TCS Daily


A Right to Migrate?

By Nathan Smith - April 6, 2006 12:00 AM

At the heart of the current immigration debate is an ethical question: Is it wrong for a poor but able-bodied Mexican without the requisite documents to cross the Rio Grande to look for work in El Norte?

Certainly, it is illegal. On the other hand, no one is harmed by it in the strictest sense. No one's person is violated. No one's property is stolen or damaged.

It's true, of course, that illegal immigrants may bid down the wages of low-skilled native-born workers. But this is relevant neither to law nor morality. If I become a dentist, I may marginally reduce the wages of other dentists. That does not make my dentistry illegal or immoral.

Or is it wrong to break the law, per se? But hardly anyone believes that consistently. Most of us approve of one or more of history's famous lawbreakers. Take your pick: Sam Adams and the Boston Tea Party boys; Thomas Jefferson and the signers of the Declaration of Independence ; Pastor Bonhoeffer; Mahatma Gandhi; Martin Luther King; Robin Hood; the Prophet Daniel; the early Christian martyrs. Even the usual argument for obeying laws you disagree with -- that we're all part of a social contract, and owe obedience to the state in return for the benefits we get from it -- doesn't apply to foreigners, who aren't part of the US social contract, at least not before they get here.

I am sympathetic to the idea that a Mexican who comes to the United States to work and share our material prosperity thereby tacitly consents to be ruled by the laws laid down by Washington. With one exception: It is absurd to say that, by immigrating illegally, he signals his consent to the law which he is breaking.

In short, an undocumented Mexican who enters the US is doing something illegal, but it is not clear that he is doing anything immoral. Certainly, in terms of the minimalist morality of not harming others and fulfilling one's obligations, he is not.

Is the law that prohibits an undocumented Mexican from entering the country, then, an unjust law? Or can such laws be defended? Different defenses of these laws come from the right or the left.

"Defending our borders"

Critics of immigration from the right like to say they support "defending our borders." This is a clever phrase, because it erases the distinction between peaceful workers and invading armies. Every state must defend its borders against invading armies, to protect its citizens' lives and property. But states have generally permitted the entry of peaceful traders, who do not threaten the lives or property of citizens. In any case, they know the difference between the two. By pretending not to understand it, right-wing opponents of immigration may score rhetorical points, but they fail to make the case for the widely-disobeyed laws.

That said; the case for restricting immigration in order to "defend our borders" is more legitimate in the wake of 9/11. America is in no danger of armed invasion from Mexico or Canada, of course -- the idea that Mexican immigrants pose an irredentist threat to the Southwest is sheer fantasy -- but we are threatened by jihadi terrorists, who could potentially filter in across our southern border. If counter-terrorism were the good-faith motivation for our tight border controls, the case for US citizens to cooperate with them would be strong.

But a counter-terror borders policy would look totally different from what we now have. For a start, we would probably permit the unrestricted entry of passport-carrying nationals of Mexico, which is not a terrorist source, and then cooperate with the Mexican government to prevent fraud, and thus prevent a flood of job-seeking migrants from camouflaging terrorist infiltrators. At present, there is not even a pretense that counter-terror is the major motivation for our border controls. The main challenge for applicants for US visas is to prove, not that they have no ties to terror, but that they don't intend to stay and work.

The argument that we need to defend our borders is perfectly valid, especially after 9/11. It just isn't a defense of anything like the regime of border controls that currently exists.

A conundrum for paternalists

A critique of immigration from the political left was recently published in the Denver Post by Paul Krugman. Krugman calls himself "instinctively, emotionally pro-immigration," but he thinks that "we'll need to reduce the inflow of low-skill immigrants," because he is concerned about the effect of immigration on the social safety net:

"[M]odern America is a welfare state, even if our social safety net has more holes in it than it should - and low-skill immigrants threaten to unravel that safety net.

"Basic decency requires that we provide immigrants, once they're here, with essential health care, education for their children, and more."

Krugman's argument amounts to a paternalist case for border controls: he doesn't want to let in immigrants whom we'll be unable, or unwilling, to treat "humanely" by "providing [them] with essential health care, education for their children, and more," even if they still want to come without those guarantees. This restriction is in the interests neither of current citizens, nor of potential migrants, but only of Krugman, and others who feel a psychological need to live in a welfare state.

There are many hundreds of millions of people in the world who lack "essential health care, education for their children, and more." Does "basic decency," in Krugman's opinion, require that we provide for them, too? Presumably not, but then why do we suddenly acquire this obligation "once they're here?" We can't provide a social safety net for the whole world. We may be able to provide one for everyone physically located in the US, but only by restricting who gets in, and why should we do that?

The reaction of a leftist like Krugman to immigration represents a change in, or possibly an unmasking of, the motivation behind the welfare state. A generous view of the welfare state is that it is meant to serve the ends of mercy -- a desire to alleviate the suffering of others -- and/or social justice -- a belief that poverty is (in part) a result of misfortune or exploitation, and therefore that we make life fairer if we tax the well-off to help the poor. But there is nothing just about guaranteeing a decent life to all who live north of the Rio Grande by closing the door of opportunity to those born further south. Nor is there anything merciful about denying a destitute Mexican the chance, however uncertain, of improving his lot in the United States. Krugman entitles his article "We've got a moral duty," but in fact he has detached the welfare state from its notional moral content, and the "basic decency" he mentions is really a form of squeamishness: We know there is poverty in the world, we can't alleviate it; we just don't want to see it here.

