The following is from section 206 of the Securing America's Borders Act, introduced in the Senate on March 16.
`SEC. 275. ILLEGAL ENTRY OR UNLAWFUL PRESENCE OF AN ALIEN. `(a) In General- `(1) CRIMINAL OFFENSES- An alien shall be subject to the penalties set forth in paragraph (2) if the alien-- `(A) knowingly enters or crosses the border into the United States at any time or place other than as designated by the Secretary of Homeland Security; `(B) knowingly eludes examination or inspection by an immigration officer; `(C) knowingly enters or crosses the border to the United States by means of a knowingly false or misleading representation or the knowing concealment of a material fact; or `(D) is otherwise present in the United States, knowing that such presence violates the terms and conditions of any admission, parole, immigration status, or authorized stay granted the alien under this Act. `(2) CRIMINAL PENALTIES- Any alien who violates any provision under paragraph (1)-- `(A) shall, for the first violation, be fined under title 18, United States Code, imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both; `(B) shall, for a second or subsequent violation, or following an order of voluntary departure, be fined under such title, imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both; `(C) if the violation occurred after the alien had been convicted of 3 or more misdemeanors or for a felony, shall be fined under such title, imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both; `(D) if the violation occurred after the alien had been convicted of a felony for which the alien received a term of imprisonment of not less than 30 months, shall be fined under such title, imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both; and `(E) if the violation occurred after the alien had been convicted of a felony for which the alien received a term of imprisonment of not less than 60 months, such alien shall be fined under such title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. `(3) PRIOR CONVICTIONS- The prior convictions described in subparagraphs (C) through (E) of paragraph (2) are elements of the offenses described in that paragraph and the penalties in such subparagraphs shall apply only in cases in which the conviction or convictions that form the basis for the additional penalty are-- `(A) alleged in the indictment or information; and `(B) proven beyond a reasonable doubt at trial or admitted by the defendant. `(4) DURATION OF OFFENSE- An offense under this subsection continues until the alien is discovered within the United States by an immigration officer. `(b) Improper Time or Place; Civil Penalties- `(1) IN GENERAL- Any alien who is apprehended while entering, attempting to enter, or knowingly crossing or attempting to cross the border to the United States at a time or place other than as designated by immigration officers shall be subject to a civil penalty, in addition to any criminal or other civil penalties that may be imposed under any other provision of law, in an amount equal to-- `(A) not less than $50 or more than $250 for each such entry, crossing, attempted entry, or attempted crossing; or `(B) twice the amount specified in paragraph (1) if the alien had previously been subject to a civil penalty under this subsection. `(2) CROSSED THE BORDER DEFINED- In this section, an alien is deemed to have crossed the border if the act was voluntary, regardless of whether the alien was under observation at the time of the crossing.'.
In section 276, it says:
`(h) Limitation- It is not aiding and abetting a violation of this section for an individual to provide an alien with emergency humanitarian assistance,
including emergency medical care and food, or to transport the alien to a location where such assistance can be rendered, provided that such assistance
is rendered without compensation or the expectation of compensation.U
These snippets are very important. From what I can tell, much of the protesting over this act has to do with fear that people in legitimate need will not have access to medical care and assistance. We have so many things here in America that people in Mexico don't have! It was hard for me to hold my writing about the SAB Act until I had read it... I had reactions based partially on something that happened to me in 2004 and partially on something that happened to me last Sunday night.
July 25, 2004
I grew up in Houston, Texas, and there were many programs and activities for blind children during the summer and on weekends. My parents often drove 20 or 30 miles to take me to these activities, and often they picked up other children whose parents would not drive or in some cases didn't even own cars. Many of the children had additional disabilities, and often the parents were very uneducated and didn't know much about blindness except that their children needed caregiving.
When I was a teenager, I began speaking at parent meetings, and this was the first time I had much opportunity to meet many parents. My own parents rarely took useful information away from the meetings because so many of the other parents had young children or children with severe physical and cognitive disabilities. The remaining parents were so poor that the physical state of poverty kept their children from achieving or participating in community activities as I did.
