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Border Patrol Agents Get 11 Year Sentence for Doing Their Job

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However, the Italians who immigrated in 1909, vs. the street gangs who immigrate from Mexico today are two totally different groups of people. The former were self-made men who had goals and a sense of personal responsibility. The second group are ferocious animals who are claiming territory and killing everyone who stands in their way.

The first group got here by legal means. The second group got here by trespass.

So Italians who migrated here had nothing to do with organized crime? Interesting. And all the immigrants from Mexico are street gang members? Wow. I think you are VASTLY over-generalizing here.

I distinctly notice a plethora of Mexican immigrants picking fruits and vegetables and working in the food service industry. Most of them seem like decent, hard working folks. And the ones picking fruit are doing those dirty little jobs that don't pay well enough for "Amuricans".

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I am not exactly sure why the current immigration laws are immoral, if someone could explain I think that would be great. My main concern in general with illegal immigration is the possibility of the free entrance of terrorists. Perhaps it isn't as big of a problem as I imagine, but I don't know. I feel that for a nation to be secure it ought to have distinct boundaries that are protected.

Anyway, what are some ideas to improve the immigration system in America? All I seem to see are complaints and somewhat ad hominum statements, which is odd due to the individuals involved in the discussion.

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I am not exactly sure why the current immigration laws are immoral, if someone could explain I think that would be great.

Already done:

Ultimately, the proper solution is to remove the irrational restrictions on immigration which cause this problem. The current immigration laws state that only so many Mexicans are allowed in. Why? No reason. Immigration policies could, optionally, restrict people from entering the country for reasons of individual merit, criminal screening, and such, (for example, we do have a citizenship test and we should keep it) but restricting based on national quotas? That's completely insane.
Edited by Inspector

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I am not exactly sure why the current immigration laws are immoral, if someone could explain I think that would be great. My main concern in general with illegal immigration is the possibility of the free entrance of terrorists. Perhaps it isn't as big of a problem as I imagine, but I don't know. I feel that for a nation to be secure it ought to have distinct boundaries that are protected.
King, Laws designed to keep out or trap terrorists and thieves and such would be moral. To the extent that the US immigration laws achieve that end, they're quite okay.

However, most of the immigration rules are designed to keep people out, as such -- not because they're suspected of being bad guys. That is the immoral aspect. I'll provide some examples, but if you want to get a good flavor of it, I suggest you read this story (the "protagonist" is a close friend of mine).

Over and above the current laws, there are some who would make them still more immoral, by suggesting that they be based on things like the speaking of English. While it makes a lot of sense for an immigrant to the US to speak English, this is really not the role of the government. The same with the immigrant's culture. Any move to make the immigration laws more cognizant of such things would be to make them more immoral.

Anyway, what are some ideas to improve the immigration system in America?
In principle, the system should be changed so that any government control is based solely on the principle of protecting legitimate individual rights. There are a whole host of laws that need to change to align the current system with that. An overhaul is required. However, it might be easier to understand it in terms of what current laws need to be rolled back. So, here are some examples.
  • Today, the government allows some people to come to the US, but only under the condition that they will not work.
  • Today, the government has created certain rules about qualifications people must have before the government will allow them to immigrate. Even if a person has an offer of employment saying he'll be paid twice or three times the median wage, that's not qualification enough under current law.
  • Even under the current rules many people qualify to enter the country on "work permits". However, in any year, only a certain number are allowed in. This annual quota is normally filled in the first quarter of each year. After that, no more are allowed in, regardless of qualification

All I seem to see are complaints and somewhat ad hominum statements, which is odd due to the individuals involved in the discussion.
Not sure who you're referring to, but I hope this post addresses some of your questions, and I'll be more than happy to explain anything in more detail.

Just so that you get the whole picture, there are three typical objections to immigration.

1. Not practical in a welfare state: Immigration should be free in and ideal society, but in a welfare state, it would simply encourage moochers to come here to exploit the system. There's a more subtle version of this argument that goes as follows: in a welfare state, well-meaning, lower-paid honest folks are inadvertent moochers on the richer folk who pay the bulk of the taxes for their schools and roads and government. So, allowing honest, but poorer-paid folk into the country under the current system strains the system. This is a view held by some Objectivists as well, and in my view it has credibility. Though I disagree that things should remain just as they are, it's definitely worth talking through the details and seeing what can and cannot be done, what should and should not be done.

