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Illegal Immigration & Objectivism

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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.

The protection of our borders is one of the very few proper functions of a government. Our current laws in this regard are horrendous, but the practical requirement for border protection remains. We should not restrict immigration into this country, except for protecting ourselves against the realities of a terrorist with a suitcase nuclear weapon, people with highly infectious diseases, etc. This is a necessity for our safety, and whatever can be done, must be done.

... is illegal immigration moral or immoral?

It is wrong to break the law in a lawful society.

However, civil disobediance can be a way of protesting a law, if you break the law with the full intention of paying the price. In a similar manner I am sympathetic to the best of immigrants who break the law, though I think doing so is wrong. There are many people of value who play by the rules who will wait for some time before they are legally permitted to enter this country. Every illegal immigrant is a slap in the face of those wanting to immigrate legally.

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And like their other powers, their power to police the border must be kept limited by the proper function of that power. In this case, stopping poor Mexican immigrants because they are coming and tak

People who apply legally to immigrate to the United States have to wait years before being accepted (if ever).

Is this long waiting period due to a deliberate policy of the U.S. Government to restrict the number of immigrants during any given year to a particular number for a reason, and not just arbitrarily determined? Or is the waiting period due to the inability of the bureaucracy to process applications in a more timely manner?

I would be curious to know what the actual policy is. IF it is just a matter of an inefficient process, I'm sure just a small portion of all that money people are so eager to spend on border enforcement could be directed towards improving the process to the point where we could developed something like an "instant" immigration approval at all key border crossings, international airports, and ports.

If something like that were possible, what do you suppose all those people who claim the "only" objection they have to illegal immigrants is that "they have no respect for our laws" would have to say if the waiting period disappeared?

If the number of immigrants is indeed "fixed" by law, I wonder how that number was objectively determined?

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I'm going to try to immigrate legally, and I don't think illegal immigrants are a slap in my face. If they are accepting the risk, and work for their living - I have nothing against them.

For some people, immigrating illegally to the US is the only way to build a life for themselves. I consider current US immigration laws as immoral as Israel's compulsory military draft.

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For some people, immigrating illegally to the US is the only way to build a life for themselves. I consider current US immigration laws as immoral as Israel's compulsory military draft.

There is no provision in the United States Constitution -- nor should there be -- that its citizens are only required to obey those laws which they like. Either we are a nation of laws, or we are not. As I said, I am sympathetic to the best of the illegal immigrants, but, nevertheless, they break the law. Likewise for the military draft, when it was in effect here.

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There is no provision in the United States Constitution -- nor should there be -- that its citizens are only required to obey those laws which they like. Either we are a nation of laws, or we are not. As I said, I am sympathetic to the best of the illegal immigrants, but, nevertheless, they break the law.

I am basically sympathetic to this position as a statement of fact, also your earlier statement

It is wrong to break the law in a lawful society.

However I want to raise the objection that the law should not be a suicide pact.

I raise and discard the (imaginable) objection that a law prohibiting a law-abiding person from entering the US is wrong. There are many things that are wrong about how the government restricts our lives, so unless you reject all laws, you have to live with the possibility of a wrong law. The vast majority of illegal immigrants seek a life better than is possible under whatever government and economic system they are subject to, so my objection only applies to a very few cases, given the general immigration policy of the US when it comes to refugees from dictatorships.

The problem with strict obedience to the law for all immigration cases is that it may entail suicide. I assume you do not argue for strict obedience to the law if obedience entails death, as when a person is trying to escape from a murderous dictatorship such as exists in North Korea, Cuba, Iran or Zimbabwe. Thanks to the rational policy in the US of generally granting asylum to refugees from these worst of nations, we do not typically legally require suicide by law (I can't say that I know for a fact that we have a decent policy when it comes to Zimbabwe). But since the US government does not always correct recognise the nature of murderous dictatorships (for example, Iran under the Shah), it will not necessarily extend the protection to an immigrant which it should.

I argue that just in case the choice is actual death, vs. violating a wrong law, that it is not wrong for one to violate the law.

Dave Odden

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I argue that just in case the choice is actual death, vs. violating a wrong law, that it is not wrong for one to violate the law.

