The following, from Marilyn Tyler of Burlington, first appeared in the Burlington Times-News:
On July 15, Marxavi Angel was arrested at the Graham Library, charged with using a false Social Security number and lying about being a citizen when she applied for the library job. Though she spent many of her growing-up years here, she appears to be an undocumented alien, born in Mexico, brought here as a toddler.
I've been feeling a mix of anger and sadness as I've watched the case against Marxavi proceed. After talking to Randy Jones of the Alamance County Sheriff's office, I've also begun to gain a better understanding of law enforcement's view of her situation.
While it's still not clear how Marxavi came to be identified as illegal, her use of the Social Security number of a person who died in 1942 does not seem to be in question. Still, as this young mother sits in a cell awaiting a trial and probably deportation, I ask myself, “Whom did she harm?” And who will either benefit or be harmed by her incarceration and removal?
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First, whom did her alleged crime harm? Social Security numbers, Mr. Jones informed me, are reissued after a period of time. Marxavi might have been using a number that in the future would be assigned to someone else, and eventually a financial mess might have ensued. But as far as we in the public have been told, such a reissuing of this number hasn't occurred.
Second, who benefits from Marxavi's arrest and deportation? One might argue that the citizen who will be hired to fill her library position will benefit, but that benefit would have occurred if Marxavi had simply been fired. Or perhaps people who believe that all laws must be strictly enforced, without room for extenuating circumstances, will feel safer somehow because she has been apprehended and removed.
Finally, who is harmed? Of course, it is Marxavi and her family who suffer most from the prosecution. She is locked away, her 16-month-old son is separated from his mother, the husband and parents now face deportation, all of them losing the lives they have built because decades ago the father didn't want to leave the United States after his work permit expired.
The rest of us have also been harmed. Marxavi's friends and co-workers are naturally distressed by her imprisonment, for she was extremely popular with library users and employees alike. There has already been a substantial financial loss for all of us. As a county employee, Marxavi paid state and federal taxes and contributed to a Social Security system from which she could never have collected benefits.
From the moment she was arrested, however, she became a drain on taxpayers. Federal incarceration and trials are costly, and by the time this is done, we'll all have paid many thousands of dollars to deal with Marxavi and her family.
Americans will surely disagree on the benefits and harms of this prosecution. But Randy Jones and I, looking at this case from two different perspectives, agree completely on at least one thing: Congress needs to change the law that now makes it insurmountably difficult or impossible for a person like Marxavi to gain citizenship. To quote from President Bush's 2005 State of the Union address:
“America's immigration system is outdated, unsuited to the needs of our economy and to the values of our country. We should not be content with laws that punish hardworking people who want only to provide for their families, and deny businesses willing workers, and invite chaos at our border.”
For The Record offers commentaries from various sources. The views are the writer's, and not necessarily those of the Observer editorial board.