Thoughts and Impressions

Month: April 2009

Immigration III

In one paragraph, for the Heritage Foundation’s Job Bank:

No policy could grant more freedom and just prosperity to a greater number of people than one of amnesty and open immigration.  By opening its borders, the United States can extend the blessing of the liberty that its citizens enjoy to millions of the world’s poor and oppressed – and it can do so, perhaps irreversibly, in a nearly effortless moment.  To keep its borders closed is to deny that freedom is a universal privilege of humanity, to proclaim it instead a simple accident of one’s place of birth.

Let’s see if I can blog about something else now, no?

Immigration II

I wrote a similar ~250 word essay as part of the application for my current Heritage Foundation internship.  The Heritage Foundation is squarely conservative, and by no means sympathetic to my position.  Because of the tighter word limit and my hesitation to ruffle too many feathers, the essay is drier and more measured than the one I wrote for IHS. Here it is:

The public policy issue that I would most like to change is the United States’ immigration policy.

There are few freedoms more basic than the freedoms to travel or contract for employment. Expanding the current limits on immigration to the United States would expand these fundamental freedoms to a large number of people – perhaps no other simple policy could have such a drastically positive impact. With this freedom, immigrants gain both the ability to lift themselves out of poverty and the means to support the impoverished communities of their birthplace. To this end I would expand the number of general, skilled, and guest-worker immigrant visas.

I understand that my support for liberalized immigration is outside of the conservative mainstream. But to my mind, the conservative immigration position is a nearly incomprehensible abdication of their usual support for economic efficiency, freedom from government interference, and the entrepreneurial ethos.

Few anti-immigration arguments appeal to me. Concern about illegal immigration is self-fulfilling: legalize immigration and there will be less illegality. Nor can the costs borne by native workers, with the safety net of the modern welfare state beneath them, be seriously weighed against the destitution in which many would-be immigrants live.

Our basic infrastructure serves as a constraint on how many immigrants America can annually absorb. Even a liberalized immigration policy will have some boundary. But we are nowhere yet near the limit of our country’s ability to allow the world’s poor to lift themselves from poverty.

Immigration I

I recently applied to an Institute for Humane Studies summer seminar here in Washington, DC.  As part of the application, I wrote a ~500 word essay on “a public policy issue that concerns me”.  I chose to write about immigration and may have gotten a bit carried away.  Here is my essay:

The Illegal Immigrant

Few freedoms are more natural, yet taken more for granted, than the simple freedoms to move freely, live where one pleases, and work where one chooses. These freedoms are so central that Americans could scarcely imagine life without them. Yet these very American rights do not exist for the vast majority of the world’s population – not within our borders. We have shut our gates against the foreigner’s path. We hunt him from our countryside. We make it a crime for him to work openly alongside us, punishable by exile.

Our nation treats immigration as a loathsome burden forced upon us by thieves and savages. It is not – it is a basic corollary of the purest freedom. The immigrant who risks ocean and desert to eke out a new life in a strange land – a near epitome of unbridled human will – need not be given anything but what we choose freely. He desires to work or he would never come. We need not exempt him from our laws – but we have closed the police station’s door to his approach. He cannot even pay taxes without exposing his crime.

He is indeed a criminal – our laws make him so. But they cannot make him wrong, no more than they could truly condemn the slave who struck his bonds and escaped North. Our laws also outlaw the citizen who contracts with him – for the crime of their mutual consent to private commerce. We should be sickened to think that we condemn these two while such vile laws trample our inalienable liberties.

Many Americans worry that the cost of immigration is too great. The medical bills, cost of children’s education, and retirement funds add up to a high price. We fear that they would entangle and snap our social safety net.

That we would be more comfortable to let the foreigner fall beyond the safety net’s reach only exposes it as democratically enacted loot – extorted from one electoral faction for the benefit of another, and not to be spared on the truly destitute locked outside our fences. Perhaps we imagine that two or three generations of residence have given us collective squatters’ rights over half a continent or that the geographic accident of our birth has entitled us to a special claim on individual freedoms. Nothing so arbitrary could be justice.

It is time to unlock our borders. No other law could bring more prosperity to more millions of the world’s poor and oppressed. Yet we need not give immigrants anything but the freedom that is theirs by right. These are the freedoms that all Americans possess – to live where we please and work where we choose. What could be more natural? 

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