Illegal Immigrants Get Carded in New Haven

Just a thought on those new ID cards....

New Haven, Connecticut, is a great place to eat. You'll find Russian bakeries; Polish delis; Irish pubs; Indian and Thai restaurants, Mexican holes in the wall; Northern, New and Other Italian bistros; Chinese take-outs; hamburger joints galore, diners that make grease your middle name. It's all there because New Haven has been absorbing waves of immigrants for generations.

These restaurants surround that bastion of higher learning almost as old as the oldest immigrants to Connecticut, Yale University, the founders of which have the bluest of American blood. To state the obvious, they were immigrants, too.

Go back, back, back in New England history and your likely to come across a little bit of Pilgrim propaganda called Mourt's Relation. Mourt, whoever he was, was the PR guy for that famous gang of refugees on the Mayflower. In his account of expeditions around Cape Cod, he tells of God's providence presenting itself in the shape of corn and other foodstuffs that just happened to litter their path. The Pilgrims, those stringently righteous, God-fearing Christians themselves, stole from the Indians. Yes, indeed, they availed of services to which they had no right after they debarked on a Cape to which they were not invited. Then they bragged about it by way of Mourt to maintain the financial backing for their little enterprise in living abroad.

We in Connecticut are no strangers to refugees and immigrants of all hue and size. Nor are we strangers to criminals. Just look at some of our elected officials: Phil Giordano, Joe Ganim, and John Rowland have done or are doing jail time; Lou DeLuca admits to hiring the garbage man to rough up a relative. Gangsterism, graft, and sexual deviance are part of our moral, cultural, and political landscape, too.

So maybe it makes some kind of sense that New Haven has become the first city in the nation to offer ID cards to illegal immigrants--illegal meaning wrongful, or without right, last time I checked. They might as well join the party. In New Haven, the main motivation for the ID cards was public safety, says Kica Matos, the city's community services administrator and a main initiator of the program. One reason the illegal immigrant community doesn't trust the police and doesn't come forward to report crimes is that police invariably ask to see ID, according to Matos.

The idea that the move will help stop or resolve crime because now the illegal immigrant won't be afraid to approach the police is a bit much--first because they're no less illegal than they were before they got the card and second because it suggests that illegal immigrants are somehow connected to crime and are secretly dying to rat out their neighbors. This claim was just a bad PR move, methinks. Mourt never would have done that.

Nevertheless, New Haven might end up with some useful statistics about people who will use our schools and hospitals and other services with or without the card. The city might learn something that will help resolve the problem of illegal immigration.

New Haven is a bit like the pragmatic parent who sends his kid out on a date with a condom in his pocket after advising him that premarital sex is just plain wrong. "If you must--and you will, son--at least be sensible." Maybe New Haven is being sensible. What's the alternative? Do like Sen. Lou DeLuca and have the Italian-American of the Year get the garbage men to rough up anyone who just got here? Nah. We've got standards.