Fighting Terrorism Requires Legalizing Immigration

James S. Valliant's picture
Submitted by James S. Valliant on Tue, 2006-06-06 16:58

Immigration has become a very hot issue in the United States these days. It is estimated that there are something like ten to fifteen million illegal immigrants living in America – and more keep streaming across the border every day.

Of course, immigration is nothing but a boon to any free market economy, as has been repeatedly demonstrated, and there is every reason for a capitalist society to eagerly welcome every last immigrant. And, of course, so long as the immigrant is not a direct threat to the physical safety of the country, such migration to and from a place is a RIGHT.

One cannot hope to convince neanderthals, such as Bill O'Reilly of Fox News, who complain that immigrants steal jobs, hurt the economy, and violate the rights of "us" natives.

Whatever part of this opposition to immigration is actually rooted in misguided but sincere economic fears, less credible cultural fears, or ugly racism, none of these "concerns" has had any reason to 'heat-up' lately, and, I suspect, these emotions would have remained on a slow simmer, as they had for so long – but for 9/11 and the fear of terrorists.

It is the fear of terrorism that has thrust immigration onto the front pages of newspapers – and into debates on the floor of the Senate.

This is just one more example, to be sure, of what happens when you have an American leadership unwilling to do what's needed – the overthrow of terrorism-supporting states – starting with Iran – and which, instead, makes further retreat on personal freedom for the illusion of increased security.

As many others have observed, the enemies of immigration are using the "terrorism issue" as a bootstrap to push their own abiding agenda to "stem the tide." If thousands of undocumented and untraceable aliens are slipping into this country every day, how on earth can we prevent more mass-murderers from getting in?

Unfortunately, this increase in nativist fury at illegal immigration has inflamed recent immigrants themselves – as the recent and sizable demonstrations across the country show – and is working to polarize, not acculturate this community.

In all the give-and-take on the issue, everyone seems to have missed the obvious error in the logic in the anti-immigration argument on terrorism, the error of its fundamental premise – since, in fact, the only way to actually prevent terrorists from slipping in is to legalize as much "illegal immigration" as possible.

If one is looking for a needle in a haystack, as the saying goes, one has a hell of job. Finding that needle on a relatively clean floor, however, presents an achievable goal.

If every person who wanted into America in order to find work was legally permitted into America, I'll bet they'd be happy to stop by the front gate, show some i.d., get checked against a terrorist watch-list, etc. Only those with criminal records, or reasons to flee justice, those with contagious diseases, and, well... terrorists would have any reason to "jump the gate" at all.

This would concentrate our resources on those who actually posed a threat to the country. Thousands of border patrol agents would, then, not be going after thousands – ultimately, accumulated millions – of people everyday, but just a few hundred – ultimately, a few thousands. I, personally, prefer those odds when it comes to catching terrorists and mass-murders.

Besides, we wouldn't be violating anyone's rights – and that might be a good thing, too.

But would somebody tell these yahoos that it would be a whole lot EASIER for the border patrol to stop a terrorist from oozing in if we LEGALIZED as much immigration – and as many illegals – as possible. And the sooner the better, please.


( categories: )

Penelope

Boaz the Boor's picture

The government's only function, and therefore its only consideration, is to protect the rights of its citizens. Therefore its policy on immigration has to be dictated by the rights of its citizens.

The government is also obliged not to violate the rights of non-citizens. That the government's only proper function is rights-protection of citizens doesn't mean anything it does to non-citizens is fine and dandy (I trust you would agree). There are limitations on what it must, and must not, do. And that does flow directly from the operation of individual rights.

Now, it's true that whatever the government has to do (and ONLY what it has to do) to ensure rights-protection in an emergency situation is what it very well must do. If temporarily restraining the influx, if only to allow for the government to react properly to an unforseen (and possibly deadly) scenerio, then that's fine. My point is simply that the government, as an agent of its citizens, is charged with respecting the rights of all individuals in its dealings. Not allowing access to a country, unless the person is a threat or unless the government and/or its citizens are being threatened, is an initiation of force. And yes, it's an act of force against the immigrant AND against the company who would hire him or the friend who would embrace him.

