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Illegal Immigration & Objectivism

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I remember paying attention to a discussion on the Bill O'Reilly show that centered on illegal immigration. In this program Bill O'Reilly said that if he were a poor Mexican he would try to get into the U.S. (the implication is that he would do so illegally if need be). The thing is that O'Reilly is against illegal immigration but yet he still asserts that he himself would try to get into the U.S. illegally if he were in the position of a poor Mexican immigrant. To me this is like condemning someone for an act but yet asserting that if one was in the same position one would have done the same exact thing. To be fair Bill wants an immigrant worker program and a large scale policing of the borders.

Now for my question: Is it immoral for an Objectivist to be an illegal immigrant?

Edited by softwareNerd

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Is it immoral for an Objectivist to be an illegal immigrant?

Why would it be immoral? Just because it is illegal? (That is the typical conservative answer that I've been hearing way too much of around here lately.)

Frankly, when bad laws aren't enforced, that's a good thing. Since it is pretty easy to come to this country "illegally," and you don't really risk getting deported or anything unless you commit some other criminal act which is strictly enforced, I say that it's perfectly moral.

This would be kind of like asking, is it immoral to kiss my girlfriend's breasts if I live in a state that still has "anti-sodomy" laws that include stipulations against such things (since any non-procreative sexual act is taken to be wrong)? Of course not! Maybe that's a weird example (and maybe you can find some reason that the analogy doesn't hold), but you get the point: that's something the government generally doesn't, can't, and shouldn't enforce. Same goes for illegal immigration.

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I asked the question to ascertain if I applied Objectivist principles correctly in my evaluation of this matter. Since the Objectivist holds happiness to be the moral purpose of his life he would certainly want to leave a country that is ruled by a dictator or is economically impoverished or one that is not suited to his needs. This is so that he may make a better life for himself and also any family that he may have. If the man in question immigrates to and stays in a country "illegally" he in no way violates the rights of others and he defrauds no one in the process. If a businessman wants to hire him then that is the businessman's prerogative and it relates to a consensual agreement between the two. I see this issue as revolving around the pursuit of happiness and it involves no violation of rights. It may be argued that an immigrant would have to lie about their immigration status to get certain jobs but the fact remains that it is immoral for the government to tell a businessman whom to hire (in the first place).

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Guest kgvl

Methinks the immigration problem lies in the contradiction between two opposing policies [like so many of our other problems]: open borders are incompatible with a socialist welfare state.

Immigrants who come here to work and assimilate into the AMERICAN culture are welcome ... that has always been true. With the government's endorsement of welfare to not only legal US citizens, but 'illegal immigrants', those citizens who must provide the capital for the welfare system are faced with an increasing responsibility [forced on them] to care for the immigrants who fail, or choose not to even try. This is where the anger and resentment comes from ... and thus the basis for the cries wailing against 'illegal immigration' ... "Somebody Do Something !!".

We've gotten ourselves in a real mess. The demand for border controls and a stop to 'illegal immigration' are one of two basic options to stem the cost of welfare. This first solution is a cop-out. It accepts that we are a socialist welfare state, and will continue to give financial aid to those who fail, and don't even try.

[bTW ... I don't buy into the socialist idea of the 'haves' and 'have-nots'. To me its the same as ya'lls philosphy, and that of Rand ... except I call them the 'wills' and 'will-nots'. Those words are easy for a layperson to relate to, and I have used them to shoot down the arguments of many socialists in recent years when they start telling me about the plight of the 'have-nots'].

I support the second solution, which is to do away with our system of socialist economic redistribution [forced] and return to laissez-faire capitalism [nothing objectional to this forum, I'm sure]. Then there will be no need for border controls --- when people know they can't come here and expect a free ride, they will think twice before leaving home. Only those most committed will take the risk... and we will all be better off for it.

My dismay lies in the fact that so many US Citizens [i'm careful anymore about whom I regard as an American] wish to retain a welfare state and close the borders. Actions as such are the province of desperate men, too frightened to acknowledge the failures of their economic policies.

... so long as we remain a welfare state, I must support border controls and immigration policies, as it is the only option the state allows me to retain a liitle more of my justly earned wealth. But I oppose the socialist policies that have created the problem to start with, and will always favor their repeal. At that time I will support reopening of the borders.

