Monday, June 8, 2009

Immigration and Individual Rights

One of the best articles I have read on TOS is "Immigration and Individual Rights" by Craig Biddle. I have a special interest in this issue as I plan to immigrate to America one day. Craig says in this article:

Every year, millions of people seek to immigrate to the United States, and with good reason: Opportunities to improve their lives abound here. Immigrants and would-be immigrants want to pursue the American dream. Whether or not they would put it in these terms, they want to be free to think and act on their best judgment; they want to produce wealth and keep and use it as they see fit; they want to make better lives for themselves and their families. In other words, foreigners want to come to America for the same reason the Founding Fathers established this republic: They want lives of liberty and happiness.

Immigration is the act of moving to a country with the intention of remaining there. Morally speaking, if a person rationally judges that immigrating to America would be good for his life, he should immigrate; a rational morality holds that one should always act on one’s best judgment. But does a foreigner have a right to move to America? And should America welcome him? Yes, he does—and yes, she should. Recognition of these facts was part and parcel of this country’s founding.

The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations And Religions; whom we shall wellcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment.

Unfortunately this pro-immigration attitude, expressed by George Washington in 1783, has all but vanished from American politics. Indeed, the policies of America—the republic built by and for immigrants—have become hostile to immigrants.

People today in most countries who even want to visit are interrogated at the embassies during the interview with suspicion. When they ask if you intend to settle in U.S. and if you hesitate even for a second, you can wave your tourist visa goodbye. Craig goes on to mention some brilliant American immigrants like Ayn rand, Issac Asimov and a lot others who would have been denied entry under today's laws and how immigration to the land of liberty is now largely prohibited by American law. He goes on to say:
This prohibition, however, is un-American and immoral. The basic principle of America—the principle of individual rights—demands a policy of open immigration.
Open immigration does not mean that anyone may enter the country at any location or in any manner he chooses; it is not unchecked or unmonitored immigration. Nor does it mean that anyone who immigrates to America should be eligible for U.S. citizenship—the proper requirements of which are a separate matter. Open immigration means that anyone is free to enter and reside in America—providing that he enters at a designated checkpoint and passes an objective screening process, the purpose of which is to keep out criminals, enemies of America, and people with certain kinds of contagious diseases.2 Such a policy is not only politically right; it is morally right.
He further explains at length why it is moral and that to prohibit a person from immigrating to the U.S. is to violate his right to act on his judgment; it is to retard his ability to live a life proper to man; it is to commit a moral crime. I almost got up and applauded when I read this. He then explains the invalidity of the arguments against open immigration one point at a time. They include protection of culture, crime, jobs, welfare, terrorism, and more. One of the more controversial issue's he discusses is the solution to the problem of the estimated 12 million “illegal” immigrants currently residing in the America. His solution is:

In light of the immoral and illegitimate law they “broke” by moving to (or remaining in) America—and in light of the suffering they have endured by being labeled “illegal” (e.g., having to live in the shadows, not being able to market their goods or services openly, not being able to use banks or credit cards, etc.)—the solution to the problem of so-called “illegals” is to grant them unconditional amnesty and a presidential apology. Just as the principle of individual rights mandates open immigration, so too it mandates amnesty for those whose moral actions were made “criminal” by immoral laws. (“Amnesty” is really the wrong word, as one logically should not have to be “pardoned” for having acted morally, but there is no accurate word for what has been necessitated by our irrational immigration policy.)

Some argue that granting amnesty to “illegal” immigrants would make a mockery of the rule of law and that “illegals” broke our laws and should be held accountable for having done so. On the contrary, what mocks the rule of law is the existence and attempted enforcement of anti-immigration laws...

Upholding the rule of law does not mean upholding whatever laws happen to be on the books. Should the citizens of Nazi Germany have turned Jews over to the Gestapo? Nazi law dictated that they must. Would the refusal to obey that law have been a mockery of the rule of law?

Upholding the rule of law does not mean enforcing illegitimate laws; it means establishing and maintaining a government and legal system based on the objective social requirements of human life—namely: the recognition and protection of individual rights. Laws that violate individual rights are illegitimate laws, and such laws morally must be repealed.

He ends this article by offering a five-point plan to achieve a rights-respecting and thus moral immigration policy for the U.S. which as he says," will require substantial time, effort, and intellectual activism, but there is no shortcut; these are the actions necessary to solve the misnamed “immigration problem,” which is, in fact, a problem of too few Americans recognizing, embracing, and upholding the basic principle on which America was founded."


Burgess Laughlin said...

One of several reasons I value The Objective Standard is that many of its articles are timeless. Like the newsletters Ayn Rand published, the TOS articles, even when prompted by current controversies, contain clear explanations of applicable principles, that is, abstractions which one can use in a wide range of situations and times.

Mike said...

Indeed. Open immigration is what built America. Once upon a time, everyone accepted open immigration because it was up to the immigrants to pay their own way; their presence was a net positive by any metric you like. Now, there is a welfare state and there is an immigrant population that has learned to take advantage. If people don't like having their tax dollars expropriated to pay for government benefits for an unemployed immigrant, perhaps instead of focusing on the immigrant, people might consider abolishing the welfare state!