Throughout American history, citizens have encountered people who are "illegal"-- that is, people who have no legal right to be in the United States or to freedom of movement because of their immigration status or race. Like Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, these citizens face the conflict between sympathy for the unlawful other and the force of the law.
In Illegal Migrations and the Huckleberry Finn Problem, John Park explores problems of status and illegality in American law and society by examining on-going themes in American legal history, comparative ethnic studies, and American literature. He observes that in reconsidering racially discriminatory laws, Americans have celebrated persons who were "out of status," as well as the citizens who had helped them avoid American law. Similarly, in confronting illegal immigrants in our own time, many Americans have chosen to ignore or to violate federal laws in favor of assisting such persons. In light of these experiences, Park insists that the U.S. ought to rethink policies that have criminalized millions of immigrants, as the injustice of such rules has encouraged people to disobey the law, thereby undermining broader commitments to principles of equality and to the rule of law itself.