A Rant about Immigration Policy

If you’re expecting a post about why we need a border fence or a wall, or why illegal immigrants should be prevented from getting work, or any of the usual stuff like that, you’re going to be disappointed.

Let’s get one thing very clear. The problem with illegal immigration is not that people are illegally entering the country to get work and to live in a more prosperous society. The problem with illegal immigration is that we’ve made entering the country to get work and to live in a more prosperous society illegal. Oh yes, I know, there is a process for legal entry. But it’s a ridiculous process that can take years to finish. That is not a just system.

I have heard many times over some variation of “I’m not against immigration; I’m against illegal immigration.” That’s nice, but it ignores the fact that the problem does not rest with people trying to come here and work, but with the laws that prevent them from doing so. When people are more willing to risk imprisonment and/or death (crossing the desert is not easy) than the fees and red tape and time needed to simply come into the country to get work, that is a sign that there is something very wrong with our immigration laws.

I am prompted to this rant because most of the Republican candidates for President are all in favor of building a fence or building a wall or manning the entire border with military troops, or some combination of the three. Not one of them ever addresses the problem with the law. For them it’s simple. People breaking the law means we must do more to stop people from breaking the law. They never consider questioning the law. They have missed the point of having law. The point of having law is to protect people’s rights, not to catch law breakers.

Fair warning to people who support the current immigration laws: I’m about to say things that will seem mean and nasty to you.

The only reason to have strict immigration laws that prevent easy entry to the country is xenophobia. Fear of the other. “But I have no problem with people immigrating to this country-” Stop right there. If you don’t have a problem with people immigrating legally to the U.S. then why do you support laws that are intended to keep people out? No one is arguing for more illegal immigration. People want to come here and work, and in many cases then go back home, and you support laws that prevent them from being able to do that. Why? What benefit do you get from those people being kept out? There is no benefit that I can see.

“They’re a drain on the economy because they take advantage of our government assistance programs.” That is not an argument for keeping people out. That is an argument for reforming our system of welfare. Don’t make immigrants a scapegoat for our bloated and immoral welfare system. The politicians and the U.S. citizens who voted those politicians into office and who continue to insist those programs must be protected at all costs are the ones to blame.

So what are the other arguments against immigrants? They’re lazy. They don’t speak the language. They take jobs away from others. They’re changing our culture. Xenophobia. These are the same arguments that have always existed against immigrants. Basically what it boils down to is, they’re different. So what? They’re not lazy. If they don’t learn the language their children will. They generally take jobs other don’t actually want. And the change they bring to our culture makes us all culturally richer and the nation stronger. To oppose them on these grounds is xenophobia. If that makes you uncomfortable, I suggest the problem lies with you, not with my choice of words.

And no, I am not arguing for an immigration policy with no restrictions. I am arguing for an immigration policy that is just. Making people pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars and wait often for years for permission to enter the U.S. is not a just system. There is no reason we cannot establish points of entry where people would generally have to wait no more than a day to enter. We screen for known criminals and terrorists. We test for communicable diseases. We check for mental health issues. And then if they get through all that, we let them enter the country. I guarantee you the number of people illegally entering the country would drop to almost nothing.

Also, do not conflate legally being in the U.S. with citizenship. I am not arguing that we lessen restrictions for citizenship. But legally residing and working in the U.S. is not the same as citizenship. Few arguments are more specious than the ones that conflate residency with citizenship. Making coming to the U.S. easier is not the same as granting citizenship. If you cannot tell the difference, then you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Until we start letting go of xenophobia and start addressing the problems in the law, we will never find a solution to the problem of massive illegal immigration. Making the borders function like a police state will do nothing but bring the nation as a whole closer to being a police state. And that would be bad for everyone.

2 Responses to “A Rant about Immigration Policy”

  1. thedreamingsub Says:

    “Making the borders function like a police state will do nothing but bring the nation as a whole closer to being a police state. And that would be bad for everyone.”

    Agreed. The thing is…I don’t really think the government is trying to discourage immigration. They are trying to make it profitable, yes. Hence the ridiculous amount of time and money it takes to become a citizen.

    If you have ever studied world population statistics, which I have no doubt you have, then you probably know all of this already. Although world population is increasing at an alarming rate (for now), it is largely doing so in second and third world countries–China, India, Nigeria I think are the big players. First world countries are actually seeing a decline in population growth. The government is aware of this. For the US to continue to compete economically it has to be able to maintain/grow its GDP. To do this, you need people to provide the labor inputs for the goods and services you intend to sell. If American citizens are having less children, then those labor inputs must come from somewhere.

    Where? Immigration.

    Reconcile yourself (the general you, not you Sir) to that first, then consider immigration policy.

    We need them. No matter how you feel about ‘the other’.

    And yes, diversity is good.

    • The Obama administration has, as best I understand, deported as many immigrants in 3+ years as Bush the Younger did in 8. And the laws and regulations that stand in the way of lawful immigration are labyrinthine.

      Also, do not conflate immigration with gaining citizenship. As I said, residency and citizenship are two different things. We lose sight of this because for native born Americans moving from one U.S. state to another U.S. state and becoming a citizen of that state is easy. The path to citizenship for immigrants to the U.S. is very different. I would never argue that the path for foreign born people to become citizens should be easy. But coming here to work and live and contribute to our society, that should be relatively easy.

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