Fer Instance...

James S. Valliant's picture

Rights discussions are cool, but, as a specific case in point, the President today in a speech on immigration referred to the growing "fake documents" industry, making enforcement of the draconian employer-enforcement provisions of U'S. immigration law difficult. The terrorist thrives in a world flooded with fake immigration papers, social security numbers, etc. But this entire black-market industry would mostly wither on the vine if we opened the door to any and all who pose us no threat.

Penelope

Jason Quintana's picture

I am under the understanding that proper government function has more to do with the protection of the rights and property of those (citizens or not) within its borders. If this protection only extends to citizens then what happens to property owned by a group of Japanese businessmen in the U.S.? What if their building is bombed and they are inside of it?

Do Japanese police need to fly to America to protect Japanese citizens and their property? No because this protection falls under the jurisdiction of the American government. There are thousands of cases in which property located in the U.S. is owned by citizens of foreign countries and this is highly beneficial to U.S. citizens (and is the rightful property of those who have acquired it) and so proper government function must be broader then your above definition.

There is also the question of interaction between countries. It is critical that governments of free countries recognize the rights of the citizens and residents of other free countries.

- Jason

Rights are inherent to all

Penelope's picture

Rights are inherent to all individuals in any voluntary, social context, not just citizens; the only proper immigration measures would be those that ensure rights-protection (including the rights of aliens, diplomats, cats, dogs and permanent residents), which means keeping out violent criminals, et al. Keeping someone out of the country, which qua country is owned by no one, is a violation of that person's rights.

That doesn't follow. Yes, everyone involved has rights. Rights are not conferred by the government. My point comes down to: what is a government? What is its purpose? The government's only function, and therefore its only consideration, is to protect the rights of its citizens. Therefore its policy on immigration has to be dictated by the rights of its citizens.

If a government is violating the rights of would-be immigrants by keeping them from entering its borders, that means the government is threatening the citizens of another country. In practice, this means that if the U.S. government kept out Mexican immigrants (which both you and I agree would be a violation of OUR rights as Americans), the Mexican government would be justified in going to war with us in retaliation.

I agree with Jason. Rights

Boaz the Boor's picture

I agree with Jason. Rights are inherent to all individuals in any voluntary, social context, not just citizens; the only proper immigration measures would be those that ensure rights-protection (including the rights of aliens, diplomats, cats, dogs and permanent residents), which means keeping out violent criminals, et al. Keeping someone out of the country, which qua country is owned by no one, is a violation of that person's rights.

The mass exodus scenerio is not something that can happen barring some major disaster (historically it's been wars). That's something that, in practice, any government will be able to prepare for, as will other organizations and charities that already exist for such purposes. Responsible immigrants (i.e., the majority of them) will normally have had the opportunity to make their own preparations. Needless to say, such people can only add value.

Jason

Penelope's picture

I wasn't arguing on the basis of "collective property." I was arguing, as I said, on the basis of infrastructure. In a proper society, the government would have so many police officers per number of citizens. If a sudden and unexpected massive influx of people paraded across the border, it would be unable to fulfill its role in protecting rights.

You write: "One example that

Victor Pross's picture

You write: "One example that comes to mind is if 1,000,000 Canadians suddenly decided to have a massive picinic in the U.S. all at the same time. Our infrastructure couldn't handle that and the government would have every right in the world to stop them. Their rights would not be violated in the least."

As a Canadian, I agree. But I still want to visit and have a picnic as invited by whomever will have me. I hardly think that your example is likely, unless we run out of maple syrup or something. But you make a good point. Don't forget: eh is eh! Eye

Penelope

Jason Quintana's picture

Actually I don't believe that the U.S. government does have the right to stop 1,000,000 Canadians who want to have a picnic in the U.S. However, the problem we run into is that much of this country is not privately owned.

The question of who has the right to "collective property" has already been hashed out a lot of times. Beyond the property necessary for basic government functions, this kind of national property should not exist. It essentially represents a violation of rights in the same way that wealth redistribution does. 1,000,000 Canadians should be able to rent, purchase or be invited onto anyone's property without the interference of the U.S. government. Government action in such a context is only valid if these 1,000,000 Canadians are violating someone else's property rights.