This is a cowardly point of view, but Krugman is free to cast his vote for legislators who will pass laws designed to keep poor people abroad where Krugman doesn't have to see them. Krugman has not, however, made the case that any aspiring Mexican or liberal-minded American citizen should obey such laws.

Civil disobedience

Many actions prohibited by law -- murder, robbery, perjury in court -- are also morally wrong. Other actions -- most private lies, adultery, skipping church (according to some people) -- are immoral, but not prohibited by law. A third class of actions is prohibited by law but is not morally wrong, and these are problematic.

When policy and conscience clash, the stage is set for what Henry David Thoreau, in his classic 1849 essay, called "Civil Disobedience." Thoreau's premise is the primacy of the individual conscience against democratic majoritarianism.

"[A] government in which the majority rule in all cases can not be based on justice, even as far as men understand it. Can there not be a government in which the majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience? Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then?... It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right."

Based on this premise, Thoreau argues that the right response to an unjust law is deliberately to break it, and then take the consequences:

"Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?... If [the law] is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I saw, break the law. Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine..."

Thoreau seems to have a lot of disciples lately. An estimated 15 to 20 million people are breaking the law, residing in the United States without legal permission. Millions more are hiring them, leasing them accommodations, and otherwise doing business with them and aiding them. So far, though, this lawbreaking generally does not qualify as civil disobedience in Thoreau's sense, because most illegal immigrants and their employers would rather deceive the state to avoid punishment, than defy the law openly and go to prison as living testimonies against injustice. But that is why the recent pro-immigration demonstrations are so interesting: defiance of immigration laws is becoming more self-conscious, more public, more proud. Illegal immigration may be evolving from a black-economy phenomenon into true mass civil disobedience.

Victor Davis Hanson, among others, predicts that the demonstrations are likely to provoke a backlash. Okay, but what are the backlashers going to do about it? Civil disobedience challenges the powers that be to decide how much violence they are willing to do in defense of (allegedly) unjust laws.

Thoreau wrote that "a minority is powerless when it conforms to the majority... but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight... if one thousand, if one hundred, if ten men... ay, if one HONEST man... were actually to be locked up in the county jail [for anti-slavery civil disobedience], it would be the end of slavery in America." Um, not quite: Thoreau proved himself wrong by going to jail for not paying his taxes, without ending slavery.

But Thoreau is right that civil disobedience can vastly empower a minority that is willing to take risks and make sacrifices for a just cause, in the context of a liberal state which is not willing to commit atrocities against non-violent people. Mahatma Gandhi led a successful movement for Indian independence by means of satyagraha, an Indian version of civil disobedience. He succeeded because the British were not willing to kill on a large scale to maintain their rule of India, and because Gandhi and others in his movement were too brave to be diverted from their purpose by lesser punishments, like imprisonment.

It's a safe bet that the American people would not countenance the massive coercion and violence -- the Berlin Wall at the border, the long trains full of deportees, the raids of peaceful suburbs, the tearing apart of families, the repression of peaceful protesters, the jeers of "ethnic cleansing" from around the world -- that would be necessary to block or reverse the natural process by which migrants are drawn from poor, low-opportunity countries to the thriving economy of the United States. The question, then, is whether illegal immigrants and their sympathizers have the courage and conviction to organize civil disobedience until they force lasting change.

The right to migrate

I, for one, hope they do. And I hope they bring about a world in which the right to migrate is accepted as an essential pillar of freedom. That's the long-run vision. How to get there is harder. But we can afford to let in anyone who is not a threat to national security, if we manage the economic impact of immigration so as to ease the way.

Low-skilled workers in the US today enjoy higher wages because border controls reduce the competition. Lift the border controls, and wages would fall. From one point of view, that's fine, because US-born low-skilled workers earn a lot more than (most) low-skilled foreign workers earn abroad. Why not narrow the gap? On the other hand, low-skilled workers are used to, and expect, a relatively high (by worldwide or historical standards) level of disposable income. A principle of good policy is to avoid causing unpleasant surprises, when possible.

So if immigration redistributes wage income from (some) US workers to newcomers, why not offset this by using the built-in redistributive effects of our tax-and-transfer system?

Every worker in the United States today pays a payroll tax to pay unsustainable hand-outs to the generation born in the 1930s or earlier. There's nothing fair about this, but we're used to it, and we lump it together with the general obligation to pay taxes. And 12.4% is a burden, but it won't ruin your life, the way being deported from or barred entry to a country might. So, as a start, we can create a guest worker program, available to all non-terrorists, and require participants to pay their 12.4% payroll tax, while barring them from collecting benefits in the future. This would be fairly easy to arrange, and it would help to shore up the finances of the Social Security system, making the retirements of working-class Americans more secure. (To avoid causing unpleasant surprises to anyone, these policy changes would not affect current legal immigrants.)

A more direct way to compensate the US-born working poor for the effect of immigration on wages is through the Earned Income Tax Credit, a negative tax on labor income established in 1975 and rapidly expanded in the 1990s. Currently, most Green Card-holding immigrants are eligible for the EITC. If we allowed in guest workers while not making them eligible for the EITC, this would allow US-born low-skilled workers to be competitive with guest workers in the labor market, while still enjoying a higher standard of living. And more prosperous guest workers' income taxes would help to finance the EITC.

