Yesterday, I read in the Washington Post:
“The dramatic shift in the Republican Party on immigration continued Tuesday, as conservative tea party icon and possible 2016 presidential contender Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) endorsed an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws that would allow the nation’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants to obtain legalized status. ‘ [reform] will not occur until conservative Republicans, like myself, become part of the solution. That’s why I’m here today. To begin that conversation and become part of the solution,’ he said in a breakfast speech Tuesday morning before the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington.”
Paul wants a way for immigrants to obtain “legal status” but not citizenship, and he wants to allow more legal immigration. While I don’t know his specifics, in general he is right on both counts.
To deal with the second issue first. Our immigration restrictions come from an extremely “progressive” and eugenicist time in our history. They were adopted from the same rationale as Margaret Sanger’s abortion ideology. They assumed that a growing population was an economic problem. That is exactly the opposite of the truth. In fact, the United States is at the threshold of a demographic implosion. Not only should we allow immigrants, but soon we will be begging them to come over unless we see an immediate change in the reproductive habits and preferences of US families. Actually, even an immediate change probably wouldn’t help soon enough.
Having restricted immigration, we now face a situation in which the best and brightest in other countries are kept there because they have too much to lose if they break US law. Middle-class people can’t typically afford to sneak into the country and expect any kind of life. More engineers and more doctors and more professionals of other kinds will mean a higher standard of living for everyone. Yes it is true that a relatively few professionals get to charge more due to the restriction on competition, but that isn’t the same as economic prosperity for the whole country. Furthermore, as costs go down, there are new growth opportunities. There are many instances of immigrants coming here and starting businesses and providing opportunities for natives they would never have otherwise.
For desperate poor on the other side of our southern border our immigration laws are simply useless. When time in jail represents an increase in your normal standard of living, laws are not going to deter you from trying to live in the United States.
Since this population is relatively marginal, they have their share of problems you would expect: in addition to working poor you find people who are criminals or who want to take advantage of the Welfare State that Americans who were born here were stupid enough to construct. But so what? Criminals can and should be punished and welfare should be ended for everyone. That doesn’t mean that people who want to work here and are willing to pay taxes should be hated and reviled.
To evade this basic ethical imperative, conservatives typically make strident statements about the evils of “amnesty for “lawbreakers.” It is time to state the truth about these claims: If you are a Mexican husband and father who will watch your wife and children live in misery because you insist on honoring an unjust and tyrannical US law that tells you to stay where you are and rot, rather than move to where you can better yourself and your family by hard work, then you are a slothful and negligent husband and father. Those laws that these immigrants have broken are tyrannical and unjust laws. They are an embarrassment to the heritage of freedom that gave us the Declaration of Independence and the US powerhouse of free enterprise. Those laws should be ended and forgotten, not used as an excuse for abducting people from their homes and exiling them back to a country because they happened to have been born there. How can people who honor the original Tea Party in Boston (an illegal act) turn around and claim that the mere existence of a law on paper justifies this kind of assault on persons and property? Were all participants in the “underground railroad” that helped slaves escape the South and slavery all “evil lawbreakers”? These “illegals” should not only get “amnesty,” but they should get an apology as well!
This brings us to Rand Paul’s second issue: should these people have “legal status”? If it is not citizenship, then yes. Immigrants are a threat if they can vote immediately, because then they are essentially a foreign power that threatens the domestic population. If government is force, then any population that can vote is a threat to use force against others. The rapid granting of citizenship is an evil strategy. The right to life, liberty, and property are real. The franchise is an artificial construction, not a “natural right.”
If we increase legal immigration so anyone who wants to work here and live under our laws can come here, then the problems faced by property owners on our southern border will end. At that point, the only people sneaking over will be real criminals, and we can deal with them appropriately. The pressure will be gone.
PostScript: Notice that granting “amnesty” makes no sense at all if you plan to keep the same laws in place restricting immigration. It means you are encouraging lawbreaking even as you claim the law is just. To keep immigration restricted and then grant amnesty from time to time is a strategy to attract a resentful minority and then, every decade or so, gain a quick influx of resentful voters. I want to see this Democrat recruiting tool ended forever.