If the U.S. government stops such an act of free movement and assembly (in which no one's rights are being violated) they violate the rights of these 1,000,000 individuals. We can argue that rights are contextual, but they aren't recognized because of a person's nationality. And so it should not matter whether these 1,000,000 people are American citizens or not. It is a question of jurisdiction (not citizenship) and whether or not there is evidence of an initiation of force or evidence of the threat of an initiation of force.

- Jason

Yes well I am not a writer.

Victor Pross's picture

Yes well I am not a writer. I am a blabber mouth with a keyboard!

Well, that's okay, I like your "blabber" as you call it. You make interesting points--here, and on other posts.

James

Penelope's picture

"The context" is "at the border and requesting entry." If trade and commerce are a value and a right for those of us already here, then the government, at its borders, must act ~ somehow ~ when confronted by such "persons" -- and in a way that does not violate anyone's rights.

Yes, by making sure they aren't threats to Americans and then letting them in! We agree about all that. But if it weren't for the rights of citizens, there would be nothing wrong per se about keeping would-be immigrants out. And, in fact, there are (rare) circumstances where the rights of a nation's citizens demand precisely that.

One example that comes to mind is if 1,000,000 Canadians suddenly decided to have a massive picinic in the U.S. all at the same time. Our infrastructure couldn't handle that and the government would have every right in the world to stop them. Their rights would not be violated in the least.

(That's not very likely as stated, but to take a more historically accurate example, if people flee civil war or famine at such a rate that we don't have enough police, say, to be able to take them in all at once, the government can set limits...temporarily...and those limits would violate no one's rights.)

Victor

Penelope's picture

Yes, it does. Y' know, ever since I put on a writer's hat--second to being a visual artist--I pay CLOSE attention to how words are used. They can alter one's meaning if poorly communicated.

Yes well I am not a writer. I am a blabber mouth with a keyboard!

The Context

James S. Valliant's picture

Penelope,

"The context" is "at the border and requesting entry." If trade and commerce are a value and a right for those of us already here, then the government, at its borders, must act ~ somehow ~ when confronted by such "persons" -- and in a way that does not violate anyone's rights.

Yikes! That should read,

Victor Pross's picture

"Yikes! That should read, "the government doesn't have the right to PREVENT ME FROM contracting with whomever I want..." Does that clear things up?

**

Yes, it does. Y' know, ever since I put on a writer's hat--second to being a visual artist--I pay CLOSE attention to how words are used. They can alter one's meaning if poorly communicated. Eye

Victor

Penelope's picture

I wrote...

"...but I still think it's important to point out that that isn't the justification for open immigration. The justification is: the government doesn't have the right to contracting with whomever I want, for inviting whomever I want on my property, for hiring or befriending whomever I want. All the wonderful economic consequences follow from that...that's just gravy."

Yikes! That should read, "the government doesn't have the right to PREVENT ME FROM contracting with whomever I want..."

Does that clear things up?

Penelope

Victor Pross's picture

"...but I still think it's important to point out that that isn't the justification for open immigration. The justification is: the government doesn't have the right to contracting with whomever I want, for inviting whomever I want on my property, for hiring or befriending whomever I want. All the wonderful economic consequences follow from that...that's just gravy."

You do make an interesting point, and I can see that you are stressing it. Question, though: If you wish to befriend, hire or have on your property (or all three) someone from another country--and, of course, the other party wishes to co-operate with you--what do you mean that the government does not have the right for the "contracting" of this--maybe its that single word I'm unclear about. For what other agency--other than the government--would apply the business of administration of immigration? (contracting).

If you mean they don’t have the right to conduct the NATURE of the relationship between you and an immigrant; that you must hire or marry someone—-that would be clear, of course. But I hardly would think you would stress that point on this forum. What is your meaning?

