legal defense (Miranda rights read at the hospital?), bail (fair or excessive?), and other work on the part of state officials (a need for a second/third opinion on the autopsy?). Her arrest is the beginning, not the end, of the process. Hearings, investigations, defense motions, and eventual legal consequences will follow, all paid for by the taxpayer.

I cite all this not to suggest all that is not necessary for a legal and humane society, but that illegal immigration, with its myriad of linguistic, cultural, and legal force-multipliers, makes it all the more difficult, expensive, and, in the end, utterly unsustainable.

Given the cultural, legal, and social collisions between those from Oaxaca state who arrive in California without legality, English, literacy or education, a near-bankrupt state is increasingly unable to provide social services for all its residents, permanent or transient. In philosophical terms, are conditions so wretched in Mexico, and so favorable in the United States, that pregnant teens risk crossing the border illegally, without money, literacy, or language facility? And if so, why do we not ask culpable Mexican officials why such an abyss exists in our present globalized world, and why is the U.S., so criticized by immigration activists, seen as so humane by immigrants themselves?

Finally, whatever the actual denouement to this case, the ethics of it are more than tragic, although certainly the murder of an innocent newborn is the most heinous of crimes. The suspect may well have determined to cross the border illegally in search of free medical attention or at least in expectation that a pregnant teenage Oaxacan resident is far better off in Madera than in Oaxaca. If the charges prove factual, she then committed a series of crimes, from murder to efforts after the fact to lie to officials to conceal that murder. My worry is also this: How many in-need U.S. citizens of Madera (and the majority would be Mexican-American given the city’s demography) rush to the emergency room with serious cases of strep throat, life-threatening infectious diseases, or sudden catastrophic illnesses, only to find “doctors” and “deputies” attending to a murder case by someone who speaks an unfathomable language who arrived just three days earlier and who is intent on not cooperating with officials? I fear throughout California — in a state with millions of illegal aliens, many with medical and linguistic challenges — that many U.S. citizens simply avoid emergency rooms because it has increasingly become not a source of prompt life-saving attention, but a more complex landscape of translation, investigation, and law enforcement.

The point of this disturbing story is simply this: We are told the victims are those who enter the United States illegally and without our language and customs. I grant that they may be victims sometimes, but the surrounding community is even more victimized by extending unsustainable social and state services to those who are often not cooperative and honest with them, often at the expense of citizens who are struggling in recessionary times to pay for it and in frustration will not use the services themselves that they need and must pay for.  At some point, Americans must grasp that each time a foreign national chooses not to apply for legal entrance but simply breaks federal law and crosses the border, that is the beginning, not the end, of an entire chain of events that so often do not end well for anyone.

Postscript: In a subsequent updated story, the teen is now to be charged as an adult and she is identified by name.

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