2. Hurt American jobs: The bulk of the current laws are written with the view that the government should be protecting "American jobs". This is a traditional protectionist argument. You might say this is the left-wing argument. Personally, I consider this view to be debunked long-ago, along with other socialist ideas, but I do understand how and why people hold it honestly. It's worth explaining why this is the wrong view.

3. Cultural protection: This is the right-wing argument, that says that the government should protect American culture and tradition, and not let outsiders dilute it. This is the argument with which this thread begun. In my judgement, this view has the least rational basis of the three objections. [There is a variation on this that has a little more credibility, which is the argument that outsiders who do not understand the American system will come here, vote for socialists, and turn the US into another Mexico. This version is not pushed as primary, because the proponents do not want to encourage the obvious counter-argument, which is: let the hordes in, but don't let them vote.]

Hopefully, this post (and the link I provided) give you something substantial to chew on.

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Over and above the current laws, there are some who would make them still more immoral, by suggesting that they be based on things like the speaking of English. While it makes a lot of sense for an immigrant to the US to speak English, this is really not the role of the government. The same with the immigrant's culture. Any move to make the immigration laws more cognizant of such things would be to make them more immoral.

Interesting. Why would this be immoral, specifically? I can see calling our immigration policy irrational because it makes no sense, but immoral? Doesn't that imply someone's rights are being violated? Whose rights? Who has a right to become a citizen?

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Interesting. Why would this be immoral, specifically? I can see calling our immigration policy irrational because it makes no sense, but immoral? Doesn't that imply someone's rights are being violated? Whose rights? Who has a right to become a citizen?

Nice summary of the immigration debate, SoftwareNerd.

In answer to Inspector's question above, he is failing to distinguish between immigration and citizenship. Even under our current laws an immigrant must wait a period of time (is it 7 years?) before becoming a citizen. It is immoral to restrict immigration, except for the sole reason of keeping out criminals, terrorists and residents of enemy countries. The reason is that a person has the right to live where he wants; such right is part of his right to life and property.

When it comes to becoming a citizen, I do think certain restrictions are permissible. I haven't thought the issue through, but citizenship today requires a demonstration of some knowledge and appreciation of the American system of government. That seems appropriate. Personally, I do not think speaking English should be a requirement, but it seems entirely reasonable and practical to give the citizenship test in English, since that is our country's dominant language. Of course, if an immigrant has failed to learn any English in 7 years (or whatever waiting period that is called for by the future immigration law), he would have trouble passing the test.

Interestingly, in a laissez faire society, there would be very little difference in status between being a citizen and non-citizen. Any individual living in this country would have the full protection of government. The non-citizen would only lack the right to vote.

***

From SoftWareNerd:

There's a more subtle version of this argument that goes as follows: in a welfare state, well-meaning, lower-paid honest folks are inadvertent moochers on the richer folk who pay the bulk of the taxes for their schools and roads and government. So, allowing honest, but poorer-paid folk into the country under the current system strains the system. This is a view held by some Objectivists as well, and in my view it has credibility. Though I disagree that things should remain just as they are, it's definitely worth talking through the details and seeing what can and cannot be done, what should and should not be done.

I disagree with this argument, apparently held by some Objectivists. It is a dangerous idea to advocate more government controls as an answer to problems caused by existing government controls. One should never advocate government controls for any reason I can think of, because doing so sanctions the growth of government power. The answer to the above situation is to eliminate taxes, and thereby remove any apparent injustice against tax-paying citizens.

By advocating the above view, one puts oneself in alliance with the typical anti-immigrationist who wants to keep out immigrants for the other reasons mentioned in SoftwareNerd's post, or simply because he fears foreigners.

Also, I doubt there is much validity to the argument in economic terms. It may be true for some border regions where lots of illegal Mexican immigrants live. I would use the existence of that problem to argue for the legalization of their immigrant status so the Mexicans could earn more money as legally-recognized workers. The fact of being illegal residents limits the Mexicans to lower-paying jobs. Also, I would use the existence of immigrant burdens on public hospitals and schools to call for the ending of government provision of those services.

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In answer to Inspector's question above, he is failing to distinguish between immigration and citizenship.

Ah, right. Of course.

It is immoral to restrict immigration, except for the sole reason of keeping out criminals, terrorists and residents of enemy countries. The reason is that a person has the right to live where he wants; such right is part of his right to life and property.

