Archive for April, 2013

On Immigration

April 16, 2013

Immigration is not a simple issue. It certainly doesn’t split down party lines.

Let’s try to break apart the immigration issue, and let’s see where we all stand on each issue.

First, is the question of citizenship. Who should be allowed to become a citizen? I think everyone universally agrees on the qualifications needed. No argument there. Bottom line, they should understand what our country stands for, agree with it, and swear an oath to be a part of it.

The only question worth debating is a question of numbers. How many citizens do we allow? Of what nation, race, creed, etc..? What about education level? The divide is mostly protectionists vs. free traders. Free traders don’t care who becomes a citizen, as long as they swear an oath to our country after demonstrating an understanding of our political values and their love for it. Protectionists are concerned with cheap labor flooding the market, crowding out people who are already facing intense pressure from international markets.

I’ll talk about protectionism and why it is wrong later. For now, just be satisfied that there are protectionists in both parties, and there are free traders in both parties.

Next is the issue of voting. Who gets to vote? Conservatives favor only citizens voting, and are very upset that we are registering people to vote who are not citizens, and we do not have strict controls over who is allowed to throw a ballot into the box. Liberals think that the fraud votes, votes by those who are not citizens or who are voting twice, end up helping them. The moment they think otherwise, they will be just as vociferous as the conservatives in securing our ballot boxes. Really, this is a side issue that has little to nothing to do with immigration.

There is one tiny aspect, however, and that is that each party wants to bring likely voters into the country. We know which countries produce what kind of voters, and so you’ll see the parties try to give preference to the ones that favor them.

Next comes the issue of who gets to work here. Free traders think anyone who comes here in peace should be allowed to work, own property, and do whatever a citizen could do, economically speaking. Protectionists, again, fear the flood of cheap labor. Another group of people worry that our language and culture will be swept by foreign languages and cultures.

Personally, I’m a free trader and I don’t think our culture is as weak as some people think. Our culture will adapt to changing preferences and needs. We will take what is useful, and leave the rest behind, from our own and other cultures. America isn’t defined by culture anyway. We’re defined by political ideology.

Next comes the issue of who gets to come here. Free traders don’t care, as long as they are peaceful. Protectionists don’t mind tourists, and even encourage it since they think it benefits us. So there is no disagreement here. Everyone wants more visitors, as long as they stay visitors and don’t become workers. Then it becomes an argument.

Finally, there is the question of the law. Let me begin by reframing what our current state is.

We talk about illegal immigrants and the businesses that employ them. Both are ignoring and thwarting the law. This is really bad. In a nation of laws like ours, keeping the law is everyone’s paramount duty. People who ignore the law set a bad precedent.

I want you to think about why it is that people come here illegally. There are those who come here for nefarious purposes. We all agree that they should be stopped and punished. But there are those who come for good reasons, reasons which, in our heart of hearts, we think are noble and great. Basically, they want to make money.

Why is it that someone can think they can come here illegally and make money? It is a number of things. Let me try to list them all.

  • Employers who don’t respect the law.
  • The fact that our wages are much higher than their country’s.
  • The fact that we are more productive than their country.
  • The fact that, economically speaking, we are more fair than their country.

If you take away one or more of those things, then you won’t get illegal immigrants. Here’s the thing, though. The only thing I would ever want to change is the first item. The other items I want my country to have, in perpetuity.

Now, let’s look at the employer’s side of the equation. Certain industries have adapted to the cheap and abundant labor available from illegal immigration, to the point where enforcing the law would ruin the industry. We can’t propose enforcing the law without, simultaneously, giving them access to cheap labor of similar quality and number. Anything less, then of course they are going to fight tooth and nail to keep the status quo.

The bottom line is that we need some kind of amnesty program because we simply are never going to send these people home.

Free traders like myself see a simple solution: Open the borders to all who want to come to America, keep our laws, and live peacefully. I would go one step further and eliminate the green card program altogether. Make it so that employers don’t need to even check for legal status or Social Security Numbers. However, protectionists abhor such a solution, thinking that it will lead to massive unemployment and the ruin of their favorite industries.

Which gets me to the bottom line: Protectionism vs. Free Trade.

I will argue that Protectionists have it all wrong. In a country founded on freedom, the idea that we can somehow limit economic freedom and good things will result is absurd. The whole reason why we have an immigration problem at all is because of the protectionists trying to use government force to give themselves an economic advantage. This is wrong.

Finally, I want to end on this note. There are those who employ illegal immigrants who see them as slaves. Sure, they get paid, but at a much lower rate than Americans would take, with no legal rights and protections.  We must end this slavery. The way to end it is to bring the illegal immigrants out of the illegal status. We’re not going to be able to do this by shifting incentives or suddenly enforcing law. We have to do it by making illegal immigrants legal by an act of law.