Monday, April 10, 2006

Alien Invasion?

Though philosophically I’m a left-leaning libertarian, I’m a registered Democrat. I vote Democrat, and contribute to the candidates I think support my interests. On 70% of the issues, I support this party. However, on the issue that’s currently raging in this country—illegal aliens—the Democrats are dead wrong. In fact, the Republicans, a party I usually despise, aren’t even conservative enough on this issue to suit my preference. Maybe I should shut my mouth and let this turn into a “W” in the Democrats’ column; but alas, I cannot. Without hyperbole, the future of the US is at stake (though not in the way people like Tom Tancredo would have you believe).

There are millions upon millions of illegal aliens in the United States as I type this. Living on Long Island, NY, I see them everyday, doing the manual labor so few want to do. For many of the ultra-conservatives I hate, their presence means one thing: the “browning” of America. They hear projections that, in 50 years, dark-skinned minorities will outnumber Caucasians in the United States—and tremble in fear. They break into a cold sweat at the thought of strange languages being spoken, strange customs being embraced and cultures being blended together. Their hysterical language on this issue betrays an underlying racism; almost always, their calls for deporting illegal aliens come alongside calls for tightening immigration in general.

I want nothing to do with those people.

I am very much pro-immigration. If this country’s 11 million illegal aliens had followed the proper procedures for entry, I would embrace their presence fully. Indeed, if 25 million immigrants had followed the proper procedures for entry, I would be happy to have them. My objection is strictly to the illegal means by which the aliens came here. Quite literally, the first act those 11 million individuals committed after crossing the border was a criminal one. They arrived in the country and then, a second later, spit in the face of its laws. If one of the aliens has been here for 25 years, I would argue said alien has been actively committing a crime for a quarter-century. As such, no form of amnesty is appropriate. Granting amnesty to illegal aliens is analogous to granting amnesty to every illegal-drug user currently in prison.

Are the US’ immigration restrictions too tight? Absolutely. Even though we take in a huge number of legal immigrants ever year, we could certainly do with more. Are the US’ drug restrictions too tight? Absolutely. A free country recognizes that the substances one puts in one’s body are one’s own business. However, in neither case is criminality warranted. Laws aren’t made to be broken; they’re made to be followed. If one finds a law intolerable, there are three courses of action: 1. Break the law and suffer the consequences willingly. 2. Follow the law but petition for its repeal. 3. Move to a country that has better laws. Note, there is no option to “Break the law but not suffer the consequences.” Therefore, amnesty for illegal aliens and amnesty for illegal-drug users are analogous and equally inappropriate. In both cases, I recognize the law is unjust. We should have open borders; we should decriminalize personal drug use. However, in no way is criminal behavior ever warranted.

That’s why I endorse the idea of a border fence. That would bring the flow of illegal aliens to a trickle. At that point, once we have control over the border, I would strongly endorse a plan to liberalize immigration policies. The caveat is that it would not apply retroactively (which would end up awarding citizenship to those who engaged in criminal behavior to come here). As I said earlier, I oppose all forms of amnesty for all types of criminal behavior.

The main counterargument I hear with respect to shutting the door on illegals is that they do work nobody else will do. This counter doesn’t really apply to me, since I support unlimited legal immigration (while most conservatives demagogue the illegal alien issue in order to stem all immigration), but I will debunk it nevertheless. For a libertarian such as I, that argument is bankrupt because it presupposes the existence of social welfare programs. If welfare were wiped away, and work absolutely was required in order to get money, I think quite a few people who are currently not in the workforce would end up taking those “undesirable” jobs. If welfare didn’t exist, then lawn-mowing and housekeeping might seem like pretty good options, compared to living on the street. Americans “won’t” do those kinds of jobs because they don’t have to; they have a government safety net that enables them to live without working. Take down the net, and our need for illegal aliens would disappear.

Many libertarians default to the “freedom” position on this issue, irrespective of the implicit endorsement of criminal behavior. I do not. Even though I endorse drug legalization, border liberalization, prostitution legalization, gay marriage legalization and various other freedom-centric causes, I do not advocate breaking the laws currently on the books. Unjust laws should be changed, not ignored. Society depends upon having a functional justice system, with teeth and the ability to assert itself.

