Dazzling Knowledge

Thursday, September 20, 2007

We Need Immigrants

A couple of thoughts have really crystallized for me recently on the immigration issue. The first is the response to: "But they broke the law!" Really? What law? I'm not asking a rhetorical question. I'd like them to answer. What I find to be the case is that the most ardent critics of immigration really have no idea what the laws on immigration are. If these laws are so improtant that the people breaking them represent an existential threat to the nation, then you would think that people might know what the laws are. Is any immigration legal anymore? How much? From where? Does the religion or skin color of the immigrant matter? Does it matter which U.S. state they enter? What is the difference between an H1-B visa and an H2-B visa? Most critics of immigration have no idea what the answers are, only what demagogues have shouted. They are all for legal immigration, of course, just not illegal immigration. Of course, whatever that means.
Also, I believe that we should have legal immigration to this country. I think most people agree with me on this basic point. Then we have to ask the following questions, among others: How many? From where? What jobs will they do? What skills do they need? Does it matter if they have family here already? Will they go back home? If so, when? In which states will they work? Given that we want and need immigrants, these are all legitimate questions. There are two sources of answers. One is the free market, which will determine the availability of jobs and housing and opportunities on the basis of mutually beneficial exchange and the freedom of association. The other option is for a bunch of beaurocrats in Washington to decide the answers to everything and determine the magical difference between legal and illegal. I invite conservatives who support free markets, but oppose immigration, to consider which option they prefer.

Here's another excerpt from an Isegoria post:

Immigrants, Our Country Needs Them, Nick Schultz interviews British economist Philippe Legrain, who's new book, Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them, just came out:

Schulz: Lots of folks in the US say something to the effect of "I have no problem with legal immigrants, it's illegal immigrants that are the problem." What do you make of that argument?

Legrain: I think the argument is back to front. Illegal immigrants are not the problem, they are the symptom of the real problem: immigration restrictions that are economically stupid, politically unsustainable and morally wrong. Far from protecting society, immigration controls undermine law and order, just as Prohibition did more damage to America than drinking ever has.

That immigrants are in the US illegally is a sign not of moral turpitude but of misguided government intervention in the labor market: since employers cannot obtain visas for foreigners to come work legally, immigrants have no choice but to come illegally instead. These generally hard-working and enterprising people's only crime is wanting to work hard to earn a better life for themselves and their children - the epitome of the American Dream. Without them, America would grind to a halt. Who would do construction work, clean dishes, hospitals and hotel rooms, and look after Americans' young kids and elderly parents?

In any case, even if you think the federal government should be banning immigration from poorer countries, it cannot enforce the law without turning the land of the free into a police state. That is something which no true American patriot would want. If only for pragmatic reasons, then, opponents of immigration should accept the case for looser controls and regularizing the status of the 12 million or so illegal immigrants.


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