Confessions of a Reluctant Immigration Hawk

 

shutterstock_220487467Some issues make for uncomfortable alliances. As a supporter of across-the-board drug legalization, I have often felt the desire to throw my hands up in despair at the inanities of unserious stoner activists and of the hipster libertarians who have raised the narrow issue of cannabis to the position of a sine qua non in order to excuse themselves from voting for conservative candidates who violate their cultural expectations. Many in the latter group are classical liberals for whom I have a great deal of respect, even if disagree with them on this specific issue, who libertarians should want to work with.

Increasingly, I feel much the same way about conservatives and immigration. While I continue to maintain that lower rates of immigration from Latin America will be necessary to reverse the balkanizing trends causing so much dysfunction in America’s political system, this is a position that I am forced to hold with no small degree of reluctance and circumspection. This apprehension does not have to do solely with the nature of the ideological company I am forced to keep — company which ranges from well-intentioned fellow conservatives who persist in making the worst arguments for an otherwise defensible position — down to unapologetic Trump supporters, and even genuine racists on the Alt-Right and PaleoCon fringes.

In truth, my reluctance goes much deeper than this, as the restrictionist position forces me to overcome some basic libertarian instincts. I continue to believe that the only borders with any moral significance are those between my property and my neighbors’ and that private property owners are the only agents capable of restricting the free movement of individuals while claiming any justification under natural law. Being something less than a purist, however, I also acknowledge that — to the degree individual rights are respected in this place and time — it is because they are protected by small-r republican institutions built into our constitutional framework. Moreover, these institutions require a certain degree of cultural cohesion to function properly and are endangered by the breakdown of the process of assimilation. I am not so dogmatic as to deny that, in the struggle for freedom, it may be necessary to take a step back in order to take two steps forward.

Nevertheless, acknowledging the necessity of immigration restrictions to restore our constitutional order should not prevent us from recognizing that such restrictions represent a significant step backward for personal freedom in the short term. As such, we should expect conservative classical liberals to offer measured responses to the matter that acknowledge this unpleasant (but very real) tension. I fully admit that many conservatives do not share in a number of my priors and am I one to demand ideological purity. But as Jay Nordlinger often points out, every conservative has a streak of libertarianism. Unfortunately, the level of bombast and reductionism present in our current immigration debate leads me to question whether this is truly the case, as do most of the positive arguments made by my fellow immigration hawks.

As the immigration debate on the Right grows ever more polarized I feel the need to get some of these reservations of my chest. So, over the next week I hope to put up a series of posts outlining my major qualms with the current nature of the argument coming from the Right on this issue that will, hopefully, generate discussion with a bit less of the Us vs. Them dynamic that has characterized too many of our recent discussions on the subject.

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  1. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Sounds good. If you want to move the discussion step-by-step, then I suggest keeping your prompts succinct. The more complex the opening argument, the more opportunities for sidetracking.

    Often, I make the mistake of trying to anticipate arguments in the post, rather than just letting them play out in the comments.

    To keep each post from devolving into a repetition of the same debate over and over, you should probably be prepared for some polite nudging mid-conversation too. All it takes is one unfortunate turn-of-phrase to start a grudge match.

    • #1
  2. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    Gaius: This apprehension does not have to do solely with the nature of the ideological company I am forced to keep, company which ranges from well-intentioned fellow conservatives who persist in making the worst arguments for an otherwise defensible position, down to unapologetic Trumpkins and genuine racists on the alt-right and paleo-conservative fringe.

    You could have waited to make your point before lighting the fuse. I assume you will clarify and elaborate on this company you reluctantly draw breath with , breathlessly.

    So do we now have to find some genuine racists to stand next to or shall we just fill in the role?

    I do appreciate you signaling your intent , it will save me the effort of wading through your pieces.

    • #2
  3. Gaius Inactive
    Gaius
    @Gaius

    TKC1101:

    You could have waited to make your point before lighting the fuse. I assume you will clarify and elaborate on this company you reluctantly draw breath with , breathlessly.