Anarchists (to the best of my knowledge) endorse breaking laws with which they disagree. Nothing against that, but I’m not an anarchist. I’m a libertarian, and there’s nothing in classical libertarian philosophy that compels me to endorse illegal behavior of any kind.

7 Comments:

Blogger ts said...

"However, in no way is criminal behavior ever warranted."

are you sure? u.s. history is replete with immoral laws. take japanese internment during wwII or the chinese exclusion acts during the first half of the 20th century ...

2:14 AM EDT  
Blogger HomeImprovementNinja said...

So basically, you are an a la carte libertarian? You think that by calling yourself a libertarian, you can have viewpoints that are as inconsistent and hypocritical as republicans or dems?

Saying that "they" should come here legally ignores the fact that when your white ancestors emigrated here, they did so as undocumented immigrants too (the passport is fairly modern). Changing the laws because the color of immigrants is changing and then saying that they are somehow less worthy than your ancestors is hypocritical to say the least.

You "law breaker" argument is ridiculous too. Are you saying that everyone who pays their taxes late (or underpays); that parks their car illegally; that repairs their driveway without a permit; that gets free cable should be ineligible for any of the benefits afforded by society, like the right to work?

The reality is that it is in business' best interest to keep these people undocumented because it provides them with a permanent underclass to do their dirty work.

Moreover, there is no flood of illegal immigrants. Race-baiting republicans out to seize power always make it look like we are under attack. Statiscally, the percentage of undocumented immigrants as a percentage of the total population has remained constant.

ANd if you think by cutting welfare to americans, they would go work 12 hours a day in the fields like these undocumented mexicans, you are crazy. It's more likely that they'll riot in the streets and kill you.

11:44 AM EDT  
Blogger TheJollyNihilist said...

are you sure? u.s. history is replete with immoral laws. take japanese internment during wwII or the chinese exclusion acts during the first half of the 20th century ...

I'm quite sure. When one lives in a particular country, one makes an implicit agreement to follow said country's laws. If you don't like the laws, you should move to another country. If you stay, but break the laws, you should expect to be punished for violating the implicit agreement.

Saying that "they" should come here legally ignores the fact that when your white ancestors emigrated here, they did so as undocumented immigrants too (the passport is fairly modern). Changing the laws because the color of immigrants is changing and then saying that they are somehow less worthy than your ancestors is hypocritical to say the least.

If immigration laws didn't exist back then, it's clearly not an appropriate analogy. Unquestionably, immigration laws exist now. They must be followed, by virtue of the fact they exist. And, they must be applied indiscriminately, no matter what the skin color is of the alien in question. Race baiting on this issue is a distraction; I think British illegal aliens should also be deported.

You "law breaker" argument is ridiculous too. Are you saying that everyone who pays their taxes late (or underpays); that parks their car illegally; that repairs their driveway without a permit; that gets free cable should be ineligible for any of the benefits afforded by society, like the right to work?

Society affords benefits to its citizens, not its aliens. People who commit petty crimes are indeed criminals, but they're also citizens. As such, they still get to enjoy society's benefits. The same does not hold true for aliens. Aliens have no grounds upon which to claim societal benefits. They are not legal members of society.

Moreover, there is no flood of illegal immigrants. Race-baiting republicans out to seize power always make it look like we are under attack. Statistically, the percentage of undocumented immigrants as a percentage of the total population has remained constant.

That may well be true. However, I will be satisfied only when the percentage of illegal aliens as a percentage of the total population is brought to zero. No percentage of criminality should be accepted.

ANd if you think by cutting welfare to americans, they would go work 12 hours a day in the fields like these undocumented mexicans, you are crazy. It's more likely that they'll riot in the streets and kill you.

A percentage of the former welfare recipients would start working, in order to earn a living. Another percentage of them likely would turn to criminal behavior. With any luck, the criminals would be jailed quickly, so as not to give the new workforce a bad name. In any event, welfare is wholly against libertarian philosophy, which I generally embrace (though not in all cases, as you pointed out).