I don't quite see this. Are you saying that if someone approaches the border of the country and demands to enter, that it is a violation of his rights to refuse him? I understand that a lot of the restrictions of immigration these days are irrational, yes. But it is another thing altogether to say that they violate rights. Are you saying that all people on earth have a right to enter the American borders at will and live here, provided that they don't represent a provable threat to the country? That the government of the USA is initiating force against many of those to whom it refuses entry?

I thought that entry for non-citizens was a permission, not a right. Yes, I know that citizens have a right to enter. But the position you state seems to lead (I think) to the idea that borders, as such, are immoral.

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Inspector, Not all the existing irrational rules are immoral. The immorality is in the intent of many of the rules, the ones that are designed to keep "good people" out. I'll post more later, but just to see if we have common ground here, imagine a situation where the US embassy has actually checked into a person's background and given them a "clean chit", and a US-based employer has offered the person a job. Now, a law that is designed to keep that person out, not because he might be a security risk, but specifically because he is likely to come to the US and work, is immoral. The same for a rule that allows a couple into the country, but insists that the wife can only do so if she undertakes not to work here. Would you agree?

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Would you agree?

Irrational certainly and immoral to that extent absolutely. They target something good: the ability and willingness to work, and refuse on the basis of their virtue.

But a violation of rights? That I don't see. Perhaps you will be able to enlighten me.

Edited by Inspector

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Irrational certainly and immoral to that extent absolutely. They target something good: the ability and willingness to work, and refuse on the basis of their virtue.

But a violation of rights? That I don't see. Perhaps you will be able to enlighten me.

All humans have rights by virtue of being humans. Is it no less a violation of rights if a government harms a foreigner than if he harms a citizen or resident? When would it ever be moral to violate the rights of foreigners?

If immigration is used for the purposes I mention, that is consistent with upholding everyone's rights, both those of the domestic residents/citizens and of foreigners. Furthermore, speaking as a citizen, when is it in my self-interest to deny the rights of foreigners? This points up the fact that immigration is, as a general rule, highly beneficial to me as a citizen. I benefit from the productive labor, ingenuity and capital that is brought to America by its immigrants.

So, I am making two points:

(1) A government cannot violate the rights of any individual, whether he is foreign or domestic.

(2) It is in my self-interest as an American citizen not to have foreigners' rights violated, including their right to settle here (subject to the exclusions I already mentioned). The latter is part of anyone's right to life & property.

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So, I am making two points:

(1) A government cannot violate the rights of any individual, whether he is foreign or domestic.

Certainly, I agree. But you need to establish that a foreigner has the right to cross our border.

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Certainly, I agree. But you need to establish that a foreigner has the right to cross our border.
In principle everyone has a right to do whatever they wish as long as they do not violate the rights of others. Rights do not flow from government; rather, governments are instituted to recognize and protect those rights.

This does not imply that all foreigners are to be presumed innocent until guilty; it does not imply that a foreigner should get such protection for free; also, a particular foreigner may be denied such a right for good reasons. However, all those details should be decided within the framework of the broad principle that everyone has rights.

Edited by softwareNerd
Fixed grammar

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Certainly, I agree. But you need to establish that a foreigner has the right to cross our border.

Well, everyone, foreigner or domestic resident/citizen, has rights. As part of one's right to life and property, one possesses the freedom and right to live wherever one pleases. No government can tell someone where he can live. I do not see why that does not apply equally to everyone, regardless of where he is domiciled.

Now, here is the issue. There are legitimate reasons for denying entry to a foreigner. If he is a criminal, an agent or resident of an enemy country, or in some other way demonstrably represents a threat of force against Americans, he can and should be barred from entry. The reason for barring entry is that the foreigner represents an objective threat to the rights of American residents & citizens. So, foreigners who threaten the rights of Americans are denied entry.

Now, consider: If a foreigner is not threatening the rights of Americans, what would be the reason for denying him entry?

I think you would agree that barring freedom of movement to a peaceful and non-threatening person is a violation of his rights. To do that of foreigners would deny them their rights. Yes, they have a right to emigrate to the United States. However, if they are peaceful and non-threatening, they are... peaceful and non-threatening. They are not a threat to Americans and should be permitted entry.

Having said all that, I would agree that the government should have a fair amount of discretion in deciding whether someone represents a threat. For example, a spy from a country that is hostile to us, but against whom we have not declared war, could and should be denied entry. I do not have a problem with special immigration courts that would adjudicate lawsuits arising from such decisions. As a side observation, I wonder how often a real spy would sue for entry, when in the act of defending himself, he would have to blow his cover.

