June 20, 2007
I'm glad immigration is in the news these days. I love when people start discussing immigration. No other topic does a better job of popping the veins in Bill O'Reilly's forehead.
It's amazing how rarely we frame this debate in terms of what it is. There are people in this country'and O'Reilly is one of them'who would close the border, line it with soldiers, and build a brick wall reaching all the way up to Heaven. These people invariably paint a picture of crazed lawbreaking aliens who come here to break laws and be crazed as if killing and raping Americans were what they were bred to do.
Unfortunately, crazed lawbreaking aliens aren't what this issue is really about. If it was, I could see supporting a closed-border policy. But it isn't. It's about us.
You may be asking, 'How do you figure?' Or maybe you're thinking, 'Darn right it's about us. It's about protecting the people who already live here.' Even in theory, this is nonsensical. Like closing our doors to an influx of foreigners could possibly save us from murder and rape?
To understand what's at stake in immigration, you have to understand what immigration is. The only way to describe it is freedom'freedom to travel where one wants to travel; freedom to work where one wants to work.
Some people aren't going to like this definition. That's fine. You don't have to. Just admit the description is true.
Immigration, in a sense, is the very stuff of freedom. If humans can't go where they want to go, they aren't entirely free.
America is [mostly] a nation of laws. America should be a nation of laws, and people who want to be Americans should respect the laws we've established. But the problem with immigration isn't that immigrants are disrespecting our policies. It's that our policies disrespect individual freedom. Laws that infringe upon liberty are difficult laws to respect.
The hysteria over 'getting control' of our borders resembles a furor that has never worked for any people in any country ever. It didn't work for the pure and innocent Germans who accepted restrictions on evil, greedy, go-where-they-please Jewish people. And it didn't work for post-World-War-I Americans who accidentally banned the most useful crop in history under the guise of a devious Mexican weed called marihuana that was causing scary black men to get high and elope with fancy white girls.
Whenever a country salivates over the chance to hand in a freedom, that country is always, inevitably wrong. Restricting the rights of others to come here renders us a prison from sea to shining sea.
What America really needs isn't more restrictive immigration policies, but less. Don't make it harder for people to come here; make it easier. If you want to keep track of who lives here, punish rapists and killers, and stop folks from siphoning all our free services, open immigration is the surest way how.
Who knows? Stop forcing immigrants to immigrate under the radar and you may even encourage them to assimilate faster. This will finally do away with all those bilingual phone prompts we've all grown so sick of. And maybe if they speak English, you won't feel so bad when hardworking foreigners come and take your job.