Free Immigration: “Judge not lest ye be judged”
“He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither…”
The above was a complaint about the tyranny of George III, from a little document you may have heard about called the Declaration of Independence. This document also makes the outrageous claim “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” How does the desire for a healthy level of immigration and a declaration of human equality jive with our current immigration policy? The unfortunate fact of the matter is that it doesn’t. How does vigorous defense of our borders and aggressive enforcement of demanding immigration laws jive with American ideals? It doesn’t.
I quote that document with the idea that perhaps some here might have some inkling of respect for the sentiments expressed within, and I contend that if one looks at the issue from a practical economic standpoint, or a moral standpoint, or the uniquely American natural law-based political philosophical standpoint, permitting free migration into this country is both beneficial and just. I further contend that our current system, as well as those changes most often proposed are on the other hand detrimental to both the economy and to the individuals excluded from that economy as so-called “illegal immigrants.” Finally, I contend that the arguments used against such free migration are illogical, counter-productive, anathema to traditional American ideals, and instead dependent on the kind of tribal, collectivistic and anti-individual ideology some of the opponents of free immigration find so abhorrent in other situations.
In answer to all the complaints that these immigrants are a drain on the economy because as non-citizens they don’t pay the same taxes but are beneficiaries of government programs, I say the solution is simple: allow them to become citizens. They want to work and pay rent and participate in our economy. That’s why they come here. If you stop them from participating in contributing, then it is your fault if their effect is a net negative. As a legal worker, they would contribute to and draw from the public coffers in the same ways that natural born citizens do.
In answer to the complaint that they take jobs from native workers and unfairly compete by accepting a lower wage, I say the solution is simple: allow them to become citizens. As citizens they will be subject to all the regulations that any other Americans are, and won’t be any more likely to accept a sub-standard wage than any other citizen in a comparable situation.
In answer to the complaint that they aren’t assimilated to our culture and don’t speak the language, I say the solution is simple: allow them to become citizens. It worked with the Italians, Irish, Chinese, and Eastern Europeans that flooded into the country in previous decades. Most of them didn’t speak the language at first, and by necessity gathered together into neighborhoods in which the culture of their home country was dominant. That phenomenon lasts about a generation, but it doesn’t last forever. Do you not see that “No Irish Need Apply” signs in windows were a shameful thing and that those people were ignorant and short-sighted? Why would you want to emulate them?
In answer to the claim that it their fault they’re not citizens, because there is a process, I say that the process is perhaps much more burdensome than you pretend. How many of we who have been blessed with birthright citizenship could deal with the hundreds of pages of bureaucratic nonsense and tens of thousands of dollars of expense required? Would you accept a reform of the law back, perhaps, to the standards and procedures used at Ellis Island, that worked so well in the past? How would that be different than a general amnesty?
In answer to the claim that you wouldn’t really mind if only they would follow the laws to enter the country, I say that among you are people for whom that clearly isn’t true. Have you heard of the term “anchor babies?” They are the manifestation of a legal solution to the problem of finding a way to enter the country. Families of anchor babies were using the laws on the books to accomplish their immigration, as requested, but the response wasn’t “There you go, thank you for entering legally” as one might expect, but is instead “They’ve found a loophole! Let us change not only our laws but the very constitution to prevent it!” One simply can’t, in good faith, argue that following the laws is all that is asked at the same time as increasing the burden of those laws.
In answer to the complaint that they bring drug violence over the border, I say that rather it is us exporting said violence. Without our misguided and self-destructive policies, and our demand that neighbors comply, the phenomenon simply would not exist. Such a claim could have just as easily been made against Canadians during alcohol prohibition. It’s not the people, but the counter-productive, nanny-state, “progressive” laws that make drug trade so profitable and forces disputes involving it out of the court system. Armed conflict, kidnapping, and gang warfare are a product of the drug laws and in no way connected to immigration.