The bottom line is that I do not think national security is compromised by respecting the right of everyone to live where he wants, whether he is domestic or foreign, and upholding what is implied by that right: foreigners have a right to move to the United States. In fact, I would contend that if foreigners' rights could be violated -- if foreigners could be denied entry for arbitrary or racist or political reasons -- then a government with such power against foreigners becomes a threat to Americans. Abusive government power cannot be compartmentalized in one area. It always metastasizes until it invades every area of life.

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When would it ever be moral to violate the rights of foreigners?

In the case of expected collateral damage during the bombing of a foreign nation during war, it seems that the rights of those innocents which are killed are morally violated by the bombing nation. I am with inspector. I do not understand how someone would have a right to enter a country unless it is presumed that all people in the world have automatic citizenship in a properly free country.

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In the case of expected collateral damage during the bombing of a foreign nation during war, it seems that the rights of those innocents which are killed are morally violated by the bombing nation. I am with inspector. I do not understand how someone would have a right to enter a country unless it is presumed that all people in the world have automatic citizenship in a properly free country.

The distinction between immigrant and citizen (implied by "automatic citizenship") have already been made. Being able to immigrate into a country and being a citizen are two different things.

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The distinction between immigrant and citizen (implied by "automatic citizenship") have already been made. Being able to immigrate into a country and being a citizen are two different things.

But wouldn't having an automatic right to immigrating equate to having an automatic right to citizenship?

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But wouldn't having an automatic right to immigrating equate to having an automatic right to citizenship?
It does not have to be so.

There are some credible arguments for open citizenship. However, I suggest that for the purpose of this thread, we assume that by immigration we mean "non-citizenship but the ability to enter, work, play, ...and pay taxes :)". [Check out this earlier thread for a discussion of citizenship.]

The issues and problems around US immigration laws are almost exclusively in the area of non-citizenship type immigration. Indeed, it's my guess that the biggest reason immigrants want to go from being "permanent residents" to being citizens is not the citizenship itself, but the fact that, being citizens, they can sponsor other family members to join them in the US...so, probably, the biggest driver there too, is "non-citizen immigration" laws. If the "non citizenship immigration" laws were opened up and citizenship completely denied to all newcomers, and denied to their kids for (say) 10 or 15 years, few people would care too deeply about it. Under current law, apart from the ability to sponsor family, the additional advantages of citizenship are few: the right to vote, the ease of world-travel if one holds a US passport, some sense of security in knowing it's permanent.

Separately, after all this criticism of US law, I think it is fair to point out the following: for all it's unfairness and immorality in their area, US immigration law is among the most moral in the world today. Let no criticism be taken as implying that the US comes off badly relative to other countries.

To elaborate, take India. Few people outside India would know that India has it's own version of hordes trying to get in! Yet, it's true. Many people from Bangla Desh want to cross over to India, and they do. The de jure situation on immigration is far worse than the US; only the de facto government corruption and inefficiency end up unable to restrict this immigration. However, it is not just the law. Many educated, world-aware Indians hold the view that India should not allow this immigration, while in another breath criticizing the US for being too strict on immigration. (If you press them they'll say something like: "Well, the US is rich; but, India can't afford this invasion!")

Or, take China. Of any people have the excellent reason to leave their native country, it is the North Koreans, who live in a totalitarian state. Yet, the Chinese do not allow this, and -- being communist -- they appear to be far more effective at stopping the North Koreans than the Indians are at stopping the Bangla Deshis. Some commentators say that part of the reason China does not put more pressure on North Korea in matters like nukes, is because China does not want a collapse of government to bring hordes of North Koreans across as refugees.

Of the larger-sized countries, only Canada and Australia have immigration systems that might be better than the US, for some people in some situations. Having said that, I also think the last few years have seen a negative shift in immigration-related attitudes, and not just because of 9/11 -- when Lou Dobbs and Bill O'Reilly agree, the shift is significant. Nevertheless, the US system remains the most moral, and we should try to keep it so, and make it better.

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Well, everyone, foreigner or domestic resident/citizen, has rights. As part of one's right to life and property, one possesses the freedom and right to live wherever one pleases. No government can tell someone where he can live.

I think you would agree that barring freedom of movement to a peaceful and non-threatening person is a violation of his rights. To do that of foreigners would deny them their rights. Yes, they have a right to emigrate to the United States. However, if they are peaceful and non-threatening, they are... peaceful and non-threatening. They are not a threat to Americans and should be permitted entry.

