I offer this to a reader who criticized me for not examining the good parts of the immigration bill more closely.
It’s true that some good may come out of the thing. That may not really be relevant. Some good might also result if I parked myself on my neighbor’s lawn, on anarchical principles, until I acquired squatter rights. We can’t judge actions by outcomes alone. [This is simply an analogy – there is a distinction obviously between priavte property and the state; still, it’s not entirely dissimilar because immigrants also use public services – from roads to schools – that are paid for by taxes. That some illegal immigrants pay taxes is true, but not all do. And what they pay in is, from the latest Heritage report, less than what they take out. The Cato institute disputes that research, but even those who are pro-immigration suggest that the costs are higher than we have been prone to believe].
Not that I dispute the existence of squatter rights. Or claim that migrant workers don’t theoretically have every right to move to find work wherever they wished.
Actually, I fervently wish that there were no borders and no laws about migration anywhere in the globe. I personally don’t feel the state has any right to curtail commerce and migration.
But my wishes and my rights under the law as it is constituted are two different things. And since nowadays, law is the only language in which we can meaningfully converse about rights — especially with people different from us in their beliefs and culture, I want to stick to it.
Migrants are free to move, but they aren’t equally free to be subsidized by the state or to violate its laws.
Ex-post facto legislation that subsidises migrants is, I think, practically unviable. But even if it were viable, I don’t think it can be justified under laws easily.
But, you will argue, what about all those other people who break the law in other areas and are then absolved of the consequences? Why pick on vulnerable people on this issue?
I don’t disagree here. Certainly, it’s not migrant workers who have dismantled habeas corpus or undone privacy laws or circumvented the ban on torture.
But the correct response to the objection is that every extension and intrusion of government power needs to be attacked constitutionally and limited – if not entirely dismantled. It’s no defense of a wrong-headed position in one instance to point to other instances where it has prevailed.
And, to my mind, the laws governing citizenship should be observed – at least theoretically – with more zeal than others, especially in times like these, when they are vulnerable to being diluted. And that is a danger that haunts us increasingly.
I may be wrong, of course. But, we can’t justly claim the protection of the law to save us from being stripped arbitrarily of our rights as citizens, if at the same time we trivialize the law by arbitrarily investing people with those rights.
My practical position is this: the matter can be dealt with at the local level by the communities involved. There doesn’t need to be a power grab by the federal government. A small fine (not the huge one in this new bill) can be imposed on people who’ve entered illegally, but it should be proportionate to their means and not harsh. It shouldn’t be so large that it creates a perverse incentive for corruption among the government agents who would be in charge of collecting it. Legal immigrants from the same communities could help in sending back those who’ve come here illegally to prevent any abuse. The “illegals” needn’t be barred from re-entering lawfully, but I think they should re-enter the process, after those who’ve followed the law. That’s only fair.
And maybe the government could make the legal entry simpler and quicker, so that people wouldn’t be motivated to break the law in the first place.
Those are my thoughts, for now, so far as I’ve studied the matter. It boils down to this – don’t have a law and then not follow it.
As I said, I could be wrong….