In answer to the complaint that they are by definition illegal because they have already broken laws, and law breakers shouldn’t be permitted to enter our society, I say that some estimates indicate that the average adult citizen commits three felonies a day. Certainly almost everyone over the age of 18 could be convicted of some felony-level violation of the immense and perverse mountain of regulations with which we have been burdened by collectivist ideology. As a wise philosopher once said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Only saints who promptly turn themselves in each time they exceed a speed limit can pretend that they don’t recognize the difference between the importants and value of different laws. To declare that laws must be obeyed and can never be immoral or misguided, mustn’t one also condemn the likes of Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Harriet Tubman, and Patrick Henry, who openly opposed and violated unjust laws? Isn’t that view akin to a blessing the perfectly legal atrocities committed by legitimate governments throughout history? Where do you draw the line? I know where I draw the line, and moving from one location to another without written approval is not in the same class as murder, kidnapping, and theft. The fact is that the laws on the books are outrageous and shouldn’t be used by themselves as a justification for any deprivation of the rights claimed in the Declaration and described in the Constitution.
In answer to the complaint that the supply of labor needs to be kept in check to keep wages at a certain level, I argue that policies that artificially inflate wages above the market value are an unfair burden on all of the other residents who aren’t necessarily protected by such policies. Even if everyone were, it is a simple task to show that wages are factored into the cost of products, and by raising wages one increases costs, which must be paid by consumers. When the costs of consumer products rise, there is a demand for higher wages, and the cycle perpetuates itself. The virtue or lack of virtue in the idea of centrally planning the economy can be addressed elsewhere, but allowing monopolies and cartels to prevent their own competition is generally understood to be detrimental to those not included in the cartel. Limiting competition in certain types of labor is no different.
In answer to the complaint that the supply of low-wage labor helps keep the price of certain foods low, I say shame on you. I haven’t heard this one in a while, but the idea that we shouldn’t allow, for example, migrant workers to become citizens because their current jobs pay the low wages that make produce so inexpensive was all over the news media for a few years. Legally forcing certain workers to accept a lower wage than others is oppressive in the clearest sense of the word, and akin to sweatshops and prison labor, and only a small step away from serfdom and slavery.
In answer to the complaint that during times of economic distress immigration should be curtailed, I say that perhaps the relationship between immigration and economic health aren’t quite as simple. Clearly arguments can be made that in a recession or depression where consumer spending is below what is desired, perhaps an increase in consumers might be beneficial. In a market with a glut of available housing, perhaps new residents eager to rent and buy would be a benefit. Perhaps unemployment isn’t only a product of too many people wanting jobs. A doubling of the unemployment rate in the last few years wasn’t a result of a doubling of the working population. Certainly if we look at the greatest economic booms and bust in the last century, the booms follow a loosening of immigration restrictions and the busts follow an increase in restrictions. If the relationship is what these complainants pretend, wouldn’t one would expect the opposite?
In answer to the claim that it’s really a matter of respecting property rights, that entering the country illegally is akin to trespassing and burglary, I say that this is the by far the most pernicious of all assertions discussed. Setting aside the inherent necessity of seeing the land as the property of the state and not the individuals, the argument clearly doesn’t apply to immigrants. They aren’t invaders laying claim to the property of U.S. Citizens. They are workers and consumers who upon arrival will rent housing or purchase property. A landlord who can’t rent his property isn’t helped by limiting immigration. He’s hurt by it, and doubly hurt because taxes are extracted to fund the damage to his livelihood. If an employee or a landlord want to do business with any individual, and that individual wants to do business with them, what right have third, unharmed, parties to interfere, on any basis? If you have a problem with the ways that your tax money is being spent, isn’t your problem with the system that extracts them? If a mugger uses stolen money to buy a sandwich, how much blame should be laid on the restaurant?