I've isolated the parts of your post where you are addressing the point I asked about. I'm not disputing the other things you have said. You can stop repeating them, lol!

In your mind, is a border a legitimate concept at all? Wouldn't it be a violation of this alleged right to freedom of movement to even subject people to documentation and background checks; i.e. to even have a border at all? What is the difference between them and citizens, after all? To tell someone that he must cross this arbitrary line only at certain checkpoints and only after examination would restrict his absolute freedom of movement, wouldn't it?

I don't think that "freedom of movement" within a country's borders can properly be equated with "freedom of movement" across a country's borders. I believe your error is in lumping the two together.

You don't seem to be making the distinction between a citizen and a foreigner. A government is the institution that has a legal monopoly on the use of force in a given geographic area. Its purpose is the protection of the rights of its citizens;, not of everyone, everywhere. While it should not violate the rights of non-citizens, its purpose isn't an interest in them except inasmuch as it should be concerned with the rights of its citizens, the establishment of objective law within its borders, etc. Non-citizens within its borders would get the same protections because it must establish the rule of law, not because it has a duty to non-citizens.

It would be a violation of the rights of its citizens to restrict their movement into or out of the country, excepting that they represent a provable threat. Non-citizens do not have a right to cross its sovereign borders at will; otherwise they aren't really borders and they certainly aren't sovereign.

Not all rights are automatic and held by all people. The right to vote is reserved for noncriminal citizens, for example. So, similarly, is the right to cross the borders at will. A citizen need present no reason for entering a country; he need merely prove that he is a citizen. Non-citizens cross the border by permission, not by right. To not grant this permission or to revoke it is not a question of rights. Until you become a citizen, you are a foreigner, with permission to cross the borders.

Whether one is allowed to become a citizen or not, or to enter the borders or not, is not something that can be decided with reference to rights, because there is no right of a non-citizen to cross an international border or to become a citizen. Certainly, the rules of our government now are totally irrational, and should be reformed, but they don't violate anyone's rights, as far as I know.

Let's leave the questions of rational reforms aside for the moment. What we first need to decide is what rights a non-citizen has vis a vis entering the sovereign borders of a nation and becoming a citizen.

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But wouldn't having an automatic right to immigrating equate to having an automatic right to citizenship?

No. There are legal rights (at least voting) that come with citizenship that do not come with mere residence.

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Ok, thanks for the qualification. I was getting the idea that a lot of you were advocating open boarders with no restrictions. As for the arguements against illegal aliens, I believe the only valid one is preventing crime/terrorism. However, I think it is in a country's interest to have a cap to the number of immigrants per year. Naturally a screening process would slow down immigration already, so it might not be necessary. Also, I believe that for citizenship, proficiency, even at a low level, in English should be a factor.

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However, I think it is in a country's interest to have a cap to the number of immigrants per year. Naturally a screening process would slow down immigration already, so it might not be necessary. Also, I believe that for citizenship, proficiency, even at a low level, in English should be a factor.
You don't explain reasons for the "cap" and the English requirement, so it's impossible to judge if you're right.

Aside: Lisa VanDamme puts it best: "any unsupported opinion is sacrilege".

Edited by softwareNerd

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No. There are legal rights (at least voting) that come with citizenship that do not come with mere residence.

Are there or should there be any others? That by itself seems like a very trivial right(and differentiation), unless as greedycapitalist has suggested in an earlier thread, the franchise were severely limited. And in the case of a limited franchise, there would be no difference at all between most citizens and immigrants.

It seems like a bit of double speak to me. Letting everyone in, they would in actuality have all of the rights and privlidges a citizen has but one minor one. It would be as meaningful to say, "immigrants aren't citizens because only citizens are allowed to wear blue hats on tuesdays." If voting is the only distinction then open immigration means automatic citizenship, really. Don't see any reason to mince the terms.

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It would be as meaningful to say, "immigrants aren't citizens because only citizens are allowed to wear blue hats on tuesdays." If voting is the only distinction then open immigration means automatic citizenship, really. Don't see any reason to mince the terms.

First, I listed voting as one distinction, though I don't think that its the only distinction between a resident and a citizen. Another distinction is that on the private and public level they are restricted from certain jobs if they are not citizens. If necessary, I'll try to provide other distinctions, though I think voting is far more significant than you do.