Guest-worker programs are appealing, in part, as a market-friendly form of foreign aid. Instead of brain-draining poor countries, the theory goes, guest workers will enrich their home countries by bringing back savings and skills. But once they're in America, guest workers tend to want to stay. Solution: give them a monetary incentive to return, by creating a mandatory guest-worker savings account (say, 20% of all earned income), which they can withdraw only when they get home. Or if they want to stay, they have to accumulate a certain amount (say, $50,000) in their savings accounts, after which they can apply for citizenship, but in that case, they forfeit the money.

Every year, the federal government would split the proceeds from these forfeited savings accounts 300 million ways, and send everybody a check, as a tangible reminder of the benefits of immigration. (It's not a lot. If 1.5 million guest workers became citizens, we'd each get $250. A poor family of four would get $1,000 -- no fortune, but not pocket change either.)

Finally, if we're still reluctant to see desperate people on our streets, we can require guest workers to pre-imburse the US government for the cost of deporting them. After that, if they end up in desperate need, they have a right to be sent home by the US government, on demand. If they return home on their own, they can get this money back.

The details are immaterial: the point is that open borders can benefit all Americans . I'm all in favor of bribing the median voter during a transition period, though I would hope that these policies would be phased out over time. Regardless of how they're treated by our tax-and-transfer system once they arrive, potential migrants are always better off having the option of coming, than not having it. And it is less unjust to let in guest workers and tax them, than to deny millions of people the chance to come to the greatest country in history, just because of the accident of where they were born. In the meantime, if illegal immigrants are ready to resort to protests and civil disobedience to get the American people to do the right thing, more power to them.

Nathan Smith is a writer living in Washington, D.C. You can e-mail him here. Read more of his ideas about immigration here, here and here.

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142 Comments

When We Can Educate and Assimilate Mexicans, Then Borders Might be Opened

Mexicans do not read in any language; only what they must. No newspapers or Internet. Just television. They will not make informed voters. They have no ability to go beyond television and word of mouth. Their children are somewhat better, but only a few read.

We are unable to educate them adequately, although No Child Left Behind should help. Few make it through high school, fewer still through college.

We are thus greatly expanding the size of our barely educated people for whom there are and will be ever fewer jobs. Further, their competition for semiskilled and skilled jobs will drive down wages. Today, Mexicans work two and three jobs to get ahead. Their children will have to do likewise, or earn less. And so eventually will a number of Americans.

When and if we can properly educate Mexican illegal immigrant children so that they become functionally literate, able to read a job application unaided, read charts and schedules, and balance a checkbook, then we can think about opening the borders. Not before. But second generation Mexicans waving Mexican flags shows the likely folly of this approach. They don’t seem to want to assimilate. As their numbers grow and wages stay low, we might be like Europe with the Muslims.

A thought
Let's suppose we regularize our relations with Mexico and put through a guest worker program so sensible and workable that there is no longer any such thing as an "illegal" Mexican working in this country. I don't think it will happen with the Congress we've got, but let's just suppose that.

There will still be just as many boat people arriving from the Far East. And people from every nation will be walking across the Canadian border, which is remarkably undefended.

I would imagine that any Al Qaeda member who wanted to cross the border to do harm here would not become conspicuous by walking through some arroyo, with no valid papers. He would be entirely likely to go the student visa route, which would give him a valid reason to be here as well as good cover.

So let's separate the Mexican issue from the terrorist issue. They have little to do with each other. We have shown a demonstrable need for large numbers of guest workers. Let's find a mutually beneficial solution to that problem, and not spend a lot of money building a giant fence whose effectiveness is dubious and whose symbolism is odious.

Prejudice
A classic case of prejudging the "Mexicans"... who, in the light of your certain knowledge are all illiterate and poor citizenship material.

Maybe you could meet more of them. Those that want to stay and become Americans actually learn professions above and beyond casual labor. They realize that dirt wages won't propel their families into a middle class American existence, so they become professionals in some line of work. They even send their children to school, clean their feet and do everything real Americans do.

In fact it's hard to separate a Mexican from an actual human being. They bring much the same feeling to the gravity and privilege of becoming an American as your fathers, my fathers and everyone else's fathers when they came to this country in search of hope.

There are also a great many Mexicans who have no intention of staying. They are here merely to fill our need for cheap labor. They earn some money to send home to the family. In time they return to Mexico, having done us no great harm by their failure to "become functionally literate, able to read a job application unaided, read charts and schedules, and balance a checkbook".

I have every confidence your deep and intimate knowledge of Mexican culture comes from a long familiarity with them and their ways ("they don't seem to want to assimilate"). You do know one single Mexican, do you?

Welfare State
The real issue is the welfare state.
I support open the borders for ALL around the world and and the same time eliminating all federal welfare. States can decide for themselves.
Anyone with a valid passport, no criminal record and no disease can enter the USA and stay. They can work for whoveve will hire them.
After five years they must leave or become citizens and speak and write English.
Let's let the best and brightest from all over the world come here and continue to prove liberty will outperform socialism.
Of course the home countries won't like loosing their best people.