As a general statement I would go beyond just life and death situations and extend it to include emergency situations with an appropiate level of harm. Even if I were not threatened with death, if I were injured late at night and there was some risk of permanent damage in waiting for an ambulance, I would not hesitate a second to break into a closed pharmacy to get whatever was needed to treat my injury. Of course, I would make whatever restitution would be required, and then some, but nevertheless in that sort of case I would break the law.

And, again, I am very sympathetic to the plight of good citizens who seek a better life here than what they have in, say, Mexico. But I also know very bright, well-educated, and very moral people who have struggled for years to legally come to this country. Some of these have expressed their frustration at illegals who sneak across the border at night, while they themselves seek the lawful way.

The worst fault lies in the specific laws which make this possible, but nevertheless we are a nation of laws.

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Stephen,

I don't get it. What's so inherently wrong with breaking an unjust law?

Wouldn't it be like lying or cheating a mobster who wants to take your money or your life? Is that inherently wrong also?

A lawful society is a value, but it is not a greater value than life or liberty.

Now of course the Constitution will not specifically allow to break the law. Society puts down laws and treats them as absolutes. But for the individual man - society ITSELF must not be treated as an absolute. He can immigrate, go live in some forsaken forrest - or break some laws that violate his rights.

Now, you might be saying: "But if everyone just ignored any law they felt like, we'd have chaos".

True. But tha'ts not what I'm saying. I'm not saying everyone can ignore any law. I'm saying that in a situation where the law clearly violates your rights to life, liberty, and property, you are free to ignore it, assuming you are willing to take the risk.

You might say: "But people may start ignoring all kinds of laws they THINK violate their rights, and there'll be chaos.

To this I say: I don't CARE about other people and how they might irrationally twist what I'm saying. I'm only concerend about is it right for ME to break an oppresive law under some circumstances.

To give you a last example: in Nazi Germany there was a law that obligated every Jew to wear a special yellow, star-shaped patch on their jacket.

Assuming you were a Jew at that time, and you couldn't immediately leave - but you could hide the fact that you are Jewish and not wear that star, which would mark you as a rightless individual. Would you wear it?

Remember, you are a citizen of Germany, Hitler was voted in office by a HUGE marjority vote, and this was a perfectly valid law. There is no mention in the Weimmar constitution that any citizen can break any law he wishes.

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I must side with Eran on this issue. The rule of law is not a primary; it's value is ultimately its effect on one's life. Obeying the law is only a moral obligation insofar as it promotes one's own long-range self-preservation. Where the two conflict, one's own life takes moral precedence.

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Erandror, you cannot compare Nazi Germany to the present-day United States. The question you must ask is: Does the government have a fundamental respect for individual rights?

If you answer "No," then you are under no obligation to follow any laws set forth by such a government, and you are free to take whatever actions are necessary, including the use of physical force, to overthrow that government and install a rights-respecting one.

However, if your answer is "Yes, the government is fundamentally rights-respecting," then you respect the law, even those laws with which you may disagree. Respect for the law is the concrete form in which you acknowledge the importance of individual rights, and the need to have the interactions of men governed by, and subject to, the law. The alternative is anarchy, and any compromise between rule by law and anarchy is the sacrifice of the former to the latter.

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f your answer is "Yes, the government is fundamentally rights-respecting," then you respect the law, even those laws with which you may disagree. Respect for the law is the concrete form in which you acknowledge the importance of individual rights, and the need to have the interactions of men governed by, and subject to, the law. The alternative is anarchy, and any compromise between rule by law and anarchy is the sacrifice of the former to the latter.

But why will anarchism ensue if citizens ignored laws that violate their individual rights?

If anything, it could lead to those laws being abolished.

In Israel, by law, we are supposed to pay up to 60% income tax, and spend 12 years of our lives in compulsory schools and 3 years in the army.

More than 50% of citizens manage to find semi-legal or illegal ways to avoid these things.

Parents can register their children to the school of their choice by lying about their home address in the registration form. There are plenty of ways to cheat income tax and pay much less, and a big percentage of the teenagers pretend to be insane or unhealthy to get out of the compulsory army service.