Is it honestly your position that voting is as trivial as "wearing blue hats on Tuesdays"? Granted, under the current system the value of the vote in national elections can be somewhat dubious. However, the power of the vote on the state and local level can have quite a significant impact on where I live. Perhaps where you live things are different.

The only legitimate concerns I've seen expressed for limiting people coming into the country are criminality and terrorism (which in essence are the same, the violation of other's rights). I think all parties involved in this discussion agree that the government should maintain the ability to prevent such folks from coming in to the country.

However, unless there is some reason that points to either of those concerns, why prevent people from coming into the country who might well be (or are) hard working, rights-respecting people?

And if those concerns are sufficient to restrict the essentially free movement of all people coming into this country, then they should be sufficient to restrict the movement of people within the country as well, citizens or not. The vast majority of crime in our country is committed by it's citizens and a fair amount of the terrorists and some terror acts are committed by our citizens. With this reasoning, why shouldn't states be able to restrict the movement of people from one state to another? Cities? I live in a pretty decent city and I don't want the police to allow people into my city from a neighboring city that has a much higher crime rate.

And really, if all land were owned privately (and private property rights were truly respected), this might be less of an issue. If a person owned land on the border of Mexico, what right would the government have to tell that person that he could not allow people onto his property just because they were from another country (so long as they are not violating anyone's rights)?

I have yet to see it established as to why I need to be more concerned about my rights being violated by a foreigner than by a US citizen.

Edited by RationalBiker

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I've isolated the parts of your post where you are addressing the point I asked about. I'm not disputing the other things you have said. You can stop repeating them, lol!

In your mind, is a border a legitimate concept at all? Wouldn't it be a violation of this alleged right to freedom of movement to even subject people to documentation and background checks; i.e. to even have a border at all? What is the difference between them and citizens, after all? To tell someone that he must cross this arbitrary line only at certain checkpoints and only after examination would restrict his absolute freedom of movement, wouldn't it?

I don't think that "freedom of movement" within a country's borders can properly be equated with "freedom of movement" across a country's borders. I believe your error is in lumping the two together.

You don't seem to be making the distinction between a citizen and a foreigner. A government is the institution that has a legal monopoly on the use of force in a given geographic area. Its purpose is the protection of the rights of its citizens;, not of everyone, everywhere. While it should not violate the rights of non-citizens, its purpose isn't an interest in them except inasmuch as it should be concerned with the rights of its citizens, the establishment of objective law within its borders, etc. Non-citizens within its borders would get the same protections because it must establish the rule of law, not because it has a duty to non-citizens.

It would be a violation of the rights of its citizens to restrict their movement into or out of the country, excepting that they represent a provable threat. Non-citizens do not have a right to cross its sovereign borders at will; otherwise they aren't really borders and they certainly aren't sovereign.

Not all rights are automatic and held by all people. The right to vote is reserved for noncriminal citizens, for example. So, similarly, is the right to cross the borders at will. A citizen need present no reason for entering a country; he need merely prove that he is a citizen. Non-citizens cross the border by permission, not by right. To not grant this permission or to revoke it is not a question of rights. Until you become a citizen, you are a foreigner, with permission to cross the borders.

Whether one is allowed to become a citizen or not, or to enter the borders or not, is not something that can be decided with reference to rights, because there is no right of a non-citizen to cross an international border or to become a citizen. Certainly, the rules of our government now are totally irrational, and should be reformed, but they don't violate anyone's rights, as far as I know.

Let's leave the questions of rational reforms aside for the moment. What we first need to decide is what rights a non-citizen has vis a vis entering the sovereign borders of a nation and becoming a citizen.

I am not sure how to address your argument directly, except to repeat my point that all humans have individual rights and no government has the right to violate them. It makes no difference whether a person is a resident, citizen or foreigner; no government can violate an individual's rights.

A government can and must act to defend the rights of the citizens who engage it, who "hire" it to perform that function. A government is elected by its citizens; being a citizen means having the right to vote and run for government office. However, that government cannot violate anyone's rights, including the rights held by foreigners or non-citizen residents. There is no "duty" of a government to do anything with regard to a foreigner; it simply must not violate that foreigner's rights.

Not violating a foreigner's rights is entirely consistent with two government functions: (1) preventing the immigration of individuals who will harm citizens through the use or threat of use of force; (2) setting up standards for becoming a citizen.

