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Illegal Immigration & Objectivism

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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.

i think the first point is that one should know that at least originally the Constitution was intended to restrict governmental actions, not individuals. Thats why the founders didnt want a bill of rights, because they thought that any right not specifically granted in there would be in jeopardy. The constitution was only intended to be a form for the government not the people. To put a restriction of individual rights on there would be to contradict the purpose of the constitution.

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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

The institution of a law that violates the rights of an individual is an initiation of force. To willingly enforce such a law, or to willingly submit to such a law, is to sanction that force.

Ayn Rand didn't think so.

This is what she said:

"Some young men seem to labor under the misapprehension that since the draft is a violation of their rights, compliance with the draft law would constitute a moral sanction of that violation. This is a serious error. A forced compliance is not a sanction. All of us are forced to comply with many laws that violate our rights, but so long as we advocate the repeal of such laws, our compliance does not constitute a sanction. Unjust laws have to be fought ideologically; they cannot be fought or corrected by means of mere disobedience and futile martyrdom."

["The Wreckage of the Consensus," Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.

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If the subject is:'what are the morals of being an illegal alien in America today'; this would imply a high relevance to the consideration of whether they are on net public subsidy or not. Likewise, the question of whether they have hostile intentions or not, is of great relevance. Absolutely free immigration is untenable in any conceivable country, since they could be aggressors or invaders arriving in armed groups, with hostile intentions. Therefore, some standards of discrimination are required, not blind pacifism. U.S. statistics, under the heading 'median personal income of foreign-born', show 80's and 90's immigrants to be 30% below the median personal income of the total population. This implies very widespread net public subsidy of these immigrants, in this alternative welfare society. The NYT reported that there are around 11 million children of immigrants in public schools today. At $8,500 per year, this approximates $100 billion a year. Combine these two factors, below-average income with above-average likelihood of having children in public school, and the expectation should be net public subsidy, to an overwhelming majority of the immigrants in their first decades here. It's not right to say ,they can't help it , they're poor; that would justify all manner of aggression, if committed by someone of low income, who tried to relieve his need that way.

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Betsy, Miss Rand talks about forced compliance in that quote, while I am talking about willing submission.

"They will jail me unless I give them half my income. Being jailed would be worse for me than losing half my income, so I will comply." -- This is forced compliance, and constitutes no sanction. The victim simply chooses the lesser of two evils.

"The law forbids me to work more than 35 hours a week. My business will fail unless I put in an extra hour this week, and nobody would notice if I did. Still, the law is the law, and I will rather go bankrupt than break it." -- There is no threat of force here; the victim freely chooses to incur a tremendous loss in order to comply with a tyrannical law. I am sure you agree that this is anything but moral!

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...Absolutely free immigration is untenable in any conceivable country, since they could be aggressors or invaders arriving in armed groups, with hostile intentions. Therefore, some standards of discrimination are required, not blind pacifism...

How exactly did you make the jump from open immigration to pacifism? And if open immigration is "untenable," how exactly do you propose to make a "closed borders" policy tenable?

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i think the first point is that one should know that at least originally the Constitution was intended to restrict governmental actions, not individuals. Thats why the founders didnt want a bill of rights, because they thought that any right not specifically granted in there would be in jeopardy. The constitution was only intended to be a form for the government not the people. To put a restriction of individual rights on there would be to contradict the purpose of the constitution.

And how does what you wrote relate to the content of my quote, and/or the context from which it was taken?

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If the subject is:'what are the morals of being an illegal alien in America today'; this would imply a high relevance to the consideration of whether they are on net public subsidy or not. 

Their immigration status is not of essence. After all ...

If the subject is:'what are the morals of being a non-alien in America today'; this would imply a high relevance to the consideration of whether they are on net public subsidy or not.

The government wants to spoend my money on bums. I am under no illusion that they are skinning me for anything less than they can get away with.If they then spend the money on bums, the thing I am least concerned about is the race or nationality of the bum.

As for obejying laws, I agree with the poster who said that one cannot take laws as a bundle. Obeying laws does not imply sanction. Obeying them when its is easy not to and not to get caught...that comes very close to sanction. It may be fear.

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Failing to enforce a bad law doesn't just undermine the bad law.  It also undermines the rule of law.

What does the rule of law require of us?

If I'm driving and I find myself mistakenly going over the posted speed limit, should I turn myself in for breaking the law?

Or, if I mistakenly go above the speed limit or even choose to speed, if I accept the legal consequences (a fine, for example) if I am caught, would I then be acting consistent with the rule of law?

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What does the rule of law require of us?

If I'm driving and I find myself mistakenly going over the posted speed limit, should I turn myself in for breaking the law?

Or, if I mistakenly go above the speed limit or even choose to speed, if I accept the legal consequences (a fine, for example) if I am caught, would I then be acting consistent with the rule of law?

Only the latter.

You would also be accepting the rule of law if you went to court to fight the ticket as the law allows -- but not if you bribed the judge or tried to get the cop who gave you the ticket to lie on the witness stand.

