12 Questions About the Jessica Colotl Case

The old saw is that hard cases make bad law.  The case of Jessica Colotl, a 21-year-old college student and illegal Mexican immigrant, is hard in some ways, to be sure. But it might end up making the law better. This is because the same circumstances that make it hard also highlight the ethical issues at the heart of the illegal immigration problem.  If we can agree on what is right and wrong concerning Jessica’s situation, a lot of the broader controversy will be clarified.

Colotl is a student at Atlanta’s Kennesaw State University, where she is two semesters from graduation. On March 29, she was pulled over by campus police for “impeding the flow of traffic.” She presented  an expired Mexican passport instead of a valid driver’s license, and was arrested and taken to a county jail. There she admitted that she was an illegal immigrant. She has been in the U.S. illegally since her parents brought her here at age 11. Now she faces possible deportation, though this has been deferred, in what can only be called an act of politically motivated mercy, until she has finished college.

Now let’s examine the ethics of her situation, fairly and dispassionately, by answering some questions…

  1. Is Colotl, made an illegal immigrant by her parents’ act and now an adult in the only country she has known for more than a decade, in an unfortunate situation not entirely of her own making? Yes.
  2. Does that situation warrant sympathy and empathy? Yes!
  3. Does her situation warrant suspension of the laws and law enforcement? No. We are all responsible for following the laws of our country or whatever country we happen to be in, regardless of how inconvenient or burdensome doing so may be. Any other approach would lead to anarchy.
  4. Was Jessica aware that she was breaking the law by being in the country illegally, by driving without a valid license, and by taking tuition benefits from the state of Georgia that were not intended for non-citizens? Yes.
  5. Does being brought to this country when she was 11 give her a right to break these laws? Of course not.
  6. Who is responsible for Jessica’s current problems? Her parents, and Jessica herself. Not the U.S. government, which has to have limits on immigration. Not law enforcement officials, whose job it is to enforce the laws she has broken. Not the “messed up system,” as Jessica herself has said. No system that allowed someone like Jessica to benefit from an illegal act of her parents and ten years of living in the country illegally would be less “messed up” than our current system. Such a system would be unjust, unfair, and irresponsible. Jessica’s life is indeed messed up, but this isn’t the system’s fault. It is only the system’s fault that she was allowed to stay here illegally as long as she did.
  7. Should U.S. Law treat immigrant children brought into the country illegally differently than it currently does? No, no, no. If illegal immigrant children were allowed by law to age into citizenship simply by remaining in the country, then the incentive for parents to sneak their children over the border would be infinitely increased, and their perceived virtue for breaking U. S. laws to better the future of their children would be magnified. The act of illegal immigration would then be seen an act of noble sacrifice, which, under such a system, it would be.
  8. What would be fair treatment of illegal immigrant children? The only fair treatment that will not encourage more law-breaking is to require them to return to their country of birth as soon as their illegal status is known. Then they can apply for legal immigration status without prejudice.
  9. Will that be hard on the child? Yes, certainly. Terribly hard. But any other policy undermines the rule of law and the fairness of the immigration system, as well as making any rational immigration control nearly impossible.
  10. Should the fact that Jessica is doing well in college affect the handling of her case? No. Why should it? She would not be in college at all if she didn’t come here illegally. She cannot be allowed to mitigate her illegal acts after the fact, making use of opportunities that themselves are fruits of the lawbreaking conduct. Accepting this creates a legal and ethical system where wrongful acts can be “undone,” which is a system based on consequentialism.
  11. Should the fact that she was only discovered after a traffic stop matter? No. Why should it? She has been breaking the law for over a decade. She was breaking the law by driving without a license. Now we know she’s an illegal alien, meaning that she doesn’t belong here. She should be deported.
  12. Should there be a legal path for illegal immigrants to get college educations in the U.S.? What a bizarre concept! This is called “rewarding law-breakers.” No legal immigrant or citizen of the U.S. should ever be displaced by illegal immigrants, no matter how young they were when they were brought into the country, no matter what their talents or how intense their “dreams.”  Not one taxpayer penny should be spent to educate an illegal student. Every benefit they derive as the result of their illegal activities is, or should be regarded as, unethically obtained.

You know what? It’s not really such a hard case after all.

16 thoughts on “12 Questions About the Jessica Colotl Case

  1. Well put, Jack. I think that Jessica’s already gotten a good deal from Uncle Sam. Despite being an illegal alien, she’s gotten a college education out of it! I think the suspension of her deportation to allow her to graduate was kindly intended and, after all that she’s already gotten away with, she should be singing the praises of America all the way back to Mexico… and putting in for citizenship at the U.S. Embassy first thing upon arrival. Want to bet that she’ll be, 1) sliming this country at every turn and, 2) sneaking across the Rio at the first opportunity?

  2. Her comments are telling, if jaw-dropping. “I never thought it was against the law in this country to pursue your dream!” Uh, if “pursuing your dream” requires breaking the law, Jess, damn right. This is the rhetorical bait-and-switch of all of the “no immigration law” crowd. “How can you make it illegal to try for a better life?” Trying for a better life isn’t what’s illegal, and they know it. The ends are swell…the sticking point is the means.

