Monday, February 06, 2006

On Immigrants (Legal or Otherwise)

A story in the San Diego Tribune discusses the plans of San Diego Minutemen to picket at an intersections " where day laborers wait for work." A counterprotest is expected by so-called "human rights activists." It is interesting to dissect the statements made representatives of both sides. First from the Minutemen side:

Organizers and Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist, who will drive from his Aliso Viejo home to participate, say the goal is to educate employers of migrant workers that they are breaking U.S. tax and labor laws.

The whole intent is to bring national attention to this issue, said Gilchrist, whose organization has patrolled U.S. borders. We have this 21st-century slave labor trade, and we have the buyers or the users of those slaves, who are no different upstairs than those Southern Democrat slave traders from the pre-Civil War era.

There some truth but also quite a bit wrong with the above statements and that a leader in the Minutemen movement has said it does not bode well for the movement. First, let's agree with the legal claim -- employers who are hiring "migrant workers" are violating the law because they are providing employment to individuals they know have entered the country illegally and are thus accessories to a crime. Unfortunately, witpreponderanceerance of bad and immoral laws violations of the law become more common but it is a mistake to dismiss the legality of actions as unimportant. If we hope to be a "nation of laws" rather than a "nation of men" as our Founders hoped, it behooves us to enact moral laws that serve the proper function of government (protection of individual rights) and remove all other laws. When government and its laws serve their proper function, there should be no conflict between morality and law, because government then enforces those only the specifically social part of morality. I regard the immigration law with its various restrictions as profoundly immoral. Yet ultimately the proper response ought to be to change the law, not to find ever more elaborate means of circumventions.

Of course, the truly offensive part of the above statement by Gilchrist is the comparison of immigrants to slaves. The idea that people who willingly pay others to be transported across the border so that they can find employment in the United States can be compared to slaves is really quite absurd. The African slaves had no choice about their precarious voyages aboard the slave ships across the Atlantic. They certainly did not pay for it.

Here's a quote from one "migrant worker":

"We are here because of a huge necessity," said a man yesterday who gave his name as Alberto Rodriguez, 25, a Vista resident from the Mexican city of Puebla."We are not doing anything bad. "We are not robbing people. We want a better future."
This quote is clearly meant to generate sympathy for the workers and yet what possible moral argument could be given against it? Fundamentally, if an employer in the United States wants to hire a person to work for him on a mutually agreed to basis and that person happens to come from Mexico, why should any government interfere? Whose rights are being violated? If anything, to stop the person entering from Mexico would constitute a violation of the rights of trade and freedom of association of both the Mexican worker and the American employer. Clearly if what Rodriguez is doing is against the law then immigration laws ought to change.

Our only border restrictions ought to be security or public health related. We should have a list of terrorists that are not allowed into the country because they are known to be dangerous. We should watch out for obvious signs of dangerous, life-threatening infectious disease. Other than that, if people want to come here and work, they should be allowed. Of course, all welfare and so-called public services would have to be abolished so that people don't just come here for a free lunch but even today most immigrants do not come here for our welfare programs. However, citizenship, as opposed to mere residency, should continue with the present restrictions (a minimum of 5 year residency, various examinations and a swearing in ceremony). Through their vote citizens determine the make-up of governments and thus its policies. That kind of power must stay with people who actually intend to stay in the country in the long-term.


Tired Immigrant said...

Thank you for a pro-immigrant post, a rare thing in these days of self-doubt.

Would you agree that legalizing the massive mMexican immigrantion is an essential step toward security? I think it would be.

Today, with hordes coming across the border, citizens are lulled into assuming they're just folk trying to make a buck. Wink, wink.

If no honest person had a reason to cross the border except at a checkpoint, because immigration was open, our borders would be safe; and we might even cheer the minutemen on.

Gideon said...

I agree. If Mexicans and many others (immigration should definitely not just be limited to people from across the southern border) could come here legally to work we could focus our security efforts on the terrorists. The real solution to the security threat is to eliminate its sources in the Middle East.

Jack Davis said...

Sorry, I totally disagree. Terrorists don't wear nametags; we need to secure our borders from what is an invasion. While the word "slave" is unfortunate, these illegals are being abused by employers who pay them extremely low wages. Illegal immigration is also harmful to poor working native Americans, who need a living wage to survive and can't compete with illegals who will work for much less than the prevailing wage.

I live in San Diego and can tell you not to trust anything the Union-Tribune has to say. It relentlessly attacks leaders of both parties -like the governor of Arizona- who actually try to do something about the illegal immigration problem. They falsely claim opposition to illegal immigration is "anti-immigrant."

Notwithstanding this disagreement, I like your blog.

Gideon said...


You say that the term "slave" is unfortunate but can't the same be said of the term "invasion"? When people talk of invasions, usually they mean "the entrance of an armed force into a territory to conquer" as suggests. But clearly that is not happening.

I also disagree that illegals are being "abused" simply because employers pay them low wages, although there the situation is more complicated. Certainly, if they were legal, there would be less potential for abuse. Nevertheless, the choice remains to them to return home. If the wages they receive in the US are higher than what they might get at home, then even if what they get paid is low by US standards I don't really see a problem.

"Native" Americans are hurt by the numerous taxes and regulations that interfere with the operation of the free market, not by the competition of illegals. Nobody has a right to a so-called "living wage". That would imply unchosen obligations on the part of employers. There is only the right to trade your services or products for the services products or money of others.

Despite our disagreement I appreciate your comments and I hope you keep reading.