If You Commit a Crime, Are You a Criminal Forever?

Since starting Tiny Cat Pants, I’ve dropped acid.  Just once, because, you know, I’m a giant nerd and the feeling of being hot and somewhat nauseous and too full of orange juice outweighed the mild hallucinations I’m pretty sure I could have had if I’d just forced myself to stay up until four in the morning without drugs.  I don’t know.  Maybe I did it wrong.

But I did it to impress a boy (no, not that one), which, of course, failed.  And have never done it again (drugs or impressed a boy, I’m afraid).

Didn’t get caught, though.

Am I a criminal?

I have a couple of relatives who were alleged drug dealers in their younger days.  One stole a great deal of money from the other, because he allegedly knew the other couldn’t report it because a similar amount of money was allegedly missing from a local bar.  (It appears to me that the statute of limitations on most felonies in Illinois is three years, but I’d still like to be careful.)

That amount of money was enough to pay his way out of state and allow him to start his life over as a non-drug-dealer, for which we are all grateful.

He hasn’t dealt drugs in ten years.  He’s never robbed anyone since.

Is he a theif?  A drug dealer?

According to the law, he’s not.  He committed those crimes years ago and has gotten on with his life.

Why then, do we talk about illegal immigration differently?  There are very few crimes one cannot outwait the stigma of.  One might be considered a murderer or a rapist or a child molester for life, even if one only committed that crime once.

But theivery, tresspassing, car stealing, even assault are all crimes we can commit once, in our youth, and if we go on to become productive members of society (shit, if we just cease to be unproductive members of society) and, if enough time passes, we don’t have to fear being prosecuted any more.  We’re not “illegals.”

Why, then, do immigrants who enter the country illegally have to bear the burden of being considered “illegals”?  I’ve been looking through the federal statute and it’s clear that entering the country is illegal and faking documents in order to stay here and work is illegal.  But those both appear to be crimes that have a statute of limitations of ten years.

It also appears to me that, if one could come here and stay off the .gov’s radar for a decade–not working, not using taxpayer funded programs, just laying low, you’d be in a weird situation where you’d be in the country without proper documentation, but the goernment could not prosecute you for being here.

I guess I don’t really have a point except to say that it seems like calling them “illegals” as if they’re all in a state of constate illegality, as opposed to someone who did something once a long time ago, is an insidious debate strategy.

8 thoughts on “If You Commit a Crime, Are You a Criminal Forever?

  1. It also appears to me that, if one could come here and stay off the .gov’s radar for a decade–not working, not using taxpayer funded programs, just laying low, you’d be in a weird situation where you’d be in the country without proper documentation, but the goernment could not prosecute you for being here.

    ah, but the way i understand it, deportation proceedings don’t (quite?) count as criminal prosecution. goodness knows ICE doesn’t usually bother with giving the deportees much of a legal defense, or real opportunity to assemble one, before they’re shipped out of country.

    to answer your main question, i honestly thought immigrating illegally didn’t have a statute of limitations. i could have been wrong. i’m not sure if it properly ought to have one, or what it should be; i’ll need to think on that.

    i’m generally of the opinion that people who commit crimes remain “criminals” in my eyes until the statute of limitations, or their entire sentence, runs out. in the eyes of the law, of course, people who commit felony crimes (and get caught) remain felons for life, or until they get a pardon of some sort — and illegal immigration is a felony-level offense. (as it should be, IMO.) now, me, i’m not sure what i think about that either, but i’m pretty sure i don’t have any argument good enough to overturn that existing system any time soon.

  2. Pingback: Volunteer Voters » Statutes Of Immigration

  3. They use the word “illegal” immigrants to differentiate between “legal” immigrants. One involves not following the established laws and the other involves following the established laws.

  4. So if you come home to find your door busted and a stranger in your livingroom, that person shouldn’t be charged with Breaking and Entering?

  5. My inclination would be to believe that a person who entered the country illegally continues to be illegal as long as he or she stays in the country illegally. It seems like committing an illegal act continuously.

    I found the following information at Findlaw.com:

    Classes of Deportable Aliens

    Any alien that is in the United States may be subject to deportation or removal if he or she:

    -Is an inadmissible alien according to immigration laws in effect at the time of entry to the U.S. or adjustment of nonimmigrant status;
    -Is present in the U.S. in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act or any other U.S. law;
    -Violated nonimmigrant status or a condition of entry into the U.S.;
    -Terminated a conditional permanent residence;
    -Encouraged or aided any other alien to enter the U.S. illegally….

    http://immigration.findlaw.com/immigration/immigration-deportation/immigration-deportation-overview.html

  6. Values to guide this discussion:

    1) The more time you spend in a place, the more it becomes your home.
    2) Leaving people stuck outside the system can be worse for society than the offense, especially as time goes on.
    3) Lawmaking should follow this rule.

    Kat, in reference to your 1:11pm post above, you’ve just argued against the long-standing legal tradition of adverse possession.

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