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.

Published in Domestic Policy, Immigration
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  1. Jager Coolidge
    Jager
    @Jager

    Inwar Resolution: 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.

    The people on this site, and conservatives/Republicans in general (according to most polling) do not have a vehement wholesale hatred of immigrants.  Sure they come here to have a better life. I live here and have a better life than they do. I still would like a better life. Wanting a better life does not mean that you get to ignore the rules/laws and do what ever you want.

    Our legal immigration system is a mess but we still have one of the most generous immigration systems in the world and legally admit like a million people a year.

    • #31
  2. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Interesting opening sentence about narcotics because the issues have something in common.  While illegal immigrants cant be dissolved and imported as starch, shaped like aspirin and imported in bottles, nor swallowed in little bags and pooped after crossing the border as can heroin or cocaine, they are still hard to stop.  Yet while illegal narcotics cannot be stopped,  illegal immigration and violation of visa status can.   While  a wall will at least drive up the cost coyotes and maybe increase boat sales  and visits to Canada, it wont stop illegal immigration and does nothing about overstaying visas which, until recent decades, was the main source of illegal immigration.   If we could actually enforce existing laws much of the ethnic mix that bothers some people and lack of education that bothers others would automatically be fixed and we could then consider legislation creating temporary work visa programs and we could consider what kind of immigration flows by whom from where we want.   We’ll never get anywhere unless we stick to the basics.  So first lets decide if we want open borders and if we do then we have to end welfare and free stuff.   If not then we have to enforce existing laws by knowing who is here and where, as do other  countries and making them go home if they violate their visa status or don’t have visas.  This isn’t cheap but it can be done.

    • #32
  3. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    TKC1101: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 .

    I believe his point was that Trump’s rhetoric goes beyond the other candidate’s.  Case in point, his endorsement of some sort of special deportation force to search out and round up illegals vs deport them as they come into contact with law enforcement as a matter of course. Every country does not do that, police states do.

    Banning a religion is ridiculous on it’s face even if it is (I don’t know it is) acting under the law.  It is reasonable to limit or temporarily ban immigration from a certain region or a nation but Muslims come in every race and from every country.  Are we just going to ask them if they are Muslim and hope the ones that are terrorists are also very honest?  It’s an unserious proposal preying on people’s fears not providing for common defense.

    • #33
  4. Gaius Inactive
    Gaius
    @Gaius

    Aaron Miller:

    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).

    So, does the federal government own all the land in the United States or just the area around the border? What about the human beings contained within? You can talk about the need for government all you want,and I’ll mostly agree,but that’s “necessary evil” Territory and does not provide a basis for ownership. Neither does it create a community. I never chose to join any such community, nor did I eversign away my rights, including the right to invite whomever I please onto my property. The ideas you’re invoking are important to our politics for many of the same reasons that I wind up supporting immigration restrictions. I just don’t think that they are “real” in anything approaching a morally binding sense.

    • #34
  5. TempTime Member
    TempTime
    @TempTime

    Gaius:  <snip> … 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 …

    Oooh! Geez! Why did you need to make this statement?  I was so interested in what you wrote, the content and the style, in the OP.   I was looking forward to your series.   Now I think, why bother.   Just another cock fight in the making.

    • #35
  6. TempTime Member
    TempTime
    @TempTime

    Aaron Miller: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.

    Well said.  I was just thinking similar thoughts … <sigh>  I think it’s too late.

    • #36
  7. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Gaius: So, does the federal government own all the land in the United States or just the area around the border?

    We as members of the American community collectively decide who may join our community and under what circumstances. But the federal government and national elections have no bearing on where within that community each citizen resides. We all share ownership of America, but we do not all share ownership of the state Illinois, of the city Chicago, or of communities therein.

    I admit, there is limited utility to comparisons of macro to micro communities. But at least it’s a model that appeals to common morals, rather than to brute force (which offers no consolation to the weak).

    Gaius: I never chose to join any such community, nor did I eversign away my rights

    I never chose to be born into a particular family (the most basic and most significant level of community). But I am nevertheless bound to its members by responsibility, concern, and cooperation.