What's wrong with "boat people from the Far East"?
I agree that the Mexican and terrorist issues are separate.

But what's wrong with "boat people from the Far East"-- other than that boats are not an efficient means of transportation, and that everyone would be better off if they got guest-worker visas, came here by plane, and earned money during the time they would have wasted on the boat.

If you mean people from the Middle East, I understand why that's a terrorist issue. But from the Middle East is a long way to come, on a boat.

I'd add that one of the ADVANTAGES of having a universal guest-worker program is that we'd get more people from the Far East. Right now we get a disproportionate share of immigrants from Mexico, just because they can cross the border easily. If any (demonstrated) non-terrorist could get a guest-worker visa (after pre-imbursing the government for potential voluntary deportation) then you'd get a lot of hard-working, English-speaking, America-loving people from the Far East.

Having immigrants from many countries would be better, from the assimilation point of view, than having a large share of immigrants from Mexico and Central America. As Mark Steyn has argued, multi-cultural societies work better than bi-cultural societies. Mexicans and Central Americans have the critical mass to create a Spanish-speaking parallel culture, though I have no worries at all that the economic advantages of English will persuade them to assimilate in the medium run. But if we let in a more diverse array of guest workers, there would be no common language other than English, and no common cultural basis other than American for their relations.

Great comment
Agreed on all points. Guest worker programs should be extended to all. And since there is validity in the view that America is so popular around the world we could be swamped by incoming job seekers, a few ground rules would make a lot of sense.

Police clearances from countries of origin would be a good start. Naturally many people come from police states. The reports on these people could be taken with a grain of salt. But felony convictions should be a bar to admission.

Loose immigration policies become a bar to economic health when unemployment begins to rise. Some formula should be established, so that incoming guest worker applications are restricted when unemployment rises above six percent, or some such hurdle.

Finally, at some point in the process of naturalization, proficiency in English has to become demonstrable. I live in an area with many monolingual Mexicans, and have no problem with their living their lives in a non-English bubble. But if you want to be a citizen, that's the key to being an American.

Why A Guest Worker Program Will Not Work
The author of this article suggests imposing a 12.5% tax on low-skilled, foreign workers, many millions of whom live on $3.00 an hour or less.

OK - so how much would it cost the diner on the corner to implement a record keeping and withholding system for delivery guys and dishwashers who likely get hired and fired by the day? Should homeowners now be held responsible to withhold pay for the gardeners they hire to plant trees or rake leaves? How about the building contractors who need guys to shovel dirt and haul bricks? Farmers who need apples picked seasonally? Current employers of illegal immigrants are already out of compliance with the law, and there is no carrot or stick that can be offered to bring them into compliance. It is not feasible for the Government to police the system as it exists today. Employers will simply hire people willing to work off the new set of books. A "guest worker" program will become yet another drain on taxpayer dollars.

A far more efficient, equitable and moral solution would be to do away with minimum wage and benefits law for American-born workers. This would level the playing field for all workers, free up employers to hire as they please, and best of all bring everyone back to the Constitutional concept that all people in this country are equal under the law.

It's easier (morally and practically) to enforce tax laws than to deport people
Once the right to migrate is recognized, collecting the money is just a problem of enforcing the tax laws. Not that that's easy: even citizens sometimes earn money "under the table." But the tax net catches most of citizens' earnings, and it could be the same with guest workers', if our immigration laws didn't push them into the black economy.

Your proposal to do away with minimum wage and benefits laws is well and good, only it doesn't explain what to do about migrants? I didn't propose any changes in minimum wage laws (too much for one article) so guest workers would also, presumably, be subject to them. But if we're going to relax the minimum wage laws, we could do it only for EITC-eligible Americans (who could then "top up" their wages with EITC cash) and NOT for guest workers. This would make it easy for US-born workers to stay employed, and reduce the extent to which the guest worker program would "import poverty," because guest workers with extremely low skills would be unable to find work, and would take the voluntary-deportation option and go home.

As for "the Constitutional concept that all people in this country are equal under the law"-- why should people's physical location be the criterion? Foreigners abroad are not equal under the law; they can't come to America, whereas immigrants can. Why should foreigners become "equal under the law" precisely when they set foot on US territory? It's much less odd to insist that CITIZENS should be equal under the law, at least for the foreseeable future, and then design policies towards immigrants/guest-workers/foreigners that are as beneficent as possible, but that do not necessarily erase the distinguish between citizens and non-citizens.

Guest Worker Program
Single only, no family. All worker come as indenture servants register with the government and pay through the government. Guest workers are not resident, and can never be citizen. They can be expell if they do not have a employers or if they do not report to their registration officers. It work before in 1300's.

Welfarie states
The welfare state make any new people that enter the US whether legally or by birth as liabity and a drain on society. Welfare states if fine if we can royal American in return, but you know that welfare state always get us world socialists, and libertarian traitor. We will take any individual that repudiated they old alliance and swear blook alligiance to American, considering that our children can't even wear the American Flag in public fearing provoking illegal immigrant into violents, every citizen better to arms for the future slaughter that the Mexican and other immigrants will visit on them with this right to travel crap.

okay, better than nothing, but too strict
As always, to give people this option is better than not to give it to them, even if it would be called (rightly, I guess) "exploitation." Your proposal is better than nothing.