    • It’s unfair, I tell you.

      It’s darned unfair that thieves, swindlers, and hedge-fund fraudsters don’t have advocates for them to be able to “pursue their dreams” at the expense of their victims.

      The citizens of the United States, and Georgia, are victims of this young woman’s criminal activity. That is an unpleasant but undeniable fact.

      I’ll be happy to forgive her lawbreaking as soon as we are willing to forgive everyone else for economic criminal activity.

      In other words, Jess, that means never. Pursue your dreams in the country in which you are a lawful citizen, or apply for citizenship here. When/if that citizenship is granted, you may pick up the pursuit of your dreams where you left off. Meantime, you should be deported with all deliberate speed.

      I’m sorry your lawless parents convinced you that the immigration laws of the country should not apply to you, but that doesn’t make it right for you to continue to consume resources that are not lawfully available to you.

      • Education is all funny money, and it could be argued that the state of Georgia is actually benefiting because she is paying tuition whereas her GPA would have made her eligible for a full scholarship if she were a legal resident.

      • This is one of the best statement I have ever read. Good job. Al Capone and Bernie Madoff “had a dream ” like jessias just not a lawful one.

  3. What a nightmare for this young lady. I don’t believe that what she did was right, but I do feel for her. I hope she can do some good for Mexico when she returns there with her degree.

  4. You make some good points here, but I disagree with your characterization of Kennesaw State University’s action as “politically motivated mercy.” If the KSU president had been motivated by politics, he would have demanded that Jessica be immediately deported. This is a Red State, after all, and Cobb County is among the reddest of the red.

    • It may be a red state, Don, but it’s a college campus, and college campuses are typically 25 degrees right of the rest of any community. Plus she’s a student. It may have been completely politics free…I have my doubts.

  5. Pingback: Tweets that mention 12 Questions About the Jessica Colotl Case « Ethics Alarms -- Topsy.com

  6. Jack, It is not against the law to pursue your dreams in this country as long as you do it legally!If your dream is to be rich should you rob a bank and then be forgiven for it because you were only followi9ng your dream??? She and her parents LIED on every application and form they filled out in this country! They all broke the law doing this and also driving! Should we make exceptions for EVERYONE in this situation? I also feel bad for her and wish she was not in this situation, buut this is a situation was created by her parents and her not the government! At the very least she should have to pay the balance for out-of-state fees for the time she has already attended. What would happen to someone say from Florida who lied on their application and received in-state-fees but was discovered one semester before graduation? You can bet the farm they will not be allowed to graduate!!! As you said, its a college campus and if wright and wrong cannot cannot be learned there WHAT CAN?????

  7. #8 “Then they can apply for legal immigration status without prejudice.”
    Ac tally there’s a penalty for coming into this country illegally in the first place-that penalty bars you from reentering the US for about 10 years, if you’re very lucky.

    Say don’t come here illegally to begin with- you need to OWN property, (which is difficult to do in America, let alone a third world country) have a University diploma, a bank account and a net worth higher than most people make all year in said bank account- oh, and a stable well paying job.

    I think to myself, “Hmmmm…if people had all those things why would they want to move to America in the first place?”
    I think Illegal immigration is a symptom of a flawed immigration policy.

    How do I know all this? I came here legally- it took me 15 years to do so. My parents applied for said Green Card when I was 5. I don’t think everyone has 15 freaking years to wait around for a green card like I did. The system is BS.

    • One reason legal immigration is as restrictive as it is is that illegal immigration uses up the demand for immigrants generally, and over-burdens the social support systems. Unlike in the 19th Century, America isn’t desperate for more people, and also unlike that period, the U.S. is no place to prosper without education, employment or skills. The country has a right to decide who it wants to allow into the country, and there are plenty of people who meet the requirements you cite. When people say “the system is the problem,” what they usually are saying is “open the borders.” “Everyone” doesn’t have to come into the United States, can’t, and shouldn’t.

  8. This article is completely inhuman. A kid brought to this country being very young is not responsible for the actions of their parents. They are as Americans as you or me.

    • Huh?
      She’s not a kid any more. She is responsible for obeying the laws of the country she’s in, “just like you and me” to. She isn’t a citizen, and she was driving without a license. You want to make up laws as you go along, is that it? Let’s see: a child illegally brought into the country by illegal immigrants instantly becomes “American”? Is that your idea of a fair, coherent law? Or do we just ignore the distinction between people come into the country legally and become citizens, and those, like Jessica, who come in illegally and never bother to become citizens or obey the laws? Your comment makes no sense, and shows no coherent thought whatsoever. The great tragedy of Jessica Colotl is that she has to return to the country she was born in and never left legally. Sorry. That’s not “inhuman.” That’s simply not allowing crime to pay off.

  9. Pingback: Undocumented student Jessica Colotl indicted on felony charge - Illegal Immigration - Page 4 - City-Data Forum

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