Invariably three types of illegal immigrants are talked about. Many talk of the wanton criminals who take advantage of the confusing and ineffectual policies on the border to commit crimes, or who fail to follow other laws because as fugitives there’s no reason to get minimum mandatory insurance or to avoid DUIs. Many talk about MS-13 and other drug gangs that bring military-level conflict over the border into southern states. These are easy targets. Few are willing to directly complain about the dishwashers and hotel maids and landscapers and other peaceful people who make up the vast majority of illegal immigrants. How many of these latter examples should suffer to try to prevent the former, especially when the efforts being made facilitate the true criminals. That itinerant central-american rapist is aided by immigration policy. Uninsured and unlicensed motorists aren’t uninsured and unlicensed because they don’t want to be, but because they can’t be. They are shut out of the system. Drug gangs draw their profits from the prohibition. Without that profit there would be no funding for all of those weapons and vehicles, and there would certainly be no incentive for anyone to risk their life smuggling legal substances and immigrants over the border. All of the rules that fail to stop these people are successful at one thing: forcing the peaceful and otherwise law-abiding people who want to come here to participate in our society and economy to live in the shadows, constantly in fear of ICE, unable to legally do the things that opponents of immigration demand they do. Conflating the profiteers and the victims together into an imaginary group simply because they arrive from the same cardinal direction, or share a common language, is dishonest.
I’ve given a hint to the types of people who are harmed by restricting immigration: consumers, homeowners, the immigrants themselves. Who, then, benefits?
- Clearly, true criminals are aided by the policy. They can commit horrendous crimes, and face no more punishment than merely being deported back into Mexico, who returns them to the border hoping to be rid of them.
- Exploitative corporations, unwilling to compete in good faith, take advantage of the illegal status of immigrants to pay them slave wages.
- Racist organizations can take advantage of the consequences of forced poverty and legal disenfranchisement to show what they pretend is an entire race in a poor light. By preventing assimilation they can foment fear and paranoia that would otherwise be difficult to demonstrate.
- Drug cartels, human smugglers, and other organized crime are of course dependent on these policies. Without restrictions on the trade in drugs and the limitation on the right to migrate, these industry simply wouldn’t exist.
- Finally, the immigration industrial complex, a confluence of public and private sector interests that profit from the industry of enforcing immigration laws, like so many other public-private partnerships, rely upon the creation and fueling of an otherwise non-existent problem to provide a raison d’être. Other corporations whose only customer is the security state follow right behind. Without irrational fear and oppressive regulation, their industry wouldn’t exist, either.
Certainly there are others, but these benefit the most. I can understand that there is a chance that your wage might drop if the legal labor market expands. I disagree that this is a real problem, but even if you’re right, how much of your wage would you be willing to give up to help stop these evil people? Is what you’re being paid enough to buy your support for them?
The practical consequences of laws like Alabama’s is to establish a Gestapo police state in which everyone must constantly prove that they are innocent, rather than the society envisioned by our founders in which free men were to free from such harassment, and left do as they liked until proven guilty. If your ideal is some fascist or communist collective, then by all means demand that a person should be required to maintain and present papers at every interaction with government officials and upon the entry of any contract. Demand that people should be stopped at every opportunity to prove that they have the right to walk down the street, or drive a car, or enter into trade with other peaceful people. But demand those things only if what you really want is that police state, because that’s what you’re going to get. Maybe you’re placated by the idea that they will demand such proof only from those who inspire a “reasonable suspicion.” I’ll refuse to play the “racist card” here, and instead ask you to imagine the kind of “reasonable suspicion” that might be acceptable to a government that issues MIAC reports and Homeland Security Bulletins to be on the look out for Veterans and Ron Paul supporters and Tea Partiers and people with 2nd amendment bumper stickers, a security state that tells its stormtroopers to be on the lookout for anyone flying an American flag a little too prominently, or who talks a little too passionately in favor of the Constitution, or who might be a “religious extremist” in the eyes of the left. You may not look Mexican, and you may keep such patriotic displays out of plain sight, and you may keep quiet about your respect for the 10th amendment, or your opposition to the Federal Reserve, but when you support these kinds of laws you are granting license to the kinds of people that some day might ask you for papers and will cite one of the thousands of esoteric laws you might have broken, or might claim that they have reason to believe that you might be giving material support to right-wing terrorists and haul you off. They’ve done it before, they are currently doing it, and if we cheer as they do it to some group just because we’re fortunate enough to not be in that particular group because of some irrational fear, then there is no reason to expect that they won’t ever do it to us.
I would much rather take the risk that I might have to participate in an active, free market full of vibrant competition than secure a little temporary protection from boogeymen by selling off my liberty.
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