7:52 PM EDT  
Blogger Delta said...

Does welfare even really exist nowadays? I thought they had pretty much phased that out.

Anyway, about your comment about not breaking the law. It's not an anarchist position, it applies to everyone, and I bet to yourself also. Are you saying that if the government made it illegal not to report homosexual activity to the police that you would comply? Would you have turned in Jews to the Gestapo also? I doubt it. Maybe you believe these cases to be more extreme and deserving of law-breaking, whereas immigration is not, but that's another argument. Whether a law is important enough to warrant it being defied is in the eye of the beholder anyway, and to Mexicans who want a better life for they and their family (they only have one ya know), I can imagine how breaking a law might be worth that.

Our government is becoming less and less reponsive to the people every day, and thus is losing more and more legitimacy that it may have arguably once had.

I'm quite sure. When one lives in a particular country, one makes an implicit agreement to follow said country's laws. If you don't like the laws, you should move to another country. If you stay, but break the laws, you should expect to be punished for violating the implicit agreement.

To cover this angle, not everyone has the resources to just get up and move to Europe. Also, if someone has lived here their entire life I don't see why they should leave simply because they don't agree with a law and refuse to follow it. Also, what if every country in the world has the same law?

9:17 PM EDT  
Blogger TheJollyNihilist said...

Does welfare even really exist nowadays? I thought they had pretty much phased that out.

To the best of my knowledge, it still exists. However, in some places, it has been modified into a "Welfare to Work" program that requires work in order to receive money.

Anyway, about your comment about not breaking the law. It's not an anarchist position, it applies to everyone, and I bet to yourself also. Are you saying that if the government made it illegal not to report homosexual activity to the police that you would comply? Would you have turned in Jews to the Gestapo also? I doubt it. Maybe you believe these cases to be more extreme and deserving of law-breaking, whereas immigration is not, but that's another argument. Whether a law is important enough to warrant it being defied is in the eye of the beholder anyway, and to Mexicans who want a better life for they and their family (they only have one ya know), I can imagine how breaking a law might be worth that.

I can't conceive of any circumstance in which one should be allowed to break the law but not suffer the consequences of breaking it. No matter how "unjust" the law might be (I put that in quotes because I'm a moral relativist), one has an obligation to follow it by virtue of the fact one lives in the country. Living in the US means I make an implicit agreement to follow the laws. Sure, I can break the ones with which I disagree; but, in that case, I am deserving of punishment.

To cover this angle, not everyone has the resources to just get up and move to Europe. Also, if someone has lived here their entire life I don't see why they should leave simply because they don't agree with a law and refuse to follow it. Also, what if every country in the world has the same law?

You raise good points, but my feet are dug-in pretty deep on this. As I said in my original post, one has three options if one disagrees with a law.

1. Break it and accept the consequences.
2. Follow it, but petition for its repeal.
3. Move away.

If moving away isn't an option, then one must select either 1 or 2. Then it becomes a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils. Should you accept the legal consequences of breaking the law or accept the guilt/pain of following an "immoral" statute? My objection is when people try to invent an Option 4, that being break the law and get away with it [or subsequently receive amnesty].

7:20 PM EDT  
Blogger Delta said...

As I said in my original post, one has three options if one disagrees with a law.

1. Break it and accept the consequences.
2. Follow it, but petition for its repeal.
3. Move away.


These three options to me seem completely unjustified though. I feel that any other possible 3 options I could write down would be just as subjective. I also don't see the justification for saying that living in a country means that you are implicitly agreeing to following the laws. Now of course, most times when a sentence contains the word "should" then it's likely a subjective statement that can't be proven to be correct, but that's the nature of many questions in life and so I fall into the relativist category also.

For the record though, I personally don't like the idea of giving amnesty for those who have broken the law in this scenario.

2:12 PM EDT  
Blogger gem said...

Even though I endorse drug legalization, border liberalization, prostitution legalization, gay marriage legalization and various other freedom-centric causes, I do not advocate breaking the laws currently on the books. Unjust laws should be changed, not ignored.

Such a simple, and yet completely flawless way of putting that.

12:40 AM EDT  

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