    So do we now have to find some genuine racists to stand next to or shall we just fill in the role?

    I do appreciate you signaling your intent , it will save me the effort of wading through your pieces.

    If you’re saying that I failed to make room in my description for conservatives who do make the best arguments against immigration, I would have to accept that as valid criticism. Apart from that I would point out that I went out of my way to locate diehard trump supporters and alt-right racists at the extreme end of a lengthy continuum, one which includes many whose embrace of Trump is rather more apologetic. Given that neither of those categories where intended to describe anyone on Ricochet, where you choose to place yourself on that continuum is your own choice. All that aside, if you still think I’m calling you a racisist please fight back. One of the problems with the right on immigration is that we’ve grown so numb to accusations of racism that we’ve mostly ceased to counteract them, giving off the impression that we aren’t bothered by being thought of as racists. If you think there is a paleo conservative fringe that isn’t racist then say so.

    • #3
  4. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    Gaius: If you’re saying that I failed to make room in my description for conservatives who do make the best arguments against immigration, I would have to accept that as valid criticism. Apart from that I would point out that I went out of my way to locate diehard trump supporters and alt-right racists at the extreme end of a lengthy continuum, one which includes many whose embrace of Trump is rather more apologetic. Given that neither of those categories where intended to describe anyone on Ricochet, where you choose to place yourself on that continuum is your own choice. All that aside, if you still think I’m calling you a racisist please fight back. One of the problems with the right on immigration is that we’ve grown so numb to accusations of racism that we’ve mostly ceased to counteract them, giving off the impression that we aren’t bothered by being thought of as racists. If you think there is a paleo conservative fringe that isn’t racist then say so.

    Stop being so coy. There are quite a few Cruz supporters as well as people who supported other candidates who are for strict immigration enforcement, yet you chose to link Trump supporters and Alt-right  and racists as a group.

    I assume you support and are simpatico with La Raza then?

    I do admire it, you come into a cozy place and throw a grenade as an opener. Most people wait until they made their point.

    Not buying it.

    • #4
  5. Gaius Inactive
    Gaius
    @Gaius

    What exactly is the grenade? “Trumpkins?”

    Donald Trump supports mass deportation and a ban on Muslims entering the country. This is something far beyond what most people would think of as strict border enforcement. His supporters have the choice to either apologize for him and argue that he’s the lesser of two evils or actively embrace his statements. Those who choose the latter option are guilty of an indifference toward minorities so comprehensive as to be equivalent if not indifferentiable from the actual malice of those self-identified white supremacists who are cheering trump. So, which is it?

    • #5
  6. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    Gaius: Donald Trump supports mass deportation and a ban on Muslims entering the country. This is something far beyond what most people would think of as strict border enforcement.

    See, it was not that hard to flush this out. Did not have to wait for the next installments.

    Enforcing the law means enforcing the law. If you are here illegally, the law says you must leave. Strict immigration enforcement. Every other country does that.

    A temporary ban on Muslims until we can vet them properly is called acting under the law, that part about provide for the common defense .

    We discriminate against people who have travelled to disease ridden countries, we discriminate  by national origin , tell me where we cannot discriminate against people with characteristics which require extra scrutiny.  I have been discriminated against because I needed to buy one way tickets, which made me suspicious.

    In the next election, I expect we will find out one way or the other what ‘most people would think of as strict border enforcement”

    Enjoy your posting. I am sure we can get some alt-right folks to guest appear for comments.

    Great avatar- have you met the Shadows yet?

    • #6
  7. Steve C. Member
    Steve C.
    @user_531302

    My complaint is simple. In return for Simpson-Mazzoli, the Feds promised to fix the illegal immigration problem. If they tried and failed, maybe I could accept the status quo

    Instead, they failed to try. We’ve been treated to billions of dollars of waste and years of failure theater.

    The political class has sown the wind and now they are reaping…

    • #7
  8. Herbert Inactive
    Herbert
    @Herbert

    look forward to it..

    • #8
  9. Derek Simmons Member
    Derek Simmons
    @

    TKC1101:I assume you support and are simpatico with La Raza then?