What ensued was not anarchy, but the beginning of a serious public debate that already produced some lowered tax (with the goal of making the maximum tax paid 43% of income), a reform of education which constitutes a semi-privatization (parents can choose their schools, and their tax money goes to the schools of their choice), and a serious debate in the highest offices of army and government about privatizing the army and cancelling the draft (this last will take years to show results, but it was unthinkable just 10 years ago).

The laws are not sacred. Freedom is. Politicians make mistakes and need to be reminded of their role as the guardians of freedom. And your own life deserve more than blind obedience to any law they throw at you.

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But why will anarchism ensue if citizens ignored laws that violate their individual rights?

Because that is what anarchism is, lawlessness.

If anything, it could lead to those laws being abolished.
As I have explained several times, there are proper ways in a civil society to abolish bad laws, and these ways are themselves lawful.

The one exception I can think of would be intentional civil disobediance, where you publicly disobey a law precisely for the purpose of bringing that law to the public attention, or perhaps as a legal test case. But, in doing so, you are prepared to pay the price for your action, and your purpose is not to avoid a law, but to publicly contest it.

In Israel, by law, we are supposed to pay up to 60% income tax, and spend 12 years of our lives in compulsory schools and 3 years in the army.

More than 50% of citizens manage to find semi-legal or illegal ways to avoid these things.

That doesn't make it right. Look, I do not know enough about Israel to make absolute statements, but my country, the United States, still remains fundamentally a rights-respecting country, and I honor that fact by obeying the laws.

The laws are not sacred. Freedom is.

But if you respect freedom, then you should respect the law. At least, in terms of action.

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If I know a very hard working, objectivist illegal immigrant.

I realize now I am wrong not to report him.

Not to report him makes me part of his crime.

What does that follow from? The fact that he should obey the law even though the law is wrong in no way entails that you should turn him in to the state. Such an action does not rationally benefit your life, so why would you do it?

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

I think it was shelved in favor of the Patriot Act, which serves to strengthen illegal immigration laws, among other things.

Once upon a time in America, America welcomed the producing immigrants to this country with open arms. I am reminded of the inscription on the Statue of Liberty regarding "give me your tired, your poor, et. al."

It is a major symptom of the Welfare State that caused immigration laws to be strengthened.

It is a major tragedy that nowhere in the compassionate conservative bromide that the Bush administration trumpets that the issue of allowing immigrants who flee oppression is addressed.

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There is no provision in the United States Constitution -- nor should there be -- that its citizens are only required to obey those laws which they like. Either we are a nation of laws, or we are not.

There are obviously some countries like North Korea, U.S.S.R. where one must break laws. By what principle is the U.S. is not such a country? From previous posts I think the principle is that we obey laws in countires that are mostly free.

Is that the right principle? Would there be countries other than the U.S. where this would apply, for example to Canada and Western Europe. What about it being illegal to take home in France after working for 35 hours on the job?

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There are many people of value who play by the rules who will wait for some time before they are legally permitted to enter this country. Every illegal immigrant is a slap in the face of those wanting to immigrate legally.

I do not understand.

I get around an injustice. How that offends others who bear injustices?

My short cut not slows them.

Think the short cut help people behind me in line.

Otherwise they have extra one person more in line in front.

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There are obviously some countries like North Korea, U.S.S.R. where one must break laws. By what principle is the U.S. is not such a country? From previous posts I think the principle is that we obey laws in countires that are mostly free.

Is that the right principle? Would there be countries other than the U.S. where this would apply, for example to Canada and Western Europe.

Yes, I think the correct principle is whether or not a government is fundamentally rights-respecting. But, there is another aspect of this that I did not really focus on before.

The proper concern is not only whether or not you follow any particular law, but rather what to do if things are bad enough that laws should not be followed. If you really reach the point where freedom is so lost that you no longer have respect for law, then that is a signal to take whatever physical action is necessary to change things, or to get out of that government's jurisdiction.

There is room to individually determine the dividing line where enough freedom is lost that men decide to act, but I tend to agree with a suggestion made by Ayn Rand a while ago (I no longer remember exactly when). A good dividing line is when freedom of speech is lost. While there is freedom of speech there remains the opportunity to cause change by intellectual means. But, with freedom of speech gone, physical force is the only tool which remains.

What about it being illegal to take home in France after working for 35 hours on the job?

I am having difficulty parsing this. Perhaps you can re-word what you want to say.