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... so long as we remain a welfare state, I must support border controls and immigration policies, as it is the only option the state allows me to retain a liitle more of my justly earned wealth. But I oppose the socialist policies  that have created the problem to start with, and will always favor their repeal. At that time I will support reopening of the borders.

That's not true. Illegal immigrants bring in much more wealth then they drain from the welfare state.

If they “consumed” welfare services at the same rate as the average legal resident, each new individual would create wealth, just as each new birth creates a new productive individual in a free (or mostly free) country. However, the fact is that they take advantage of welfare services to a much lesser extent than the average resident because the majority of the state income is spent on welfare, medicare/medicate, and education.

To the extent that they do use services of the welfare state without paying their share of taxes (which most do, sometimes indirectly) , it is an argument against the mixed economy, not restricting immigration.

Given the above, the argument that illegal immigrants are in any way a drain on our economy is complete nonsense spread mostly by unions and other groups likely to be impacted by immigrants, and unwilling to compete with them.

Btw, while I am myself a legal immigrant to America, I would have no qualms about getting here any way I could – and I’m very thankful that my parents spent every single rubble they had bribing enough Soviet officials to make that possible, rather than waiting for the “official” process.

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Guest kgvl
... so long as we remain a welfare state, I must support border controls and immigration policies, as it is the only option the state allows me to retain a liitle more of my justly earned wealth.

I have thought about what I said above ... I was wrong to take that position --- that is a copout position. It sanctions one 'wrong' while trying to deal with other 'wrongs'. I apologize for my moment of weakness.

This is why discussion is good ... it allows us to get ideas out of our mind and into a more concrete conceptualization represented by words. Then its easier to spot the conflicts.

The borders should remain open ... and if we fail sooner because of the socialization of our system of government trying to provide free handouts to those crossing the border, then we will have failed because of Socialist policies ... not because of open borders.

Given the enormous financial problems European socialist countries are facing, I'm surprised that many of my leftist leaning cowrokers [i'm at a university] actually are recognizing and talking about the threat --- they honestly never expected it to become a problem. Of course, their solution for America is still to 'raise taxes'. Its amazing: they recognize the problem ... they see how it will end ... yet they still put on blinders to obscure the fact that we will soon be in the same mess as Europe if we don't stop the handouts. BLANK-OUT !!!

Edited by GreedyCapitalist

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Its amazing: they recognize the problem ... they see how it will end ... yet they still put on blinders to obscure the fact that we will soon be in the same mess as Europe if we don't stop the handouts.  BLANK-OUT !!!

Indeed, such is the nature of evil. Sometimes it is amazing, sometimes it is amusing, sometimes it is infuriating--but it is always destructive.

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That's not true. Illegal immigrants bring in much more wealth then they drain from the welfare state.

This is an issue that I have grappled with personally. Do you have any reports or statistics that show that illegal immigrants consume less from the welfare state than they bring in? I'd really appreciate it!

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AshleyAyn,

I don't personally have an answer to your question, but it must be pointed out that the amount of welfare illegal immigrants consume is a red herring; in any scheme of things, it matters only as a scapegoat.

As GreedyCapitalist pointed out, the evil and the crucial point is the collectivist-altruist welfare state, not illegal immigration.

BTW, calling the redistribution of income from the wealthy to the general poor the good, but then calling the redistrubution of income from the wealthy to the illegal immigrant poor the evil, is a contradiction.

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Do you have any reports or statistics that show that illegal immigrants consume less from the welfare state than they bring in?

Not relevant.

I'm illegal. I earn.

So, I am to blame for some other person taking your welfare money?

Why group us by country of birth? Not racist?

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Let me tell you something...

I think in today's climate it is not immoral, but very risky to be an illegal immigrant. Risky because if you get caught, and today there is a good chance of that, you will be banned from the US for 10 years.

I will do whatever I can to immigrate legally. If I can't - I'm going to Australia or the UK. Somewhere that will have the sense to appreciate me.

Say - what did happen to Bush proposal to liberalize the immigration laws?

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Why would it be immoral?  Just because it is illegal?  (That is the typical conservative answer that I've been hearing way too much of around here lately.)