These memories came flooding back to me as I interacted with one of the parents at the conference. Her baby is not quite two years old, but she is active and the family has high expectations for her. Teresa looks at blind adults and thinks, "What can I do to enable Cianna to succeed like that." Most other families look at blind adults and think, "Where can I send my child so he can learn to be like that." When the parents shared their stories at dinner, I heard a very common theme: "I moved here from Juarez to get help for my child." Often the theme was followed up by another theme: "Sending my child to Austin (600 miles away) is the best thing I've ever done." I felt like I was looking at a room full of people shrouded in darkness with one flickering light. I wanted to nurture that flickering light, but I also wanted to go to the darkness and say to those families, "You have the ability to change your child's life right here in El Paso!"
It's very common for people to assume that Mexicans are the problem in terms of immigration. It is true that many Mexicans come here to work--there is a tremendous amount of poverty in Mexico, and there is not a lot of opportunity for people with disabilities there. However, the real problem, based on reading other portions of the SAB Act which I did not quote in this entry, seems to be the lack of security of Mexico's borders and the ease with which drugs can be trafficked from Central America through Mexico and into this country, where there is obviously a lucrative market. So the SAB Act provides for ways to work with Mexico to not only secure our borders but also improve Mexico's security and decrease drug trafficking. Not a bad deal...
The truly sad aspect of this is thinking that there is such pain and poverty in Central America that there is a perceived need for gangs and drugs at all... If someone could somehow reach those people... I know it's a lost cause in most people's opinion; but it still pains me to think about. I know enough to know that people turn to drugs because they do something that feels beneficial (whether it really is or not)--and drug income is therefore quick and easy, much more preferable to the hard work and low income that anything else in those countries can bring. And life there is not easy...
My small group leaders went last month on a trip to provide eye care as part of a medical mission to a town in Honduras. So the small group session Sunday night was devoted to hearing their story. It was fascinating to me in a number of ways. They showed pictures and a video, and I missed the visual aspects of these; but some things stood out to me.
Rex talked about the houses being very close together and having no yards. I wish I had a better description--maybe I'll ask for one sometime. Often up to four generations live together in one house. He thought the town might have 10,000 residents... He learned later that there were 50,000--and there was no eye doctor in town!
They took boxes of used glasses donated to the Lions Club. They gave out 1,600 pairs of glasses in a week! He described two girls who were so near-sighted that they could see only inches from their faces. He put glasses on one of them, a teenager who had never learned to read. He said her face lit up. He asked her from across the room how many fingers he was holding up, and she exclaimed, "Dos! Dos!" and gave him a hug! Most people in the U.S. despise their glasses, especially children and teens and especially low vision aids. I never did. I remember having reactions like that. I would still have reactions like that to new things I see if it was "appropriate."
He described one case of congenital cataracts which had become so advanced (the person was 23 years old) that the lens had become black! Is that what happens to an untreated mature cataract??? The team removed them. I wish I could have asked him more questions about the person's reaction. There are very few documented cases of restored site like this, although I'm sure that it is not uncommon--cataract-related blindness is very treatable.
This is the kind of stuff that people live with in Central America. There are areas that never get served by medical missions because they are too dangerous or too difficult to get to physically.
Linda took some notebooks full of blank paper into the school and delivered them to the classrooms. This was on the video... The illiteracy rate in Honduras is 60 percent, but school is mandatory. How does a child learn when the illiteracy rate is so high, especially when there are no notebooks? The room was constantly filled with din... I could not decipher one voice at any time.
When Linda brought the notebooks in, the children erupted into applause and shouted, "Yayyyyyyyy!!!" Over blank paper!!!
On the other hand, there were several Internet cafes in town.
It doesn't seem to me that the SAB Act makes it impossible for people to receive legitimate medical or other reasonable aid from this country. They do have to go through appropriate channels, and it does seem that this task can be very daunting. If your children are compassionate and protesting, or if you are interested in a social work career and are passionate about this, perhaps working with the INS may be a career worth considering... It's a way of doing something helpful for those outside the States who need our help. I suspect the INS will be in need of workers with a healthy dose of compassion and patience. Hurting and fearful non-U.S. citizens who don't speak great English are not so easy to work with--and the harder INS is to work with, the more fearful the non-citizen can become.