    Not all relationships are voluntary. It’s simply a fact of life.

    But there is certainly room for reasonable debate about the significance of national identity/membership. Once upon a time, kings exercised less regular influence over their subjects’ lives than modern democracies do. That political encroachment on individual citizens (enabled largely by technological advancement) is probably echoed in immigration laws. Perhaps individuals should have more freedom to welcome foreigners than they currently do, but such freedom cannot be absolute.

    • #37
  8. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Aaron Miller:

    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.

    [Some] libertarians believe that government didn’t properly take ownership of the land. So property rights arguments do not apply.

    • #38
  9. Jager Coolidge
    Jager
    @Jager

    Mike H:

    Aaron Miller:

    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.

    [Some] libertarians believe that government didn’t properly take ownership of the land. So property rights arguments do not apply.

    That is interesting could you flush that out. How did the government, through war or purchase not properly take ownership of the land?

    • #39
  10. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    Concretevol: his endorsement of some sort of special deportation force to search out and round up illegals vs deport them as they come into contact with law enforcement as a matter of course. Every country does not do that, police states do.

    Such a force will be totally necessary to break the back of MS-13 and other gangs that thrive on cheap street manpower from illegals.

    I agree, if such a force is used to roust people from their homes it is stupid, but I would expect it will take many years to get the illegal run gangs out of this country. I doubt the multiple felons will self deport and after the stupid ones get caught, the real bad guys will thrive without active enforcement.

    Elliot Ness did not go after people drinking in their homes, he went after Capone. They got him on tax evasion.

    If we get MS-13 on illegal residence, fine.

    I am assuming Trump is savvy enough to know every gang-banger they bust on TV makes his administration looks good. We seem to have several years supply of gang bangers.

    Anyone as media savvy as Trump will not be running into the homes of single moms with kids and throwing them on a bus. If they chose to do it themselves and get on line for a green card, fine. As long as they are busting felons, drunk driver murderers and real bad guys, even the Hispanic community will enjoy it. My daughter in law is Peruvian and she hates the gangs that moved into her neighborhood, all illegals.

    • #40
  11. Gaius Inactive
    Gaius
    @Gaius

    Aaron Miller:

    Gaius: I never chose to join any such community, nor did I ever sign away my rights

    I never chose to be born into a particular family (the most basic and most significant level of community). But I am nevertheless bound to its members by responsibility, concern, and cooperation.

    Not all relationships are voluntary. It’s simply a fact of life.

    …for children. Referring to government as a community does not make it one, and does not change the element of coercion which sets it apart from civil society. There’s an important balance that needs to be struck here. It is important for Americans, especially immigrants, to think of their fellow citizens as a kind of family, otherwise we devolve into a number of warring interest groups, each trying to rob the others blind at the ballot box. It is equally important, however that voters be able to understand that the nation is not actually a family and avoid imbuing every unjust law and ordinance with paternal authority.

    • #41
  12. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Jager:

    Mike H:

    Aaron Miller:

    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.

    [Some] libertarians believe that government didn’t properly take ownership of the land. So property rights arguments do not apply.

    That is interesting could you flush that out. How did the government, through war or purchase not properly take ownership of the land?

    I’m curious. Do you think the government owns your property or you do? Is it owned by both? I personally believe I am the sole owner of my property.

    I think homesteading creates original property rights, and not because the government gave people permission to homestead.

    I don’t believe threatening with guns (war in your example) bequeaths property rights. You didn’t do anything to improve the land or exploit resources.

    Purchase is a legitimate way to obtain land, but usually not if you purchase from someone who used guns to obtain it or by paying for it with extorted money.

    • #42
  13. Gaius Inactive
    Gaius
    @Gaius

    Jager:

    Mike H:

    Aaron Miller:

    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.

    [Some] libertarians believe that government didn’t properly take ownership of the land. So property rights arguments do not apply.

    That is interesting could you flush that out. How did the government, through war or purchase not properly take ownership of the land?