    I do admire it, you come into a cozy place and throw a grenade as an opener. Most people wait until they made their point.

    • #9
  10. Derek Simmons Member
    Derek Simmons
    @

    Steve C.:My complaint is simple. In return for Simpson-Mazzoli, the Feds promised to fix the illegal immigration problem. If they tried and failed, maybe I could accept the status quo

    Instead, they failed to try.

    BINGO. D.C. decided that their go-slow do-nothing response would go unheeded by the unwashed and in the meantime they got cheap labor and a cheap increase in a dependable voting demographic. Win-win for them. Lose-lose for us.

    • #10
  11. Owen Findy Member
    Owen Findy
    @OwenFindy

    Looking forward to this.

    And, please make it a linked list: put links to the previous and next pieces in each piece.

    • #11
  12. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    TKC1101: Enforcing the law means enforcing the law.

    Well, really it does not.

    Our “law” is now an impenetrable morass of regulations, allowing any bureaucrat to improvise on a whim since there is no practical recourse for a wronged citizen.

    I have heard it repeated often that the average American commits a felony a day.

    So which is it: should the government enforce ALL the laws? Or just the ones that you like?

    There is no way to categorically “know” the law anymore, even for immigration. To my mind, the government – immigration included – need a complete overhaul, roots to leaves.   Until we have such an overhaul, we will remain at the mercy of a government which selectively decides what the law is, and how they want to enforce it. We don’t call that “enforcement.” We call it “tyranny.”

    • #12
  13. Fredösphere Member
    Fredösphere
    @Fredosphere

    John Adams said our government was designed for a religious people and would work for none other. More broadly, our system depends upon certain deep habits of self-control. Libertarians need to be continually reminded of that fact, for they are prone to utopian thinking. It used to be we thought we could take self-control for granted in the Anglösphere; it’s obvious now we cannot.

    It’s simple: if you want a republic, you need a public with republican virtues. Your freedom will self-destruct if you’re not picky about who you let in. This is not a “compromise” or an “inconsistency.” It’s just simple reality.

    • #13
  14. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    Fredösphere: It’s simple: if you want a republic, you need a public with republican virtues. Your freedom will self-destruct if you’re not picky about who you let in. This is not a “compromise” or an “inconsistency.” It’s just simple reality.

    Whoa there! That sounds suspiciously like you’re talking about “assimilation” which has been identified as a Class 3 Pejorative under Title IX.

    Better visit your local re-education center diversity training to get your mind right.

    • #14
  15. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    “Nevertheless, acknowledging the necessity of immigration restrictions to restore our constitutional order should not prevent us from recognizing that such restrictions represent a significant step backward for personal freedom in the short term.”…Gaius

    As does acknowledging breaking any law including rape, murder, and mayhem represent a step back for the personal freedom of those so inclined to commit those heinous crimes. In the meantime, are you an American citizen (USA)? I am, and as such must abide by the laws of my country or commit civil disobedience and accept my due punishment. These shadowy humans not known by our government are under no such restrictions, we don’t even know who they are. Are you comfortable with that?

    • #15
  16. The Cloaked Gaijin Member
    The Cloaked Gaijin
    @TheCloakedGaijin

    Gaius:In truth, my reluctance goes much deeper than this, as the restrictionist position forces me to overcome some basic libertarian instincts.

    Immigrant and immigration hawk John Derbyshire calls it “libertarianism in one country.”

    Now the young libertarians can complain about the welfare state just as much as they complain about that icky immigration stuff.

    • #16
  17. Derek Simmons Member
    Derek Simmons
    @

    iWe: I have heard it repeated often that the average American commits a felony a day.

    It’s THREE FELONIES A DAY (see: Silverglate) but who’s counting. And YES: enforce every single one every single day against every single ‘perp.’ Guess how long it would take before “We the People” woke up to what is being done daily in our name? Govco thrives on its ability and practice of ‘selective enforcement.’ See, for example, Petraeus or Menendez vis Clinton. It’s a game we let Washington play at our expense because every once in a while when we’re bitching, they ‘put away’ someone we think deserved it.

