Illegal is a graphic novel by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, illustrated by Giovanni Rigano.

IllegalAmazon Link

Synopsis (by Goodreads): Ebo is alone.  His sister left months ago. Now his brother has disappeared too, and Ebo knows it can only be to make the hazardous journey to Europe. Ebo’s epic journey takes him across the Sahara Desert to the dangerous streets of Tripoli, and finally out to the merciless sea. But with every step he holds on to his hope for a new life, and a reunion with his sister.

Review:  The illustrations were excellent, and I enjoyed looking at them.  This story worked well as an adventurous graphic novel. There were two timelines to follow, and I was frustrated with the format.  It made me want to skip sections to continue the proper flow of the story.

Both my 8th and 6th-grade daughters had to read this graphic novel for school.  I  appreciate the school requiring students to read debated issues in our nation and our world.  However, the story was very one-sided on a very multifaceted issue.  It would be good to ensure that children are learning about this issue from many different viewpoints.

Spoilers:  I enjoyed the ending of this book.  The refugees are on a boat trying to reach Europe.  Their boat runs into trouble, and they are all about to die. The time, effort, and money are used to save them even though they are not immigrating legally.  Also, the brother gives up his life to save another. I liked this ending because it focuses on the importance of human dignity and helping others.

The Catholic church has always proclaimed human life as sacred, as we are all created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-31). This intrinsic dignity of all human persons is the foundation for the structure of society and is the basis of Catholic Social Teaching. Every person is precious in the eyes of God, and they are more important than things. Our measure as Christians can be summed up in how we treat people:

Mk 12: 30-31 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.

Mt 25: 40 Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.

Jn 15: 12-13 This is my commandment; love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

This human dignity should be the primary goal of all nations. When this is not the goal, we see ‘sinful inequalities’:

Their equal dignity as persons demands that we strive for fairer and more humane conditions. Excessive economic and social disparity between individuals and peoples of the one human race is a source of scandal and militates against social justice, equity, human dignity, as well as social and international peace (CCC 1938).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has only one paragraph (2241) about immigration. This paragraph expresses two equally essential obligations:

Part 1:

The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.

The first part stresses that a person has a ‘natural right’ to immigrate when their nation does not provide ‘security’ or a ‘means of livelihood’.  Prosperous nations are obligated to protect them.

Part 2:

Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.

Nations have a responsibility to create juridical conditions to protect the common good. Some of these conditions might be laws on immigration, and those that immigrate are obligated to obey them and the spiritual heritage of the nation they are seeking.

Both sides have some serious obligations towards each other.  The more prosperous nations are obligated to take care of those seeking help, but the laws and heritage of these nations must be respected.



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