Illegal Immigration hawks like to paint immigrants as hardened criminals, conflating them with the drug traffickers hopping over the border to sell their wares to a hungry American populace. But in truth the vast majority of illegal immigrants are hardworking people who “come from societies in which legal rules were never quite extended to them,” writes international political economics professor Francis Fukuyama in the Wall Street Journal. “They are therefore better described as ‘informal’ rather than ‘illegal.’”
For most Mexicans, as for many in the developing world, access to the legal system—police, courts, notaries, and certainly immigration officials—requires money and influence they lack. They’re used to setting up their own support systems, and, aided and abetted by their employers, they’ve done the same here, showing admirable enterprise. They’re breaking the law, sure. “But they are in a very different category from the tattooed Salvatrucha gang member who lives by extortion and drug-dealing.” They deserve, and would welcome, a path to formal, legal residence.