But why should guest workers "never be citizen?" And why should they be expelled if they don't have employers? What's wrong with a guest worker being between jobs for a little while? Or with independently wealthy "guest workers" coming in as de facto tourists (just so that they'll have work permission if something interesting comes up)? And why shouldn't we want a few guest workers-- e.g., those who save $50,000 in their guest-worker savings accounts, and then are willing to forfeit it-- become citizens?

Single workers might not STAY single. Are you really going to prohibit them from marrying? That will create a lot of passionate civil disobedience-- and maybe inspire some young Shakespeares to write contemporary Romeo-and-Juliet stories of doomed love. But it's pretty harsh.

Children are admittedly a problem. You can't hold them responsible for their parents' choices, and educating them could be a fiscal burden. In practice, though, it's not true that we have too many children in this country; on the contrary, a higher birthrate would probably be a good thing.

migration is ancient way of life
Our frist ancienter who migrated from Africa,from that time people are migrating to different countries. White people who frist migrated to U.S. IS THEY MIGRATED LAWFULLY? REALLY SPEAKING WHOLE MANKIND IS CRIMINAL IN MATTER OF MIGRATION. MY FRIM OPENION IS WISE PEOPLE OF WHOLE WORLD START A COMPAIGN AGAINST VISA AND OPEN THE BOARDER OF ALL NATION TO ALL PEOPLE WHO ARE RESIDING TODAY IN WORLD,

Kudzu and similar growths
The potential harm being done may not appear today or next year or thirty years from now, BUT you may want to check out the growth rates of some of the European countries. How long will it be before Holland is renamed "Upper Algeria"?

If they were bringing something to the table besides a strong back, maybe. What's in it for us? We don't owe them anything just their government is worthless.

Maybe all of the Americans that are seemingly behind the quiet invasion need to lead them back across the border, stay with them, and reform the Mexican government to their liking. HO! HO! HO! (That's Santa, not Eddie, talking.)

Just because Americans have made something of this land doesn't mean that they must share with the rest of the world. They have their own land! Skip a few siestas and do something with it.

This is so wrong
Illegal Immigrants are just that. The may fill prositions that no one else wants to fill but they also use public services at a rate higher that the people we currently contract to support. they are also a higher percentage of the prison population.

the author makes mention of civil disobendient person in our history, but most of the people he mentions were truly trying to right great wrongs. Not sneaking over the border in the dark of night.

I understand immigration as my anscestors immigrated here for better oppurtuninity, but they did it by coming in at Rykers Island like every one else.

The author also mentions traders, which usually have the correct documentation and pay all local fees and taxes. they also contribute to the over all prosperity of the country they visit, but most importantly, they don't stay and leach of the local population

I've worked with both legal Mecxicans and Illegal Mexicans. They are all usually fairly hard worker and are happy. However the legal ones do not want this country to become Mexico North, which the illegals do.

If we need to allow them in then allow them in legally. Increase the amount of allowed peoples and get them on the tax roles. That should level the playing field for the low skill americans that still want to do something.

Immigration compronise
I heard an interesting idea that will never work in Washington. Seal the borders by whatever means and enforce our immigration laws fairly and justly or repeal them. Vet all current illegals and send convicted or wanted felons back to their place of origin. Set up a system where those left can stay but have to move to the back of the legal immigration line that others have waited in for years.
If they are convicted of a felony before becoming a citized, they are deported. Make them pay taxes and fine or jail employers that do not obey our immigration and tax laws.
This is so simple that it could never come out of Washington.

Advances in human development and spelling
The Stone Age is over. Many, but not all, people have become more educated and have developed many things, such as laws, with which they govern themselves. These laws protect the people from free-loading, parasitic criminals that just want to take the fruits of the labor of others.

Nobody owes you, or me, a living.

If you were born on the wrong side of the fence you'll just have to work a little harder.

Things for you to practice and learn:

Spelling
English (the language)
The theory of laws
Capitalism (not socialism)

Laws
Please don't forget the laws broken from the beginning of this debacle.

Thanks

Clever - but flawed reasoning
The writer states: "At the heart of the current immigration debate is an ethical question: Is it wrong for a poor but able-bodied Mexican without the requisite documents to cross the Rio Grande to look for work in El Norte? Certainly, it is illegal. On the other hand, no one is harmed by it in the strictest sense. No one's person is violated. No one's property is stolen or damaged."

Ok, let's look at the ethical question. It it unethical for large numbers of people from one country to enter and become part of another country without any controls or permission from the entered country?

I say it is. First, there is harm to the country they leave, because they drain from that country a productive labor force. That country also then has no incentive to improve its economic conditions because they have been "solved" by exporting the labor force.

Second, there is harm to the country they enter because of the assimilation costs, such as undermining of the present labor force, overcrowding, and disease, borne by the entered country, if assimilation occurs or because of the societal costs in crime, poverty, if assimilation does not occur.

To say that mass immigration is without harm is completely false. Thus, this clever ploy to justify mass uncontrolled immigration by likening it to some kind of civil rights campaign fails.

"Undocumented" Aliens
There are actually five groups of immigrants: legal immigrants, who have become citizens; legal immigrants, who possess current legal documents; formerly legal immigrants, who possess expired legal documents (old documented aliens); illegal immigrants, who possess no documents (undocumented aliens); and, illegal immigrants, who possess forged documents (documented but illegal aliens).

