Immigration and the Law

Forgive me for venturing again into the immigration debate, but it seems (judging by combox discussions) that I haven’t made my point clearly enough in my past two outings. I tried pointing out that

  1. immigration (even unskilled) is not a drag on the overall economy,
  2. if we accept the debatable premise that immigrants are a drag on the welfare system, then we should fix the welfare system instead of building a wall,
  3. belief in the integrity of the law seems less at risk from illegal immigrants than it does from, say, legalized abortion,
  4. immigration has not been shown to be (statistically) significantly related to crime rates,
  5. having a burdensome route to legal immigration will likely encourage the types of illegal immigrants that we don’t want (i.e., risktakers, people with nothing to lose, etc.), and
  6. we should spend more time and effort encouraging the adoption of proper institutions in foreign countries than in blocking emigrants from these foreign countries fleeing corruption.

But, try as I might, people still seem stuck on the “I like legal immigration, but not illegal immigration” idea. Implicit in this argument is the acceptance of current immigration law as valid or just. My point in writing all of these articles is not to provide an apology for people breaking the law to come here and refuse to assimilate. My point was to encourage asking the question “Are our current immigration laws wise or just?”

law books on a shelf by umjanedoan

law books on a shelf by umjanedoan

Here’s yet another hypothetical: we’ve all seen cute little kids selling lemonade; we never think they are shady characters who should be forcibly removed from society. But what if we made selling lemonade illegal? Who would sell it? The law won’t reduce demand but it will push up prices with the added risk, thereby attracting profiteers who a) hold the law in contempt, b) probably aren’t very nice people, and c) are the types of people we would try to forcibly remove from society. Our strict immigration laws probably encourage the (illegal) immigration of more undesirable folks than if the laws were more lenient. Sure, more lenient laws would mean more immigrants, but it would mean more nicer immigrants and more immigrants who respect the law.

What if it were illegal for anyone in the U.S. to move to Texas? Would immigration to Texas cease? No. Would it affect which immigrants ended up in Texas? Undoubtedly. Do you think there would be a greater or smaller amount of nice immigrant families moving to Texas? A greater or smaller amount of dangerous people with nothing left to lose?

I find it odd to juxtapose the “immigrants are okay if they follow the law” logic with the pro-life position. The point that pro-life people (need to) make is that the legality of abortion does not provide it moral cover. We aren’t content that people just reduce their use of legal abortions; we would not consider it just to keep abortion legal even if we got the number of abortions to decrease significantly. We realize that the law of legal abortion itself needs to be changed. Can you imagine a Catholic saying “I’m all for legal abortions; I’m just against illegal abortions”? No, we know that abortion is objectively evil; the law impacts abortion by making it more or less prevalent.

Similarly (but of course not to the same degree), forcibly keeping immigrants out is, I would argue, (a lesser) evil. People should have the freedom to escape poverty and corruption, and morally we should be willing to help people doing just that. Sure, some bad apples will come in, but God creates all of us even knowing we will sin, some gravely and with final impenitence. The law impacts immigration by affecting who chooses to come.

Even though Jesus said “those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do,” the “get tough on immigrants” crowd seems to only want those who are well to enter our borders. If you are not convinced by the lengthy academic literature showing no significant connection between immigration and crime rates (hint: at least read the abstracts!) then you need to provide a moral reason for keeping immigrants out, most of whom won’t break any other law besides the one saying they can’t come here.

7 thoughts on “Immigration and the Law

  1. Jake L says:

    I have basically left the Catholic Church because they push and support illegal aliens and their law breaking and also are aiding and abetting the spread of Communism which is anti religion why the Catholic church wants to destroy itself is a mystery. We owe ILLEGALS in this country exactly nothing! They are NOT starving people’s…they come from free societies and just want free crap given to them. They are a tremendous drain on the US economy and bring in horrible crime drugs and death to US citizens. They get on and stay on welfare permanently. This is not the type of behavior that the church should promote but it does. It thinks these millions will put money in the collection box…but they do not…they stand their with their hands out waiting for the church to fill their hands with give outs.

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