Frankly, when bad laws aren't enforced, that's a good thing.  Since it is pretty easy to come to this country "illegally," and you don't really risk getting deported or anything unless you commit some other criminal act which is strictly enforced, I say that it's perfectly moral.

I agree with this post. My side of the point is that, I don't think objectivism should really be against it, as long as the reason for it, is that someone is trying to achieve the best within them. This is often not possible in other countries. If a person is searching for a more liberal eduaction, greater oportunities and more rights to be able to achieve what they wish to create, then I sdon't think it's wrong for them to do it. I know many immigrants, and most of them are really struggling to make better lives. A lot of them also have many productive things to offer and fight for, so what I beleive is that, nobody has a right to stop them. Or won't be able to. It's like trying to keep Howard Roark from being an architect. Surely you can't dispute against people struggling to attain their dreams and convictions?

The second part of this quote is true. Many don't come here to create a hassle, or sart a riot. They want a better life, and as long as they don't commit any crime, they aren't found. So if they aren't causing a problem....why is it so important to deport them and ship them back to a country where they no longer have any means of living.

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...If a person is searching for a more liberal eduaction, greater oportunities and more rights to be able to achieve what they wish to create, then I sdon't think it's wrong for them to do it. I know many immigrants, and most of them are really struggling to make better lives. A lot of them also have many productive things to offer and fight for, so what I beleive is that, nobody has a right to stop them...Surely you can't dispute against people struggling to attain their dreams and convictions?

The second part of this quote is true. Many don't come here to create a hassle, or sart a riot. They want a better life, and as long as they don't commit any crime, they aren't found. So if they aren't causing a problem....why is it so important to deport them and ship them back to a country where they no longer have any means of living.

Exactly!

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Frankly, when bad laws aren't enforced, that's a good thing. 

I disagree on that. Failing to enforce a bad law doesn't just undermine the bad law. It also undermines the rule of law. That's why libertarians often say that, if they are elected, they will not enforce the laws they don't like and why Ayn Rand was adamant that the executive should enforce ALL laws -- especially the bad ones.

Enforcing bad laws -- conspicuously -- is often the best way to get them repealed. An example was the Pennsylvania Blue Law which forbid commerce and performing all "non-necessary" work on Sunday. They were the law for almost 200 years until one state official who opposed them arrested toll-takers on bridges, the pitcher in the middle of a Phillies baseball game, a guy painting his own house, etc. The Blue Law was repealed shortly after that.

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Enforcing bad laws -- conspicuously -- is often the best way to get them repealed.

That's a very good point. I hadn't considered that.

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Taxes are enforced quite conspicuously....

Not nearly enough.

I'd be as nasty as the law allows in enforcing tax laws.

I would decide all the non-objective tax laws in the government's favor, refuse to negotiate anything, haul kids off to jail for failing to report their lemonade stand sales, confiscate frail widows' pension checks for non-payment of taxes, etc.

I would make it clear that tax collection is naked force -- not "voluntary compliance."

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Hi all - my first post on this site. First, the conspicuous enforcement of bad laws is what Ghandi used to change the world's mind about the British occupation of India. So we know that works. He forced them enforce their own laws...

re immigration, if you knowingly committ an illegal act for personal gain, because you feel you need to obtain the fruits of that act, does that somehow grant it validity? If a thief takes my TV when I'm not home because he doesn't have one, does that make it right?

Legal immigrants and citizens pay the exhorbitant taxes that allow this mixed economy to act as a welfare state to so many. The fruits of my labors are already taken by force for redistribution to the "needy" far beyond my agreement with the need for defense, police, fire, and infrastructure. When people intentionally come into this country illegally they will then consume these resources in the form of health care, need for police, roads, schools, etc. Being illegal, they are in general off the radar, taxwise. I see this all the time in my work as a work comp adjuster - of course, in California, being an illegal does not restrict you from obtaining work comp benefits, even if you created false documentation to get your job in the first place. Yes, your employer, whom you defrauded, must now pay for the medical care you would never need if you had not been a criminal and obtained your job via fraud. Anyway, its clear that illegal aliens are just that - illegal. They are criminals who obtain other's property and wealth through fraud and therefore violate a core ethic of Objectivism. As Ms. Rand says: "Men must deal with one another as traders, giving value for value, by free, mutual consent to mutual benefit."

