Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I recently responded to a post on immigration on Womanist Musings. I wanted to flesh out my position but thought it would wind up being too long to put on someone else's blog. So I decided to put it here.

I generally believe in open immigration, one of the few things I disagree with Ron Paul about. I think only violent or larcenous criminals should be stopped from entering the country. I don't want people coming here to live on welfare (if they want to be supported by the taxpayers they should demand it of their own governments, we have enough of a dependency class of our own, and even the poorest nations have some wealthy people who could support their compatriots if need be). However, I think denying all non-emergency benefits to non-citizens and making the welfare state less generous in general could solve this problem without harassing and threatening the vast majority of people who come here to earn an honest living.

I do agree with Paul and other immigration opponents that we should repeal the 14th Amendment, which guarantees citizenship for everyone born in the United States. To be born a citizen one should be required to have at least one parent who is a citizen. Hardly any other nation grants citizenship on the basis of birth alone. Some countries, such as Germany, have families who have lived there for several generations without being citizens.

I understand that the 14th Amendment was passed to insure citizenship for children of former slaves. It was a noble cause and it served an important purpose at the time, but now that no one who was legally enslaved in the United States is currently alive, this is mainly used by people looking to game the system. If a woman gives birth to a child inside of the U.S. whether she is here legally or illegally, working here married to someone working here, or even a tourist that child is automatically a citizen. And even if both parents and any other relatives of that child are deported, when the child reaches adulthood, he or she can move back to the U.S. and petition for citizenship for his or her previously deported family members. This hurts efforts at assimilation and makes it easier for people with no respect for our Constitution and traditions to influence our politics, undermining our liberty and making our country more like the ones they fled.

Lack of assimilation and allegiance to the Constitution are the main problems with immigration. True there are plenty of native born people who don't respect the Constitution, though there is nothing we can do about them. We can however avoid adding to their numbers, and can choose to naturalize new citizens who will help us restore our liberty and our commitment to free markets and self-sufficiency. As for those who claim that crime and even terrorism are the main problems with immigration, I would argue that almost all (if not all) terrorist acts on U.S. soil were by those here legally. And border guards could focus on terrorists and other criminal threats if they weren't so busy harassing people coming here to work. There is no reason why any government should stand between a willing employer and a willing employee, unless the government is obligated by its own laws to grant the employees additional rights. Eliminate any such laws, focus border patrols on real security threats, and you eliminate such problems.

There is still the problem of native born people being unwilling to engage in fair competition for jobs. The situation in the U.S. is not perfectly fair, of course, since American workers cannot as easily become eligible to work abroad. However, by allowing a free circulation of labor into the country, the U.S. would be in a better position to negotiate American workers' rights to work wherever they choose as part of Free Trade Agreements. This still wouldn't please workers who feel entitled to what has in the past been the American wage for a particular job, when the prevailing global wage is much lower, but it would allow proponents of free markets to support guest worker programs unambiguously.

No comments: