A Journal for Western Man
Wal-Mart, Immigrants, and
Issue VIII- October 24, 2002
Today, my friend, who shall remain unnamed (I probably don't know his real name anyway), is one of the many people in the United States illegally. He has skills, an advanced degree, and a willingness to work that could be used to produce in the United States, yet is confined to working at tasks far below his skill level in order to stay here.
My friend is not alone. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami and New York are filled with people who are contributing in some way to the local and national economy, but whom we don't recognize as legitimate members of our society. While it would seem there of deterrents in place to keep immigrants from coming to the United States, in reality they are no match for the incentives. Those unable to get a job under the table pay for fake id's and social security numbers that match those of a lifer in prison a, missing child or a deceased baby. The less savvy simply make them up. Eventually many are caught, but that only means looking for a new job. Others work under-the-table independent of the workers' compensation, social security and income tax systems.
Many Americans see the situation as a problem of law enforcement and conclude that stricter border control is the solution. They say that these immigrants take legitimate jobs from Americans, crowd the cities and overburden social systems.
This is not so. There is both a moral and economic argument to be made for legitimizing the status of anyone who reaches American soil, and for opening the borders to all who wish to enter.
First, consider that in every census from 1880 to 1990, immigrants have been more likely to be self-employed than natives. Most jobs in the United States are created by small business. Rather than taking jobs from native Americans, immigrants are likely creating jobs. Still don't buy the argument? Consider that the cities that immigrants go to--San Francisco, New York--have lower unemployment and higher job creation rates than the ones they avoid, such as Detroit and Pittsburgh. People create jobs, not the other way around.
Over-population is another concern of those who oppose immigration. While San Francisco may be more crowded because of immigrant arrivals, many cities in the United States have lost as much as half of their population in the last 50 years. These are places where the infrastructure and housing stock exist ready to accommodate new arrivals who are itching to pump new entrepreneurial economic energy into the local economies. Even in San Francisco, prior residents benefit from the rise in property values caused by in-migration and an artificially static housing supply.
Our prosperity is directly tied to two things: immigrants and youth. Without immigration, the median age in the United States would be much older, and while older may be wiser, it's also cautious, and caution does not lend itself to starting businesses and taking risks.
If you take the world as a whole, it's the industrialized nations that have lower birth rates, and it will be further "industrialization" or movement towards technological and "knowledge-based" economies that will eventually bring the world population numbers into check.
Still, recognizing the economic benefits of immigrants, it's the moral arguments for immigration that are the strongest. We are after all dealing with people. We are debating from above. Our arguments and decisions determine people's lives and livelihoods. On what basis can we argue anyone should have that power over our fellow man?
The laws that work best are the ones that reflect the social contracts already established by people. Laws that seem to defy these contracts and be in defiance of reason will not be obeyed and will not serve any constructive purpose. Laws that prevent people from pursuing basic life-sustaining goals will not be obeyed at the borders or within the country.
Thomas Jefferson wrote that "All Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." Unless you believe by "all men," Jefferson only meant those with legal residency in the United States, today's immigration laws do not reflect this principle. Do we not all have the same "creator" regardless of borders?
The Declaration of Independence refers to "The laws of nature and of nature's God." But what does this mean? According to the Clairmont Institute, a California-based political philosophy think tank, it means that nature encompasses laws, that certain obligations are prescribed for all human beings by nature--or more specifically, by the fact that all humans share a common nature. Law is based on rights. I may not kill you not because the law that says I can't, but because you have a right to life and that right is granted by nature.
Clairmont also explains that "laws of nature" are laws that can be grasped by human reason. The "laws of nature" the founders referred to are accessible in principle to any person anywhere in the world who thinks about the nature of human beings. Clairmont explains that "the American founding is not based on ideas specifically tied to one people, such as 'the rights of Englishmen,' but on ideas that are true for all people everywhere."
If we agree these rights are granted by a creator, then how can we, as men, justify taking them away? And by telling anyone they have no right to live and work in the United States, we are in effect saying to them "you have not been granted the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness by your creator."
Jefferson did not intend for the light of liberty to dim at the nation's shores. But as long as it does, we, as Americans must be there to defend individual rights. It should not matter the benefits immigrants bring to the economy, though they do. It should only matter that we recognize the inalienable rights of all people. If we don't, what case can be made in defense of our own rights?
Eric Miller is editor of The New Colonist.
This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.
Read Mr. Stolyarov's new comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, at http://www.geocities.com/rational_argumentator/rc.html.