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I disagree on that.  Failing to enforce a bad law doesn't just undermine the bad law.  It also undermines the rule of law.  That's why libertarians often say that, if they are elected, they will not enforce the laws they don't like and why Ayn Rand was adamant that the executive should enforce ALL laws -- especially the bad ones.

Enforcing bad laws -- conspicuously -- is often the best way to get them repealed...

After thinking some more about this, I agree with your points about enforcing laws because their non-enforcement undermines the rule of law. But I have a couple of other questions for you.

First, while we agree that full enforcement is better than non-enforcement, would you say that non-enforcement is better or worse than inconsistent enforcement? After all, Ayn Rand made the point that what makes dictatorships so unbearable is not their unjust laws but the unpredictability of their enforcement.

Second, given the point about enforcement being important to uphold the rule of law, how does that bear on the morality of illegal immigration? I'm still inclined to say that, if the U.S. doesn't enforce it, there's nothing wrong with it. Plus, educated people and especially Objectivists are generally going to go through the legal channels, but many Mexicans who immigrate illegally are non-philosophical or uneducated, so I think it would more likely be at worst an honest mistake on their part rather than a breach of morality.

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First, while we agree that full enforcement is better than non-enforcement, would you say that non-enforcement is better or worse than inconsistent enforcement?  After all, Ayn Rand made the point that what makes dictatorships so unbearable is not their unjust laws but the unpredictability of their enforcement.

Exactly! That's what's wrong with non-objective law like the antitrust laws which, by their nature, can't be enforced consistently. Inconsistent enforcement of laws is arbitrary enforcement -- a total violation of the purpose of government: to put the use of force under objective control.

Second, given the point about enforcement being important to uphold the rule of law, how does that bear on the morality of illegal immigration? I'm still inclined to say that, if the U.S. doesn't enforce it, there's nothing wrong with it. Plus, educated people and especially Objectivists are generally going to go through the legal channels, but many Mexicans who immigrate illegally are non-philosophical or uneducated, so I think it would more likely be at worst an honest mistake on their part rather than a breach of morality.

I think the current immigration laws are evil in that they keep good people from escaping evil countries and seeking freedom while failing to deal with the real problem: the welfare system that attracts bad people.

As long as the law is on the books, however, it ought to be enforced. In addition to intellectual advocacy of open immigration without welfare benefits, costly draconian literal enforcement of our current laws will help make people aware of why those laws should be changed.

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But I don't think that the immigration laws can be consistently enforced--not because they're subjective in principle, like the anti-trust laws, but just because that would be such a huge undertaking that our government could not possibly carry it out. That being the case, wouldn't it be better if they simply weren't enforced at all? That wouldn't be the ideal, but it would at least be predictable.

And the original question in this thread, and the one that I repeated to you in light of our recent exchanges, was: is illegal immigration moral or immoral? You still haven't addressed that, and I'm curious to know what you think about it.

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If I recall correctly, during his term as New York City's Police Commissioner Teddy Roosevelt caused tremendous heartburn amongst politicians, police and saloon operators by rigorously enforcing laws regulating the days and hours of operatrion of drinking establishments.

Previous lack of enforcement had allowed bribery and corruption to flourish. I don't recall if the laws were repealed or changed, but it lends credence to the idea that a great way to prove a law is bad is to enforce it.

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But I don't think that the immigration laws can be consistently enforced--not because they're subjective in principle, like the anti-trust laws, but just because that would be such a huge undertaking that our government could not possibly carry it out. 

Exactly! Patrolling the entire border and deporting all illegals would require an enormous amount of manpower and be incredibly expensive.

That being the case, wouldn't it be better if they simply weren't enforced at all?  That wouldn't be the ideal, but it would at least be predictable.
No, it would be better if the laws were changed or repealed. That way we would have an objective immigration procedure AND the rule of law.

And the original question in this thread, and the one that I repeated to you in light of our recent exchanges, was: is illegal immigration moral or immoral?  You still haven't addressed that, and I'm curious to know what you think about it.

Is it moral to immigrate illegally? Certainly. Should one do it? Probably not, considering the risks.

There are other options including student and H1B visas. Also, someone can immigrate to Canada, where it's much easier to get citizenship, and then live in the US under NAFTA. Those moves can keep someone in the USA long enough to meet and marry an American. :o

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