The big issue with using corporations to perform the federal government function of federal immigration law enforcement is the final group above. Technology makes it far too easy to create forged documents and too difficult to detect the forgeries. However, providing internet access to employers which allows them to identify themselves and instantly access social security and immigration databases only to compare document number, holder name, holder age and holder sex would permit them to flag forged documents. However, once they do that, the federal government must still have the possessors of the illegal documents arrested. "Catch and Release" won't get it done.

Thank goodness that someone is out there!
You are correct, of course. But the breath of intelligent air is freshening.

I'll vote for it.

Thank you.

Amen!!
Nathan Smith hits the nail on the head. It is a fundamental injustice of the current world political economy that people who happen to be born in rich, developed countries automatically have access not only to social services and education, but to better job prospects and higher incomes than those born in poorer countries. Do we really believe the Declaration of Independence's bold claim that "All men are created equal"? Is a Mexican equal to an American? How about a Chinese or an African? If we believe this, why don't we put our money where our mouth is and allow people who show the initiative and the courage to step into to great unknown to work here, live here and enrich our country with their skills, their culture and their ideas?

Everyone says this country is a nation of immigrants--let's remember our history and be hospitable to those hard workers who wish to help us build a better America.

America won't have the problems Eurabia does because we can assimilate
The one real argument in this message is about assimilation via an analogy to Eurabia. Yes, Holland has problems. But, first, Mexicans are Catholic. Second, America's cultural power is so great that we're assimilating the global bourgeoisie even in their own countries (!) It's unlikely that Mexicans (given a generation or two) will resist the huge economic incentives to assimilate. But even if they did, the cultural distance between Americans and Mexicans is much smaller than the cultural distance between Dutch and Algerians, and a Catholic sub-population is not a threat in the way that a Muslim sub-population is. (I made a point of insisting that border controls FOR PURPOSES OF NATIONAL SECURITY are legitimate.)

"We don't owe them anything." No, we don't. And they don't owe us anything, including any obligation to recognize the validity of our border laws. So let's leave each other in peace, and not pay men with guns to tell each other where we can and can't go.

Our borders are VERY tight, just FYI
If you think that foreigners "just have to work a little harder" to get visas to the US, you don't have a clue.

Americans may not realize it, but our borders are VERY VERY tight. Foreigners who try to get here know that all too well.

Pass the guilt please
After WWII ended, boat loads of European Jews (that Hitler didn't kill) went to the only land that would accept them. These second class people took desert wasteland and made a thriving country from it. They certainly weren't any better oer smarter than anyone else but they did it. And the only oil that they get has '10 - 30' on the top of the can.

Mexico has lots of land, more water, and lots of oil. If they really want to prove something, here's a perfect opportunity. Take all of that heritage and show the rest of the world that you (Mexico) can do it with pride!

Go for it.

P.S.: The first immigrants to the future United States of America did it just as the Israelis did; but they weren't in as big of a hurry.

The Evening News
I don't mean to wake you up, but most other countries have men with guns guarding their borders. Do you really think that just because these trespassers don't care for our laws that they have the right to break them? Let them go sneaking into Pakistan or Somalia and see what they get.

Mexico's poverty is not our fault. But violating Mexicans' right to migrate is something to feel gu
Americans don't have to feel guilty that the Mexican nation is poor. That's not our fault. We shouldn't blame individual Mexicans that Mexico is poor either, mostly; unless that Mexican is a crooked cop or judge, Mexico's poverty isn't their fault.

But we SHOULD feel guilty if we actively prevent Mexicans from leading a better life by hiring men with guns to keep them out. When we do that, we become not just spectators of their poverty; instead, we are perpetuating their poverty through violence.

Right to Migrate? You mean Right To Trespass
Illegal immigration is at least a trespass on the goodwill of this country.

The Forgotten Dozen
I guess the 12 million trespassers that Waltzed Across Texas must not have known about all that security. You need to tell these people that it can't be done so that they will quit doing it.

Migration of more people harms every current resident of the US
You wrote ""no one is harmed by it in the strictest sense. No one's person is violated. No one's property is stolen or damaged.""

By the logic of your position there is no limit to the carrying capacity of the land and capital stock. Since there clearly is a limit to the short and mid-term carrying capacity of the land and a limit to the short and mid-term potential output of the capital stock of the US it harms every current citizen when a new migrant enters unless that new migrant has skills, education and overall capabilities greater than the average level of all current citizens.

The economy is not zero sum game, but growth of per capita average output is fostered by those who have greater skills than the average.

A migrating Asian, Mexican, African, or European PhD. in Computer Science or Chemistry may lift the average living standard of all; but a migrating grade school dropout certainly does not, and in the long run he or she marginally lowers it.

The US should no more keep open its borders than you should leave unlocked the door to your home.


Adoption Papers
When did we adopt them? Don't we already have enough homeless people in the U.S.? Or is FOX News making that up? This isn't like going to the pound and saving a neutered Cocker Spaniel, these come with a real potential for a large amount of off springs.

If you really feel guilty, let them stay at home and you send them a check each month. It could be sort of like 'Save The Children' but call it "Save Juan y Jose".
Just use your money and not mine.