To expand these points:

(1) Governments should and must keep out criminals, agents of enemy countries (spies, saboteurs, etc.), residents of enemy countries in war-time, and any other individual who objectively represents a threat to the rights of individual citizens in the country. This is a valid use of a government's policing function, and is entirely consistent with respecting the individual rights of foreigners. Protecting the rights of citizens does not conflict with the obligation not to violate the rights of foreigners and everyone else. The problem I have with some of the preceding discussion is that it implies that somehow it is necessary to violate the rights of foreigners in order to protect citizens. Leaving aside whether that is permissible, why is it ever necessary to do that?

(2) Governments must set standards for deciding who becomes a citizen. Being a citizen implies more than just being a resident of a country. A resident is simply someone who decides to live in our country for a certain period of time. A citizen has decided to live here (more or less) permanently and should be able to demonstrate loyalty to America and its constitutional republican form of government. That is why today there is a citizenship exam that asks basic questions to ascertain knowledge of American political institutions. (I am not saying the current test is valid, but only that such a basic test is valid, in principle.) A citizen is entitled to serve in certain government positions that a non-citizen cannot. He can serve in positions where he is defending the interests of American citizens; a non-citizen could not serve in those positions. Such positions presumably would include the President, a soldier in the military, certain law enforcement positions, etc. Finally, only citizens can vote. By establishing their knowledge and loyalty to the American form of government, they can involve themselves in guiding that government by voting and running for office.

No one would become a citizen automatically upon entering America, but only after he has lived here for a period of time, so that he can gain the knowledge required to be a citizen, and have a basis for making the decision whether to become one.

Yes, a border is legitimate. Governments function within a geographical region. Exercising authority over immigration is a policing function of government that is performed on the borders.

***

On a more anecdotal level, I have some other thoughts:

I think what is hanging people up on the immigration issue is a remnant of the modern view of government as being all-powerful and having a lot to do. In contrast to today's government, the government of a free society would do almost nothing. Most of the time, it simply has to obey the dictum of refraining from violating anyone's rights. So, its primary duty is negative: don't use force to violate rights. Its only positive function is to act against criminals, both here and abroad. Governments are not an agent of "our" domestic gang of citizens versus "those foreigners" out there. Those foreigners really are just like us, they just happen to live in another country. Foreigners who are criminals, we stop at the border. Domestic residents who are criminals, we put in jail. Everyone else, if they are not criminals or residents of an enemy country, etc., are simply productive people like us.

Even in today's world with its abundance of irrationalism, I would argue that most immigrants are simply productive people like "us". Living in New York I see foreigners all around me. They are driving taxis, running hot dog stands; they are doctors, bankers and even lawyers (one friend of mine emigrated from the old Soviet Union when he was 13 and today is a successful attorney).

As for foreigners having evil or non-productive values, such as many Muslims or, perhaps, some Latin Americans, or [insert group name here], why is that any different than the multitudinous welfare recipient Americans who vote to pillage the productive among us? In fact, I would say that generally the foreigners who come here are better than the residents of the countries they come from. By definition, they will be more ambitious than their peers. By and large, they are coming here to work hard, make money, and make a good life for themselves. Interestingly, my observation is that most of what I call the "welfare bums" are native-born Americans, not immigrants.

The danger of the welfare state will not be solved by keeping foreigners out. In fact, America will benefit from the strong work ethic most foreigners have. Instead, we must dismantle the welfare state.

Bad ideas held by foreigners are not the primary danger either. At any given time, there are far more Americans than foreigners in our country agitating for more welfare, more subsidies, and more government regulations. Keeping out the foreigners is not a solution to the problem of bad ideas. Better ideas (i.e., Objectivism) are the only solution.

Finally, I think it is useful to recall past immigrations. For example, consider the Chinese, who were the first ethnic group targeted by anti-immigration laws. How did Americans feel when these strange people who looked different (and smoked opium, for crying out loud), ate weird food, and had all kinds of odd customs and habits, came here? Go to any Chinatown today and you will never find a harder-working group of people. Or, how about the Irish and Italian immigrants who were looked down upon? Both ethnic groups were stereotyped and seen as thoroughly alien to native Americans, in terms of their values and customs. Yet today, both ethnic groups are seen as thoroughly American as apple pie. How about all of the Germans (the second largest immigrant group during the late 1800s and early 1900s), who in many communities stuck to speaking German for decades? Today, they are thoroughly assimilated.

