However, according to Ohio-based immigration reform advocate Veronica Dahlberg, it is important to note that "being out of legal status is not a crime," she said. "It is a civil code violation."
Remember that simple fact when you read the following—something that happens hundreds of times a day in the US.
His name is Mario Solis Jr. Then 17, he was simply reclining in the passenger seat of a friend's car, laughing and joking with his friends in a suburb of Ohio, when the car in which he was riding came upon a routine checkpoint set up by local police to nab drunk drivers.
According to an account in the Star Beacon, Ashtabula County sheriff's deputies asked Solis Jr. about his citizenship. When his illegal status was confirmed, the deputies allegedly detained the frightened teenager for interrogation. The border patrol was contacted, and Mario was made to reveal where his family lived.
It was 4am, in a darkened house occupied by the remainder of the Solis family when a knock to the front door awakened the sleepy occupants, who were unceremoniously hauled off to the Ashtabula Jail before the family was later transferred to a jail in Erie.
All because the family lacked a citizenship greencard.
"We came here for a better life and education for our children so they wouldn't have to work in the shoe factories in Mexico," mother Elena Solis said.
Mario Solis Sr. said he is angry about the situation.
"I know my situation and I know I am not considered legal," he said. "But there are procedures and ways these things are supposed to be done. I have never before stepped in a jail in my life and I was in jail because I want to stay here and work."
Dahlberg takes issue with the way the family was treated, given that their only crime is not a crime at all, but rather an apparent civil code violation. When police came across young Mario in the car at the checkpoint, "all they cared about was if he was legal," Dahlberg told the Star Beacon. "Mario committed no crimes and he wasn't under arrest, but he was interrogated about his family."
Dahlberg, the executive director of Hispanic Women of Lake and Ashtabula Counties, maintains the problem is that it's practically impossible for immigrants to secure the necessary documentation. "These troubles are the product of a broken immigration system. There is no way for them to be legal," Dahlberg said.
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Or treated like criminals for a civil code violation.
In the process of saving up the substantial cost to apply for an immigration green card, and attempting to secure the necessary documentation, you may be working illegally within the context of having committed a civil code violation. However, you should know your rights—and you do not deserve inhumane treatment just because you lack a citizenship greencard. If a member of your family has been harshly treated, perhaps a call to an immigration greencard attorney would be in order.