Level the playing field
Mass illegal immigration will decrease once the economic playing field is leveled one way or the other. Illegal immigrant laborers will become less attractive to employers if they are held to the same standard under the law as American laborers. As under the table jobs dry up, would-be illegal immigrants will seek opportunities elsewhere.

As to equality under the law: Should a foreigner be immune from American law if he commits robbery or murder in the US? Should foreigners get a pass for speeding or drunken driving? Of course not. So why should we create a policy that formalizes inequality under the law with respect to low-skilled foreign labor? We don't have such a policy for high-skilled foreign labor. If American law calls for a minimum wage, then all who work here must get at least that. Anything else is contrary to the principle of equality under the law. If we maintain one set of laws for certain people and another for another, we might as well head on back to the days of segregated restaurants, schools and bathrooms.

Somehow I don't think you'd be proposing such a scheme if you were the one getting the short end of this deal.

A Government-regulated guest worker program will raise the cost of doing business and require ever larger Government to implement and enforce. Employers and illegal laborers will pay lip service to it at best and continue with business as ususal. Enforcement will be sporadic to non-existent the way it was in the 1980s. Politicians will look the other way and pocket contributor dollars until the next round of temper tantrums flare up. There will be posturing, pontificating, policy wonking and calls for this or that program. Low-skilled American workers will continue to be shut out of the debate. We have danced to this broken record before and we will dance to it again.

I just wish the ones proposing this guest worker scheme would pay for it and implement it themselves and leave the rest of us to just go on about our business.

P.S.
They don't have the right to migrate into our country. Among other things it is called: TRESPASSING!

Maybe it needs less syllables to be understood.

Trespassers
The DDR used to give away 0.355" diameter chest suppositories for doing that same thing!

To: SullyA
Bless you! There is hope out there. Half of these folks seem as though that just because they were invited to a party, they should be able to bring along fifty of their friends, relatives, co-workers, etc.
When these 'sports' start paying for their invitees we might see some changes in attitudes.

Thank you again.

An immigrants view
...correction; a LEGAL immigrants view.

I can't even put fully into words my fury and anger at the content of this article. According to this, my only purpose in being a US citizen is to fund and feed future generations of non-citizen guest workers.

Who cares that my family came here to escape martial law. Who cares that we assimilated, intermarried and brought forth another generation of Americans. Who cares that we embraced the ideals of this country and consider ourselves Americans.

Obviously, I was quite mistaken getting my citizenship. I should have just migrated over, earned some low wages and went back to my country a rich man (by local standards). Shoot, that definitely beats jumping through INS hoops, learning English, assimilating to a new culure, and having to memorize the main points of the US Constitution. Boy, was I naive!!

But seriously, do you want to know what all those anti-illegal protests mean to me, as a legal immigrant and naturalized American citizen? I feel as if someone has spit in my face. It's as if 11 million illegals smirked, gave me the finger, and told me how stupid I was for following the rules.

In my opinion, the ONLY reason for immigrating to the US is to become a citizen. If the author has his way, the US will cease to become a magnet for those seeking Freedom and Liberty. It will become a giant temp office.

Thank you.
Amen!

Welcome Home!
My grandparents, on both sides, did it too. We are glad that you are here.

Two wrongs don't make a right
And your point is?

America is a lot harder for foreigners to get into than most countries. Along with Holland, it's probably the most difficult in the world (though Mexicans have an advantage because of physical contiguity). But it's true that open borders is not the policy of any nation at the present time, that I know of (though things were looser in the past, e.g. the 19th century).

So what? If I were a Pakistani or a Somalian I would advocate open borders there, too, for the same reasons, if asked (though there might be more urgent issues). We can do the right thing, regardless of whether others do.

Does author restrict who he permits to live in his house?
The problem is we live in a welfare state. That means that if you're here, you get free stuff. That also means you have to restrict who you let enter. Mexico isn't a welfare state, you only get what you can pay for. So of course people with no money want to be here. I don't care who walks down the street in front of my house, but I won't let just anyone come into my house. The reason is that I have things that I own in there, and given the opportunity, those things would quickly be depleted if I left the door open.

I too think it unfair that the place of ones birth could so profoundly effect ones fortunes in life. So go ahead and have open borders and open opportunity, but only after you stop the goverment from forcing me to pay for the give-aways. If you did that, you wouldn't have nearly so many people entering, because if you're poor, this place would then be just like Mexico. Builders would have to pay a salary that allowed their workers to pay for school for their kids, pay for medicine, etc. general taxes woul dbe lower, and I'd finally be able to get some decent affordable house help. Problem solved.

The people that want to give away free stuff can do it privately.

And this idea about taxing the workers 12.5%, thats nuts because they don't pay any tax in the first place, thats why $5/hour is worth something- its under the table. There are a lot activities that become more economically viable if you don't have to follow the law.

for legal immigration, I mean
It's very hard to get in here legally. Fortunately, our physical contiguity to Mexico helps to offset the detrimental effects of our benighted border policies by making it possible for some people to come by other means.

Current Congress
Yeah, like so much has been done in this regard by those who previously held the tiller. And thus yet another reason why things are still they way they are.

A Right to Migrate
Never have so few refused to respond to an invasion by so many.