I know I am beating a strawman here with these examples, but I want to bring them up anyway, just to be reminded of how fearful Americans were with past immigrant waves. I, for one, am not afraid of today's immigrants. I welcome all of them to our shores. Yes, I am not happy about having large numbers of Muslims here, but if we ever do declare war against our real Muslim enemies abroad, we can exclude their residents from coming here as necessary. Otherwise, and in general, the more immigrants the better, and from every corner of the earth (Africans, Indians, Latin Americans, Europeans...).

Of course, I can also say that I am a great-great grandson of an immigrant family, just as every one of us is (including Native Americans, whose ancestors emigrated over the Alaskan-Siberian land bridge millennia ago).

Whew, now that was a long post! I've got a National Anthem singing contest to go to now. :D

Edited by Galileo Blogs

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First, I listed voting as one distinction, though I don't think that its the only distinction between a resident and a citizen. Another distinction is that on the private and public level they are restricted from certain jobs if they are not citizens. If necessary, I'll try to provide other distinctions, though I think voting is far more significant than you do.

Is it honestly your position that voting is as trivial as "wearing blue hats on Tuesdays"? Granted, under the current system the value of the vote in national elections can be somewhat dubious. However, the power of the vote on the state and local level can have quite a significant impact on where I live. Perhaps where you live things are different.

More examples would be helpful.

Theoretically voting could have some meaning, but as things stand, entirely apart from the statistical insignificance, is the fact that I have yet to see a legitimate choice for any office. My choices inevitibly boil down to the presentation of two different versions of socialism which may or may not correspond to the office holders actual actions. The closest I can get to a canidat e who represents my best interests is one who wishes to continue our slide into socialism less quickly then the other. I can think of many good reasons why fast socialism would be better then slow socialism, so to me, the choice is largely meaningless. That being said, I do vote because the ballot measures can have an immediate, direct, and causal impact on my life, so the statistical insignificance of my vote is outweighed by the actual damage which can be done.

The only legitimate concerns I've seen expressed for limiting people coming into the country are criminality and terrorism (which in essence are the same, the violation of other's rights). I think all parties involved in this discussion agree that the government should maintain the ability to prevent such folks from coming in to the country.

However, unless there is some reason that points to either of those concerns, why prevent people from coming into the country who might well be (or are) hard working, rights-respecting people?

And if those concerns are sufficient to restrict the essentially free movement of all people coming into this country, then they should be sufficient to restrict the movement of people within the country as well, citizens or not. The vast majority of crime in our country is committed by it's citizens and a fair amount of the terrorists and some terror acts are committed by our citizens. With this reasoning, why shouldn't states be able to restrict the movement of people from one state to another? Cities? I live in a pretty decent city and I don't want the police to allow people into my city from a neighboring city that has a much higher crime rate.

And really, if all land were owned privately (and private property rights were truly respected), this might be less of an issue. If a person owned land on the border of Mexico, what right would the government have to tell that person that he could not allow people onto his property just because they were from another country (so long as they are not violating anyone's rights)?

I have yet to see it established as to why I need to be more concerned about my rights being violated by a foreigner than by a US citizen.

I don't disagree with the idea that a truly free country out to have open immigration and automatic citizenship, so I assume the rest of your thread was in response to other posters on this thread.

My only disagreement is circumstancial, and was well laid out by software nerd above. We do not live in a free country so attempting to open borders first is to put the cart before the horse. Eliminate the welfare state and then invite everyone in, otherwise we are attracting a great many of the sorts we do not want. Consider as an example, the closing of hospitals on the southern border. It's no big deal unless you happen to live on the southern border and no longer have a hospital to go to within reasonable driving distance.

I understand that socialism is the cause of the illegal immigrants using free services. And, I understand that my having to pay taxes and their ability to avoid the taxes altogether is the fault of the government and not them. But it does not change the fact that their presence and behavior has a negative impact on my life in that I must pay for the services that they are provided. I have to pay more for health care or might have to do without much of it at all if the trend continues. In the lifeboat situation that socialism creates, there are conflicts of interest between rational men. This is one of them.

In the same sense, if you ask me if I approve of taxes, I would say absolutely not. If you then asked me if we should eliminate taxes right now, the answer would be the same. You would need to cut spending of government programs over a considerable period of time to avoid mass starvation and panic, and eventually we could get to the elimination of taxes.

In the current discussion, attempting to have open immigration without first correcting the underlying problems will have the same deleterious effect on the country.

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