Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor… But Don’t Get Crazy
The best conservative argument for the United States is the teeming, swarming multitudes of foreigners from every continent except Antarctica falling all over themselves to get here, make something of themselves, and call the U.S. their home. Why are we turning them away?
Last week Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed unconstitutional legislation requiring state police to shake down brown people in the hopes of catching illegal immigrants, and threatening lawsuits against police departments that aren’t sufficiently paranoid in their enforcement of said law.
The Senate will be introducing immigration reform legislation soon, if they can decide whether or not it’s more important to destroy industrial production via cap-and-tax legislation first.
It’s time to calm the hysteria, put aside the pitchforks, and break down the argument for immigration into its fundamental components:
• Immigration is an action that, like owning firearms or taking illegal drugs, does not inherently harm anyone else.
• Immigration can incur penalties for crimes associated with it, rather than the action itself; for example, some immigrants may become involved with gangs, just as some gun owners may accidentally shoot family members or some drug users may commit violent crimes due to lack of self-control.
• Immigration can have reasonable limits placed on it without restricting its practice among the law-abiding; for example: no immigration for those with criminal records, just like no gun ownership for dangerous felons and no selling drugs to minors.
• Immigration can also incur separate penalties for mere commission—e.g., crossing the border illegally without having committed any other felony.
So reasonable limits are reasonable. Penalties for crimes associated with immigration should be reserved for the crimes themselves.
But penalties for illegal actions that shouldn’t be illegal have no business being on the books.
The right to immigrate to the U.S. should be protected like other rights. Why?
This country was the first to be founded on an abstract principle: the right to liberty. We’ve accepted a greater percentage of immigrants by population than any other nation in history. This country is basically nothing but immigrants.
If we mean what we say about liberty, we shouldn’t restrict the right to live and flourish in the U.S. to those fortunate enough to have been born here.
There are plenty of people around the world who hate this country—out of religious ideology or cultural snobbery, for example—and plenty more who would not find it convenient or desirable to pack up their families and move here. But all those who are willing to migrate here on their own dime, swear to uphold this country’s ideals, assimilate to its cultural traditions, and work to make their own way should be allowed to stay.
Some might warn that half the world could end up living here. So what? There’s plenty of room in this country for half the world.
Despite the crowding of its urban centers (like urban centers everywhere—like the whole point of urban centers), the United States is a vastly underpopulated wilderness on the order of Australia, Canada, or Russia. Hundreds of millions of square miles of federally protected and unprotected land just sit there in the middle of nowhere, screaming out for strip mining, commercial development, and planned communities. Tumbleweeds drift across limitless swaths of desert where there could be technology companies instead. In Alaska caribou enjoy more acres per capita than residents of Kansas.
We already allow a relatively select set of immigrants into this country, though we make them waste years of their lives and productive energy waiting in line to get here—and even then they’re not guaranteed a spot. Quotas are implemented by ethnic origin, creating competition and resentment among racial groups. Conservatives who oppose affirmative action and the left’s penchant for ethnic balkanization should be appalled by the nature of such restrictions.
Cubans who are able to escape their repressive regime and make it to Florida’s shores are given asylum and allowed to stay, because they were unfortunate enough to have been born where they were. Mexicans don’t have it as bad as Cubans in their native countries, but if Mexicans don’t make it here and Cubans do, then Cubans end up the lucky ones. A freedom-seeking Mexican might very well wonder whether he would have been better off being born in Cuba, so he could have had the chance to escape to the U.S. What’s sensible about an immigration policy that encourages victimhood?
An additional consequence of our immigration policy—not a fundamental argument for open immigration, but a devastating side effect of our current law—is the breaking up of families that occurs when illegals are captured and shipped back home, which is hardly a strategy that supports conservative family values.
Don’t mistake me: it’s still all about what’s best for this nation—which means that doctors, engineers, and physicists from countries not on the asylum list who want to bring their talents here should be processed first, even if they come from a country where political circumstances don’t happen to be rough enough for the INS’s taste.
I am aware that the Obamas and Pelosis of the world are not pushing for open immigration because they believe so strongly in the value of liberty—these are the same people who just passed the health care spending bill with its individual mandate, after all—but rather because they hope to build a permanent new coalition of loyal Democratic voters. And no—Arizona’s law is not the equivalent of apartheid in South Africa or the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II, and Arizona has not become Nazi Germany.
I have no problem with racial profiling of Muslim-looking young men during airport screenings. We are at war with Islamic, terrorist-sponsoring regimes that use almost exclusively actors who fit this profile to carry out their attacks. The nation’s security comes first.
We are not at war with Mexican day laborers who want to move here and start construction businesses.