The South American culture brought forth to North America by illegals will destroy the last of western civilization, It is now dead in Europe and only survises by a few votes in the United States.

Our nation will soon be distroyed by military technical invasion through our open borders, which will never be secured.

Perhaps you are also perpetuating someone's poverty through violence
You wrote ""we are perpetuating their poverty through violence.""

I wonder if you would call the police to respond and evict an "undocumented" resident who settled in to occupy the unused corner of your living room? I wonder if you would file a complaint if an "undocumented" check writer were to start writing checks on your bank account?

If you would do either of those things, of course, you would be "preventing (the perpetrators) from leading a better life" by "hiring men with guns" to keep them from your possessions.

You argument that there is a "right" to migrate falls apart if there is a right to be secure in the fruits of your own labor.

More BS!!!
Here's more BS from an incompetent bleeding heart who knows NOTHING about what is going on.

Nobody's hurt, nothing is stolen --- YADA YADA YADA. Try telling that to people who live on the border. Or the pople who's kids have died becasue of the drugs brought up by these "poor" Mexicans.

The whole article is a pile of crap.

Only losers like roy-bean will agree with it.

A lot of this is just goofy…
Talk about BS. Lets just look at three things said here…
1. Certainly, it is illegal. On the other hand, no one is harmed by it in the strictest sense. No one's person is violated. No one's property is stolen or damaged.

Twisting at least, if not lying. Lets begin with trespassing, and I don't mean by coming into the country. Many of these intrepid wanderers cross privately owned farm or ranch land.
Then there is theft. Ask anyone with property near the border and they will tell you about it. Often it is just simple things for survival, but it is still theft. I understand it and sympathize, but it is the illegals own fault and theft is theft.
Now we can also talk about the criminal element that comes in. There is a lot of real crime related to illegals.

2. Even the usual argument for obeying laws you disagree with -- that we're all part of a social contract, and owe obedience to the state in return for the benefits we get from it -- doesn't apply to foreigners, who aren't part of the US social contract, at least not before they get here.

Senseless rhetoric. Once they cross that border they are knowingly violating the law. It should be a felony and they should be immediately jailed or deported.

3. Every state must defend its borders against invading armies, to protect its citizens' lives and property. But states have generally permitted the entry of peaceful traders, who do not threaten the lives or property of citizens.

It is absolutely a defense from an invasion to protect lives and property. Excuse me, there are an estimated 12 million undocumented aliens here. Almost all of them have come in since what, 1984? 1988? when Regan did the last amnesty. 9 to 10 million of them are Mexican or Latin American. Line them up and it is one he ll of an invasion. No other country in the world would put up with this kind of nonsense.

They need to be deported with extrem prejudice, the borders (both Canadian and Mexican) need to be closed tight, then we can discuss guest workers permits, open immigration, etc.

We need immigrants of all stripe in this country; no arguement there. Diversity is one of our biggest strengths. But, we need to know who they are and what they are doing here.

Worst article ever posted
Well its a good thing to realize no one is hurt by illegal immigration. Except for:
Taxpayers who must fund medical costs of these people which has caused hospitals to close for unreimbursed costs.

Taxpayers who have to educate these people's children.

Taxpayers who have to fund criminals which in California make up over 40% of the people housed in prisons.

The US citizen who is exposed to the threat of disease brought by unchecked illegals.

US Citizens who have their property destroyed by these people.

US citizens who find that the children of illegals are charged the same amount for tutition as taxpayers.

US taxpayers who have their security threatened by over 12 million illegals. If only .001 out of every 100,000 mean us ill do the politicians and the idiot author realize how many terrorists could be entering the country?

Finally what is the benefit to the United States of allowing people who call Americans racists and declare they'd rather be part of Mexico than the US to be allowed to stay? Give them what they want and ship them back.

By the way for twenty years the Democrats have stated the real wages of Americans have been static. If so why are they unable to connect the dots between 12 million illegals and the rise of worker's pay packets.

Immigrants aren't after welfare
At least, not most of them. They have high levels of employment. I'd agree that we shouldn't give immigrants welfare (I think that was clear in the response to Krugman). But they should be able to come and work.

To the extent that illegal immigrants don't pay taxes, that's a problem. But you can't expect them to pay taxes if you don't give them any legal rights in return. What I'm saying is: recognize the right to migrate; then make them pay taxes.

If you think that immigrants wouldn't want to come if there weren't a welfare state, this is definitely wrong. Wages are far higher here in the private economy. $5/hr may sound like low wages to Americans, but it's a lot more than people make in most parts of the world, even when you control for the different cost of living.

But we're on the same page here. Nobody is talking about "giving away free stuff." We're talking about EARNING one's way to a better life.

Um, what are you exactly afraid of here?
I find this kind of remark baffling. The economy is growing. The crime rate has been falling for years. The population is surging. English is the world language, and more people are learning it than ever before. Things are getting better. What are you complaining about? What are you afraid of?

"giant temp office..."
What's wrong with temp offices?

But of course America is more than that and always will be. The point is that we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can be a place of economic opportunity for guest workers, AND a bastion of liberty. Actually, those two roles-in-the-world fit together very, very well.

Don't send them a check, let them work
And we're not talking about using anyone's money. Immigrants EARN. They WORK. They're not some kind of parasites. How many times does the obvious need to be stated?

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