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Has Following the Law Become Optional?

Yes, if it's a law liberals don't like.

By Will Offensicht  |  September 4, 2009

In "Man sentenced after leaving water bottles for immigrants," CNN reports:

An Arizona man caught leaving water bottles in the desert for illegal immigrants has been sentenced to 300 hours of community service and a year of probation, an aid group said. [emphasis added]

Walt Staton, a member of the group No More Deaths, left full water bottles in December in Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge for the illegal immigrants who routinely pass through the 18,000-acre refuge, according to court documents.

Both sides cited the ongoing controversy about illegal immigration during the trial.  Staton's lawyer argued that his actions were based on humanitarian motives whereas the prosecution pointed out that he was aiding people who are entering the United States illegally.  After all, nobody forced the illegals to try to walk across the desert; they could have stayed home instead of breaking American law by entering the United States illegally.

Aiding and Abetting Criminals is a Crime

In traditional law, helping another person commit a crime is called "aiding and abetting" which generally carries pretty much the same penalties as the crime itself.

For example, if someone helps another person plan an armed robbery during which a bystander is killed, the person who helped with the planning is guilty of "felony murder" even if the planner didn't participate in the crime itself.  Armed robbery is a felony.  Death of a bystander as a side effect of a felony is murder by definition, hence the term "felony murder."

Consider Alcatraz, a former maximum-security prison located out in San Francisco Bay.  Although a small number of convicts were able to escape from the prison and try to swim to safety, none of them ever turned up afterward.  The theory is that they all drowned while trying to swim to freedom.

Suppose that an escapee had been able to coordinate his flight with a friend who picked him up in a boat.  The fact that no escapees were ever seen again doesn't prove that this didn't happen.  Suppose someone was caught using a boat to "aid and abet" an escape from Alcatraz.

Wouldn't we regard this as a crime, without debate?  Unless, of course, the escapee had managed to convince enough people that a major injustice had been committed, in which case aiding and abetting his jailbreak would probably be regarded as OK in liberal circles....

Abetting Versus Littering

Both sides went into the courtroom prepared for battle on the terrain of illegal immigration.  In the event, the court refused the bait.

Staton was not convicted of aiding and abetting illegal entry or of criminal trespass: he was convicted of littering in a national park.  When he refused to pay the initial $175 file for littering, the government increased the charges, arguing that he "knowingly littered" which can carry a $100,000 fine.  The jury duly convicted Mr. Staton of littering and he was sentenced to community service.

Nobody in the judicial system or in the rest of the government seems to be at all concerned that he was aiding and abetting criminal behavior.

Mike Hawkes of the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge said Thursday that although he had no issue with groups leaving water out for illegal immigrants, "there's ways to do it without leaving plastic jugs out there." [emphasis added]

He said the plastic jugs were strewn throughout the refuge, which is home to hundreds of bird, reptile and mammal species, according to its Web site.

Hawkes said refuge officials and members of No More Deaths had met and were trying to come up with methods that don't involve plastic bottles.

Government employees state publicly that they "have no issue" with aiding and abetting the crime of illegal entry into the United States and are conspiring with the liberal group No More Deaths to further their efforts to aid and abet.  Aiding and abetting is OK - but pollute the environment by littering, even to save human lives, and suddenly you're beyond the pale.

The New York Times supported Mr. Staton and wasn't all that concerned about the litter:

Officials at the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge southwest of Tucson say they allow other groups to maintain water tanks at aid stations in the refuge, with official permits, but they say plastic bottles endanger wildlife and worsen a serious litter problem.  The advocates say compassion needs no permits. [emphasis added]

When the government cracks down on illegal crossings while refusing to establish a safe, sane alternative, funneling people into the remotest stretches of a burning desert, it shares responsibility for the awful results.  One of those results is plastic bottles.  Another is corpses.

The Times has always favored open borders.  Most ordinary Americans seem to disagree and tend to object whenever an amnesty is proposed.  In the meantime, the Times supports people who conspire to help illegals break the law.

We've pointed out that Americas used to be a united around a common culture.  Now that we've become so culturally diverse, the only that that might be able to hold us together is a set of common laws.

As more and more people come to regard following our laws as matters of individual preference, what is there to keep America united?  How much diversity can a nation stand?