    • #17
  18. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Derek Simmons: Govco thrives on its ability and practice of ‘selective enforcement.’

    Agreed. But it is disingenuous for conservatives to say “enforce the law.” We don’t mean it for everyone. We just mean it for immigrants.

    The system is broken beyond repair. It needs a complete rethink.

    • #18
  19. Derek Simmons Member
    Derek Simmons
    @

    iWe: Agreed. But it is disingenuous for conservatives to say “enforce the law.” We don’t mean it for everyone. We just mean it for immigrants.

    YEP: all of “our” preferred targets and none of “their” preferred targets.

    • #19
  20. Jager Coolidge
    Jager
    @Jager

    iWe:

    Derek Simmons: Govco thrives on its ability and practice of ‘selective enforcement.’

    Agreed. But it is disingenuous for conservatives to say “enforce the law.” We don’t mean it for everyone. We just mean it for immigrants.

    The system is broken beyond repair. It needs a complete rethink.

    So is your argument that conservatives don’t want any laws enforced except immigration laws?

    The thing about the felony a day is that most of those people don’t know that they have violated the law. That is completely different from willfully violating a known law. Murder is illegal, everyone knows it so we say enforce the law. So to, that you need permission to enter, live in and work in a country is a known law, it is basically universal among the nearly 200 countries on the planet.

    • #20
  21. Gaius Inactive
    Gaius
    @Gaius

    Main Feed!

    A number of the comments here have picked up on what was going to be one of the two main points of my next posts; that the Aristotelian/Hayekian notion of rule by law not men has little chance of ever describing our current mess of unenforceable statutes and discretionary power vested in the bureaucracy, immigration law being no exception.

    The second would be that conservatives’ respect for rule of law ought to have something to do with natural law. Without invoking social contract theory it’s hard to apply that to immigration.

    • #21
  22. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Jager: The thing about the felony a day is that most of those people don’t know that they have violated the law. That is completely different from willfully violating a known law.

    I sometimes speed when I drive. I don’t consider it a big deal. Most people don’t.

    Among illegal immigrants, working without a green card is not a big deal, either. And why should they think so? The underground economy among American citizens is often estimated to be 20-40% bigger than the reported economy. LOTS of people do not report everything, for a wide variety of reasons.

    • #22
  23. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Gaius: The second would be that conservatives’ respect for rule of law ought to have something to do with natural law.

    That is a tough road. A lot of people do not believe there is any such thing as an objectively knowable natural law.

    It is much easier to see everything as contractual, in one form or another. That connects to the belief that people can and should be free to make up their own minds, and be tied to the consequences of those decisions.

    • #23
  24. Gaius Inactive
    Gaius
    @Gaius

    cdor: 

    As does acknowledging breaking any law including rape, murder, and mayhem represent a step back for the personal freedom of those so inclined to commit those heinous crimes. In the meantime, are you an American citizen (USA)? I am, and as such must abide by the laws of my country or commit civil disobedience and accept my due punishment. These shadowing humans not known by our government are under no such restrictions, we don’t even know who they are. Are you comfortable with that?

    Even if we accept that illegal immigration may cause an increase in violent crime, don’t we still have to acknowledge that one of these laws is not like the other? Laws against rape and murder protect individual rights in the most immediate sense while immigration laws do so in a speculative sense at best? The conventional libertarian way of putting this is that immigration laws initiate force while laws on murder respond to it. I think Fredosphere’s point has bearing on this as well. A virtuous person’s decision not to murder has little to do with the law. How do we screen for virtue in immigrants and how does our estimation of the average virtuousness of current native born Americans factor into this?

    • #24
  25. Jager Coolidge
    Jager
    @Jager

    iWe:

    Jager: The thing about the felony a day is that most of those people don’t know that they have violated the law. That is completely different from willfully violating a known law.

    I sometimes speed when I drive. I don’t consider it a big deal. Most people don’t.