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I am having difficulty parsing this. Perhaps you can re-word what you want to say.

I mean France allows lots of freedoms and still does not allow many freedoms so it is more like America than like USSR or North Korea. France was very strict about making workers work only 35 hours only. The authorities checked up on people trying tom work long hours like young ambitous executives and also checked some people's bags to check they were not taking work home. Some executives still took work home unlawfully. Was that wrong because they were not respecting the law?

Another poster mentioned abortion in Ireland and that makes me think it might happen one day that the supreme court makes some form of abortion illegal. Should a person who needs an abortion then not get one because it is illegal but this is America?

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France was very strict about making workers work only 35 hours only. The authorities checked up on people trying tom work long hours like young ambitous executives and also checked some people's bags to check they were not taking work home.... Was that wrong because they were not respecting the law?

Another poster mentioned abortion in Ireland and that makes me think it might happen one day that the supreme court makes some form of abortion illegal. Should a person who needs an abortion then not get one because it is illegal but this is America?

In both cases, you have a choice. For the French businessman, the choices are (non-exhaustively) to emigrate to a freer nation where their right to work without such a restriction is respected; or to honestly and openly defy the law and take the consequences in the (probably misguided) hope of a Rearden / Roark type trial, leading to a change in the law; or they can protest the law, perhaps challenging it in court.

One other thing they can do is obey the law, and simply stop producing after 35 hours a week. The latter is not capitulation, it is delaying gratification. A law that says that a man should not work more that 35 hours a week ignores reality (that not everybody enjoys a 10 hour a day schedule of partying, going to the opera, and sniffing aromatic cheeses; and, that the cool stuff of life does not appear magically, you have to work for it). It might take a while -- decades, I would assume -- but such work limits will eventually suck the life out of France and any nation with laws like that. This will obviously feed into the first-mentioned right to emigrate.

As for abortion, this simply requires that you go to Canada (if Roe v. Wade is negated) or England (for the Irish), one of those somewhat freer nations at least as far as this one point is concerned.

The bottom line with any law is that it has consequences (duh!), and violating the law is an attempt to evade the reality of that law. People should be made to suffer for their actions, and that would include the action of empowering control-freak Relaxation Nazis to legislate how many hours a week you can work. The formation of the EU is a recent example of people evading reality on a mass scale and volunteering for slavery.

Dave Odden

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Immigration law in United States is racist. Australian and Canadian immigration law is not racist. In United States people from some countries have to meet lower requirements. People form certain countries have to wait longer. Americans want to enforce political correctness of having a mix of people from different countries, so they have these laws. They do not want to be overrun by Chinese, Mexicans, Indians and Philipinos. This is American law.

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I still disagree, Stephen.

Opposing an unjust law by ignoring it will not lead to lawlessness. It is a form of self-defense. Doing it publicly might help to abolish the law, but at the price of your own values.

What you are actually suggesting, is to sacrifice yourself not for the sake of a just law, but for the sake of the idea of laws in itself.

The rule of law in itself is not a value. Only the rule of JUST laws is a value. I disagree with your view that the body of laws should be judged as a whole, before breaking a single one. Laws are not a part of a collective entity. They are passed by different people, promoted by different pressure-groups, based on different ideologies. Every law must be judged individually.

For example I give you Ayn Rand's words on military draft:

"If the state may force a man to risk death or hideous maiming and crippling, in a war declared at the state's discretion, for a cause he may neither approve of nor even understand, if his consent is not required to send him into unspeakable martyrdom—then, in principle, all rights are negated in that state, and its government is not man's protector any longer. What else is there left to protect?

The same is true, as far as I'm concerend, with a 60% income tax, with inability to choose a school for your children - and with unjust immigration laws!

What is the inherent value of a rule of laws that promote slavery to the state, brainwashes your children, or ruins the life of good, hard-working people? The only hope for a justifiable rule of law, is that these laws be ignored or abolished.

I am definitely not promoting anarchism. One should obey the law.

But in a case of a clearly oppressive law, even in a western democracy, I would not be so quick to call those who break it immoral. One cannot automatically interpret it as a sanction to anarchism: it depends on the options they had, their intention, the risk they put themselves in, and the law in question.

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