    There is a profound difference between territory and property.

    • #43
  14. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Illegal immigrants self-deport when employers can no longer hire them. Alabama proved this in recent years.

    Now, if only there was a way we could encourage hippies to self-deport.

    • #44
  15. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Aaron Miller:Illegal immigrants self-deport when employers can no longer hire them. Alabama proved this in recent years.

    Now, if only there was a way we could encourage hippies to self-deport.

    I would prefer if people argued that any of the rules people wanted to apply to immigrants was also applied to Americans instead of creating two classes of people. I’d much rather argue with someone that said all violent criminals should be banished instead of just the ones who don’t have the proper history. Consistency is a powerful tool of argument.

    • #45
  16. Jager Coolidge
    Jager
    @Jager

    Mike H:

    Aaron Miller:Illegal immigrants self-deport when employers can no longer hire them. Alabama proved this in recent years.

    Now, if only there was a way we could encourage hippies to self-deport.

    I would prefer if people argued that any of the rules people wanted to apply to immigrants was also applied to Americans instead of creating two classes of people. I’d much rather argue with someone that said all violent criminals should be banished instead of just the ones who don’t have the proper history. Consistency is a powerful tool of argument.

    That is not the way of the world. There are two classes of people citizens/legal residents and non-legal residents. Every Country recognizes this. Where would we banish our citizen criminals to, why should that new place take them?

    It seems more reasonable to assume that our country should be responsible for our own criminals but should not be responsible for the criminals from other countries. Each Nation State takes care of its own problems.

    • #46
  17. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Jager:

    Mike H:

    Aaron Miller:Illegal immigrants self-deport when employers can no longer hire them. Alabama proved this in recent years.

    Now, if only there was a way we could encourage hippies to self-deport.

    I would prefer if people argued that any of the rules people wanted to apply to immigrants was also applied to Americans instead of creating two classes of people. I’d much rather argue with someone that said all violent criminals should be banished instead of just the ones who don’t have the proper history. Consistency is a powerful tool of argument.

    That is not the way of the world. There are two classes of people citizens/legal residents and non-legal residents. Every Country recognizes this. Where would we banish our citizen criminals to, why should that new place take them?

    It seems more reasonable to assume that our country should be responsible for our own criminals but should not be responsible for the criminals from other countries. Each Nation State takes care of its own problems.

    Syria would work for me for our homegrown criminals.

    • #47
  18. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Jager:

    Mike H:

    Aaron Miller:Illegal immigrants self-deport when employers can no longer hire them. Alabama proved this in recent years.

    Now, if only there was a way we could encourage hippies to self-deport.

    I would prefer if people argued that any of the rules people wanted to apply to immigrants was also applied to Americans instead of creating two classes of people. I’d much rather argue with someone that said all violent criminals should be banished instead of just the ones who don’t have the proper history. Consistency is a powerful tool of argument.

    That is not the way of the world. There are two classes of people citizens/legal residents and non-legal residents. Every Country recognizes this.Where would we banish our citizen criminals to, why should that new place take them?

    OK, so every country agrees to be wrong. Why does “Everyone else is doing it.” becomes an excuse on the country level? I’m not saying there’s a place to banish all citizens, I’m saying the contrived current norm is nothing more. Just because it’s the norm doesn’t make it the correct way to do things.

    It seems more reasonable to assume that our country should be responsible for our own criminals but should not be responsible for the criminals from other countries. Each Nation State takes care of its own problems.

    Well, you’re pretty much forced into this position when you accept the other premises.

    • #48
  19. TempTime Member
    TempTime
    @TempTime

    Mike H:

    Aaron Miller:Illegal immigrants self-deport when employers can no longer hire them. Alabama proved this in recent years.

    Now, if only there was a way we could encourage hippies to self-deport.

    I would prefer if people argued that any of the rules people wanted to apply to immigrants was also applied to Americans instead of creating two classes of people. I’d much rather argue with someone that said all violent criminals should be banished instead of just the ones who don’t have the proper history. Consistency is a powerful tool of argument.

