I know some may be bored with my immigration posts, so if you are, that's cool, you can ignore the rest. I have done something of late I normally don't do: I have tuned into conservative talk radio for bits and pieces of time over the last several days to get the gist of their arguments to limit immigration. The main arguments I have heard are:
- Illegal immigrants are breaking the law
- We should not reward law-breaking with amnesty. We need to round these folks up that are breaking the law and teach them a lesson. Or put them in concentration camps if that were logistically feasible
- We don't like first generation Mexican immigrants carrying the Mexican flag in parades. (though we love it when 4th generation Irish carry Irish flags in parades)
A recent commenter on my post defending open immigration, which is superseded by this pro-immigration post I like better, had this related insight:
1. YOUARE ILLEGAL
2. YOU ARE ILLEGAL
3. YOU ARE ILLEGAL
4. YOU ARE ILLEGAL
5. YOU ARE ILLEGAL
6-10000000 YOU ARE ILLEGAL
DO I NEED TO WRITE THIS IN SPANISH SO THAT THE ILLEGALS CAN
UNDERSTAND. IF YOU CAN READ THIS THEN YOU DID PASS THE BASIC ENGLISH
TEST THAT IS RREQUIRED OF ALL LEAGAL MIGRANTS !!!
OH, BTW, I HAVE THE RIGHT TO SAY THIS, BECAUSE I AM LEGAL!!
It sure is comforting that us "leagal migrants" have to pass a basic English test, or we might come off as idiots when we post comments online. But you get the gist. My first thought is that this is certainly a circular argument. To answer my premise that "immigration should be legal for everyone" with the statement that "it is illegal" certainly seems to miss the point (it kind of reminds me of the king of swamp castle giving instructions to his guards in Monty Python and the Holy Grail) The marginally more sophisticated statement that "it is illegal and making it legal would only reward lawbreakers" would seem to preclude any future relaxation of any government regulation.
Many people writing on this topic today lapse into pragmatic arguments ala "well, how would we pick the lettuce without them?" Frequent readers of this site will notice I seldom if ever resort to this type argument (except perhaps when I argued that immigration might be a solution to the demographic bomb in medicare and social security). My argument is simpler but I hear it discussed much less frequently: By what right are these folks "illegal"?
What does it mean to be living in this country? Well, immigrants have to live somewhere, which presupposes they rent or buy living space from me or one of my neighbors. Does the government have the right to tell me who I can and can't transact with? Most conservatives would (rightly) say "no," except what they really seem to mean is "no, as long as that person you are leasing a room to was born within some arbitrary lines on the map. The same argument goes for immigrants contracting their labor (ie getting a job). Normally, most conservatives would (rightly again) say that the government can't tell you who you can and can't hire. And by the way, note exactly what is being criminalized here - the illegal activity these folks are guilty of is making a life for their family and looking for work. Do you really want to go down the path of making these activities illegal? Or check out the comment again above. She/he implies that immigrants without the proper government papers don't even have speech rights, rights that even convicted felons have in this country.
By the way, I understand that voting and welfare type handouts complicate this and can't be given day 1 to everyone who crosses the border -- I dealt in particular with the issue of New Deal social services killing immigration here.
Our rights to association and commerce and free movement and speech flow from our humanity, not from the government. As I wrote before:
Like the founders of this country, I believe that our individual
rights exist by the very fact of our existance as thinking human
beings, and that these rights are not the gift of kings or
congressmen. Rights do not flow to us from government, but in fact
governments are formed by men as an artificial construct to help us
protect those rights, and well-constructed governments, like ours, are
carefully limited in their powers to avoid stifling the rights we have
inherently as human beings.
Do you see where this is going? The individual rights we hold dear
are our rights as human beings, NOT as citizens. They flow from our
very existence, not from our government. As human beings, we have the
right to assemble with whomever we want and to speak our minds. We
have the right to live free of force or physical coercion from other
men. We have the right to make mutually beneficial arrangements with
other men, arrangements that might involve exchanging goods, purchasing
shelter, or paying another man an agreed upon rate for his work. We
have these rights and more in nature, and have therefore chosen to form
governments not to be the source of these rights (for they already
existed in advance of governments) but to provide protection of these
rights against other men who might try to violate these rights through
force or fraud.
rights of speech and assembly and commerce and property shouldn't,
therefore, be contingent on "citizenship". I should be able, equally,
to contract for service from David in New Jersey or Lars in Sweden.
David or Lars, who are equally human beings, have the equal right to
buy my property, if we can agree to terms. If he wants to get away
from cold winters in Sweden, Lars can contract with a private airline
to fly here, contract with another person to rent an apartment or buy
housing, contract with a third person to provide his services in
exchange for wages. But Lars can't do all these things today, and is
excluded from these transactions just because he was born over some
geographic line? To say that Lars or any other "foreign" resident has
less of a right to engage in these decisions, behaviors, and
transactions than a person born in the US is to imply that the US
government is somehow the source of the right to pursue these
activities, WHICH IT IS NOT.
Disclosure: A number of my great-grandparents were immigrants from Germany. When they came over, most were poor, uneducated, unskilled and could not speak English. Several never learned to speak English. Many came over and initially took agricultural jobs and other low-skilled work. Because the new country was intimidating to them, they tended to gather together in heavily German neighborhoods and small towns. Now, of course, this description makes them totally different from most immigrants today that we want to shut the door on because...um, because, uh... Help me out, because why?
PS - And please don't give me the "government's job is defend the borders" argument. Government's job is to defend its people, which only occasionally in cases of direct attack involves defending the borders. I am sick of the rhetorical trick of taking people like the "minutemen" and describing them as patriots defending the border, when this nomenclature just serves to hide the fact that these folks are bravely stopping unarmed human beings from seeking employment or reuniting with their families. And I will absolutely guarantee that the borders will be easier to patrol against real criminals and terrorists sneaking in when the background noise of millions of peaceful and non-threatening people are removed from the picture and routed through legal border crossings.