Victor

Penelope's picture

The question still begs one to come to a conclusion regarding immigration. My vote is FOR it: under a capitalist society, there is no "welfare" extorted from producers at the point of a gun (only private charity). The entrance of people into a Capitalist country (immigration) is not looked upon as a problem, as it is in the American welfare state of today, but is an asset: the more people, the larger the market, and the greater possibilities for the division of labor.

That's true, but I still think it's important to point out that that isn't the justification for open immigration. The justification is: the government doesn't have the right to contracting with whomever I want, for inviting whomever I want on my property, for hiring or befriending whomever I want. All the wonderful economic consequences follow from that...that's just gravy.

After all, it's true that some people will lose out from immigration: people who have to take lower wages because they don't want to develop new job skills for instance. Or racists. Tough cookies for them, though, since the government has no business worrying about jobs for Americans or about American culture or the biases of certain Americans. It's only business is to protect our rights. Thus open immigration.

Jim

Penelope's picture

However, "rights" are something possessed by individuals because they are human beings -- not things conferred by government. While the U.S. government is no way obliged to use its resources to protect the rights of foreign individuals, it cannot violate those rights.

What context are we talking about? Of foreign individuals within a nation's borders? In that case, yes, it must respect their rights and it must protect their rights--because otherwise its violating the rights of its citizens. But if we're talking about foreign individuals outside a nation's borders, I think it's wrong to say the government can't violate their rights. Their rights are irrelevant to a proper government. What is relevant to a proper government is that its only legitimate function is to protect the rights of its citizens, and so it shouldn't be taking any action with respect to foreign individuals (except insofar as they are a threat to its citizens).

(I would also observe that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ["equal protection"] distinguishes "citizens" from "persons" -- and then proceeds to require that the states not violate the rights of any "persons" living within their jurisdictions. This is the correct approach, don't you think?)

Yeppers. But why is that? It's because a person who violates the rights of another person has rejected the basic organizing principle of society and is therefore a threat, in principle, to everyone...including the citizens within that nation.

Gotta say, however, lest I be misunderstood, I'm completely for open immigration. 100% and fancy all! I'm just saying the justification for open immigration has nothing to do with the rights of immigrants...but with ours!

Hi Penelope,You wrote:"If

Victor Pross's picture

Hi Penelope,

You wrote:"If the US government keeps out immigrants, that is wrong because it violates our rights...not theirs!"

Indeed. But I think James was arguing for immigration and would not say otherwise regarding the protection of rights; but I do understand your distinction.

The question still begs one to come to a conclusion regarding immigration. My vote is FOR it: under a capitalist society, there is no "welfare" extorted from producers at the point of a gun (only private charity). The entrance of people into a Capitalist country (immigration) is not looked upon as a problem, as it is in the American welfare state of today, but is an asset: the more people, the larger the market, and the greater possibilities for the division of labor.

Penelope

James S. Valliant's picture

Thank you.

However, "rights" are something possessed by individuals because they are human beings -- not things conferred by government. While the U.S. government is no way obliged to use its resources to protect the rights of foreign individuals, it cannot violate those rights. (I would also observe that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ["equal protection"] distinguishes "citizens" from "persons" -- and then proceeds to require that the states not violate the rights of any "persons" living within their jurisdictions. This is the correct approach, don't you think?)

Jim

Penelope's picture

And, of course, so long as the immigrant is not a direct threat to the physical safety of the country, such migration to and from a place is a RIGHT.

Hi Jim. Lovely post, but I disagree with this. I don't think you can say someone has a right to enter another country. He surely has a right to leave his country, but to enter another one? The right to immigration is, in my humblest of opinions, a consequence of the citizens' rights to contract with whomever they want: to hire anyone, to lodge anyone, to befriend anyone, etc. If the US government keeps out immigrants, that is wrong because it violates our rights...not theirs! That's because a government is not an agency for protecting individual rights. It's an agency for protecting its citizens' individual rights. It's a sublte but to my eyes an important distinction. (It's because they fail to make that distinction that many libertarians can't understand the Objectivist view of the morality of war.)

Very good post. I suspect

Mike_M's picture

Very good post. I suspect the number of people who are anti-immigrant for innocent reasons is rather small, though.

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