    So is citizenship.

    • #49
  20. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Aaron Miller:Illegal immigrants self-deport when employers can no longer hire them. Alabama proved this in recent years.

    Now, if only there was a way we could encourage hippies to self-deport.

    Well we tried making pot illegal. But Colorado did a huge favor. All the hippies are moving there.

    • #50
  21. Jager Coolidge
    Jager
    @Jager

    Mike H: OK, so every country agrees to be wrong. Why does “Everyone else is doing it.” becomes an excuse on the country level? I’m not saying there’s a place to banish all citizens, I’m saying the contrived current norm is nothing more. Just because it’s the norm doesn’t make it the correct way to do things.

    Your calling most of human history and human nature a “current norm”. Humans have always formed groups, the groups have always had some form of “government” from our current form to tribal elders. The groups have generally made claims on territory and set rules for how they interact with other people and other groups.

    It is magical thinking to believe that all borders will disappear and we will all become citizens of the world with no governments.  Just because there is a way that you think could be better, doesn’t mean that it will ever happen.

    Until we reach your “better” way of doing things our policy choices need to be based on the world as it exists. There are Nation States, people are citizens of particular Nation States and the Government of each Nation State set the rules for its territory.

    • #51
  22. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Jager:

    Mike H: OK, so every country agrees to be wrong. Why does “Everyone else is doing it.” becomes an excuse on the country level? I’m not saying there’s a place to banish all citizens, I’m saying the contrived current norm is nothing more. Just because it’s the norm doesn’t make it the correct way to do things.

    Your calling most of human history and human nature a “current norm”. Humans have always formed groups, the groups have always had some form of “government” from our current form to tribal elders. The groups have generally made claims on territory and set rules for how they interact with other people and other groups.

    Yes, but there are many examples in history where something was the “current norm” and then was all but eliminated. For example, slavery. Also, the still ongoing democratization of the world is the elimination of a previous “always was the norm.”

    It is magical thinking to believe that all borders will disappear and we will all become citizens of the world with no governments. Just because there is a way that you think could be better, doesn’t mean that it will ever happen.

    Absolutely true. Just because there may be a better way of doing things doesn’t mean it will ever happen. I’m not delusional or engaging in magical thinking. But the only way for any change to ever have a chance of happening, first people must talk about it. My hope in the future doesn’t really come from believing my ideas lead to better outcomes (though I’d be surprised if they didn’t), it comes from believing my ideas are objective truth and my belief that the truth is very likely to win out in the long run.

    Until we reach your “better” way of doing things our policy choices need to be based on the world as it exists. There are Nation States, people are citizens of particular Nation States and the Government of each Nation State set the rules for its territory.

    Well, yes and no. It’s true we should base our policy choices on the realistic current constraints of the world, but we should always have an eye towards maximizing the moral truth and take care not to use the current rules to justify gaming the system in our personal favor.

    • #52
  23. Owen Findy Member
    Owen Findy
    @OwenFindy

    cdor: Well we tried making pot illegal. But Colorado did a huge favor. All the hippies are moving there.

    I think you’re a little late.  That happened about 40+ years ago.

    • #53
  24. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Owen Findy:

    cdor: Well we tried making pot illegal. But Colorado did a huge favor. All the hippies are moving there.

    I think you’re a little late. That happened about 40+ years ago.

    Actually, I heard people are moving into Denver in droves, real estate prices are going through the roof, and the whole feel of the city is changing. Many previous residents are cashing out and moving to Idaho.

    • #54
  25. Owen Findy Member
    Owen Findy
    @OwenFindy

    Mike H:

    Owen Findy:

    cdor: Well we tried making pot illegal. But Colorado did a huge favor. All the hippies are moving there.

    I think you’re a little late. That happened about 40+ years ago.

    Actually, I heard people are moving into Denver in droves, real estate prices are going through the roof, and the whole feel of the city is changing. Many previous residents are cashing out and moving to Idaho.

    Thanks for that info, Mike.

    • #55
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