Wednesday, April 13, 2005


America has long been considered to be “the land of opportunity”. Practically since it’s founding, foreigners have come in droves. In fact, virtually the whole of the citizenry traces its lineage elsewhere. Immigration is not a new concept for the US. In light of this, the opposition to would-be Mexican immigrants seems odd. This is especially so in the context of our supposed free-market capitalist economy.

The current argument for tougher border enforcement is, theoretically, that terrorists might just waltz across the desert and become human grenades. At first blush, this sounds reasonable. But consider the following: 1. the 9/11 murderers blended into society with “valid” identification. 2. there are, ostensibly, already “cells” within our borders that could assault any bar or school or some other relatively soft target. 3. the Canadian border is a much more likely point of entry for well funded terrorists. Another typical argument against open borders is that the welfare system will be burdened further. This is contrary to the fact that, not only are people coming to work, they are willing to accept lower than “standard” wages for the privilege.

Those that call for a closed border (Pat Buchanan and co.) have been advocating this for decades…long before Islamo-fascists were perceived to be a direct threat to Americans. It appears that current events have merely become the latest excuse for our arcane immigration policy. That’s not to say that all of their arguments are weak. The rule of law rationale is perfectly legitimate. There is a mechanism by which one may become a legal citizen or simply receive a “green card” for residency. Therefore, I don’t advocate illegal immigration, but I do support a more liberal policy.

In my view, our immigration laws are much too restrictive. As it stands, the relatively low quotas (for unskilled laborers) are not practical, given the high demand. The crux of the problem, as I see it, is isolationist populism. It’s not uncommon to hear blue-collar types whining about the inability to compete with migrant laborers that ignore minimum wage laws and accept low pay, just to get jobs. Like it or not, that’s capitalism in action. The workers who demand high wages and minimal competition (trade unions) also demand low prices (from Wal-Mart) and maximum competition. Are they actually suggesting that they should be allowed to benefit as consumers while insisting that producers ought to be punished? Well, they are manual laborers, so I suppose it would be too much to ask for them to employ reason and logic.

If one assumes that rational thought (at least with respect to immigration) is beyond the working masses, then, those who bear the greatest responsibility are our elected opportunists. Yes, politics is a tight-rope-walk of trying to please everyone, or at least those most likely to grant them power via the ballot box. Even still, most office holders are educated people, many of whom are lawyers. They may be guilty of corruption, but not ignorance. It’s the ignorance of their constituency that sustains them. Unfortunately, neither party is innocent here, where laws and regulations are for sale to the highest bidding interest group.