    Among illegal immigrants, working without a green card is not a big deal, either. And why should they think so? The underground economy among American citizens is often estimated to be 20-40% bigger than the reported economy. LOTS of people do not report everything, for a wide variety of reasons.

    Still not the same thing. You know that you are violating the law, you could be pulled over if you are caught. Watch traffic when a police car is spotted up ahead, you see a lot of break lights. Speeding laws are enforced.

    The illegal immigrants also know that they are breaking the law. They know that they could be deported. Enforcing this law is not a tyranny.

    That is a  completely separate issue from unknowingly violating a federal regulation that no one has really heard of.

    So immigrants don’t think working with out a green card is a big deal, what does that do for us? Our enforcement of  a law  should not be based on whether the person violating the law thinks it is a big deal.

    • #25
  26. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    “A virtuous person’s decision not to murder has little to do with the law. How do we screen for virtue in immigrants and how does our estimation of the average virtuousness of current native born Americans factor into this?”

    One thing is certain, we can’t screen for anything, including disease and harmful intent, as well as virtue, without enforcing our immigration laws and controlling our borders.

    • #26
  27. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    My point is a simpler one: everyone breaks the law, knowingly or unknowingly. But from a practical perspective, it only matters if you get caught and prosecuted. See Clinton: Hillary.

    Why on earth should some working Guatemalan be held to a higher standard than the leading Presidential candidate?

    We are clearly no longer a nation of laws.

    • #27
  28. Inwar Resolution Inactive
    Inwar Resolution
    @InwarResolution

    NOT enforcing certain laws demonstrates a tolerance for the behavior, which is why speeding is basically tolerated.  By not enforcing the border, our nation has effectively communicated that it is acceptable to come illegally, as long as you are willing to live in the shadows.

    This is a ridiculous state of affairs, but it is where we are.  I cannot understand the vehement wholesale hatred by some of the people who have come here to live a better life.  I generally sympathize with them, but I acknowledge that such a state of affairs creates an environment ripe for crime and a lot of negative externalities.

    I suggest that we bring them out of the shadows, fingerprint them, deport the criminals, and tell the rest of them to keep their noses clean and they can stay, although they’ll never be able to vote.  Doesn’t that seem reasonable, since our government effectively invited them here in the first place by advertising that we weren’t enforcing our border laws?

    • #28
  29. Chris Member
    Chris
    @Chris

    iWe:My point is a simpler one: everyone breaks the law, knowingly or unknowingly. But from a practical perspective, it only matters if you get caught and prosecuted. See Clinton: Hillary.

    Why on earth should some working Guatemalan be held to a higher standard than the leading Presidential candidate?

    We are clearly no longer a nation of laws.

    I can buy into the notion we have too many laws.

    I would concede we may need to slim down what is considered a felony.

    I would consider felonies to be serious events which demand punishment.

    I would put Hillary and her server into that bucket.

    I would put illegally overstaying a visa or sneaking into a country into that bucket.

    I would not put speeding into that bucket, and don’t understand why someone speeding when knowing full well the legal ramifications if caught would exempt felonious actions.

    • #29
  30. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Gaius: The conventional libertarian way of putting this is that immigration laws initiate force while laws on murder respond to it.

    Is building a fence around your home or business an act of force? Is it oppressive in some way to identify property as owned and subject to the preferences of its owner? Libertarians cannot respect property rights without respecting distinctions between one property and another. As a family/marriage can share ownership, so a larger community can share ownership.

    Countries are pragmatic organizations in the same manner towns and cities are. Boundaries are established and members identified for need of collective government (ideally limited). The more densely and diversely populated the community, the greater the need of regulation (in the old sense of “make regular”, rather than the modern sense of aristocratic micromanagement).

    Human history has reached an era in which communities include millions of citizens, a wide variety of customs, and consequently cooperation of many subcommunities. But scale does not fundamentally change the rules of ownership and hospitality. If members within any kind of home wish to extend membership or outsiders wish to reside there by any arrangement, cooperation is just and necessary.

    In a community, many voluntary choices must include the volition of fellow members.

    • #30

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