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What does the rule of law require of us?

It basically requires you to recognise that while you think you know what you should do in order to respect the rights of others and let them live their lives, you could be in error. The state makes certain decisions easier and more clear-cut: it tells you for example that it is wrong to "merely" download stolen music just so you can listen to it -- that it does not matter that you're not planning to sell it to anyone, and that it does not matter that you think you're not "hurting" anyone (i.e. beating anyone up). You probably know a music thief, someone who does not recognise that they are stealing. Even though you yourself would presumably not steal music or would never rip off an insurance company, very many people would, because they basically lack any moral education. Besides being a means of protecting the rights of people without needing to wait a hundred generations for everyone to get a decent moral upbringing, the law provides a rudimentary form of moral education in saying what you can and cannot do (which, you would hope, would lead to an indictive discover of why certain things are right vs. wrong).

The law introduces a modicum of consistency into day-to-day conduct, so that you can reliably assume that if the light is green you can safely enter the intersection because cross traffic will be stopped. Or you can assume that when someone sells you a new car, it actually will have working brakes and you don't have to explicitly ask "does this car have working brakes?", or any of the 10,000 other questions that you might otherwise have to explicitly ask if you coldn't count on anything. In short, it says that while you ought to be able to figure out with is proper conduct, it took the civilized world tens of thousands of years to figure out little subtleties like the fact that Africans and women have rights, raiding the neighboring village is actually wrong, and that The King does not have special divine rights. So some occasionally arbitary-seeming conventions have to be accepted, rather than arguing over moral minutia in each and every case.

If I'm driving and I find myself mistakenly going over the posted speed limit, should I turn myself in for breaking the law?

No, I don't think so. If you were actually acting dangerously, then I suppose so (but better yet, just don't endanger others).

Another important point to bear in mind is that bad laws also undermine the rule of law. They are a denial of the function of law (protection of rights), which engenders contempt for the law. Remember that the law is a means to an end -- the protection of rights. It is a serious mistake to think of the law as being an end in and of itself. When it is realised that a particular law is bad, it must be changed.

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This is a great discussion, but I think that Objectivism is being left behind. Remember, there are only three ways to get something that is not yours: steal, beg, trade. Trade is the only method in which both parties maintain their own freedom of rational decision and are able to choose to participate or not to maximize their own advantage. In Nazi Germany, it was comply or die: this is not an ethical choice, this is violence offered instead of an ethical choice. As noted in the "this is John Galt" speach of Atlas Shrugged, those who initiate violence can expect to be met by violent resistance. Disobeying laws designed to remove your ability to live can be expected.

The case of illegal immigration is totally different. The immigrant wants to obtain citizenship or residency in America. An immigrant can beg, citing need, and often America will grant residency. An immigrant can trade, offering to become a productive, contributing, and loyal citizen, and go through the traditional path to citizenship through learning, employment, etc. Or there is a third way: you can steal it.

This is the path of the illegal immigrant. We have the good stuff - they will break into our house and take it. Take our security for themselves, our road system, our capitalistic sucess that makes so many jobs possible.

Every one is this forum who appears to think that illegal entry into this country is justified by need, is in exact conflict with the teachings of Objectivism. :dough:

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Why is it that respecting the rule of law doesn't require that I turn myself in if I break the law? Or, when should it require that I do so?

In the case of speeding, if your driving causes injury to another person or his property, you have definitely violated someone rights and you should report it. If nobody was hurt, that's a different story.

In a proper society, all roads would be privately owned. A speed limit would be a contractual condition of use set by the road owner. If you exceeded the speed limit, it would be up to the road owner to act -- to ban you from his property, bring a civil suit to recover his damages, etc. Until the roads are privately owned, I would likewise regard traffic laws as contractual conditions between me and the road owner -- which is currently the government.

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An immigrant can trade, offering to become a productive, contributing, and loyal citizen, and go through the traditional path to citizenship through learning, employment, etc. Or there is a third way: you can steal it.

  This is the path of the illegal immigrant. We have the good stuff - they will break into our house and take it. Take our security for themselves, our road system, our capitalistic sucess that makes so many jobs possible.

You are wrong about the last category, and that is the problem with immigration policy. The US government regularly denies foreigners the right to enter the country for the purpose of trading and working for a living. The vast majority of illegal immigrants are in the US precisely to follow that last path but the government denies them that right. It is not the business of the government to say that I cannot hire some guy who came here from Mexico looking for the freedom to work for money. That guy is stealing nothing: he finds people who voluntarily give him money in exchange for his labor; he finds people who voluntarily let him rent an apartment in exchange for some of the money that he has earned.

You aren't being compelled to hire any illegal immigrant, so if you don't want to give him your money in exchange for his labor, that's your right and reflects your values. If these guys will do a decent day's work without charging an arm and a leg, you can bet that I'm going to hire them, which is my right. I'm inviting him into my house, which is my business; if you want to keep him out of your private house, that's your business.

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Every one is this forum who appears to think that illegal entry into this country is justified by need, is in exact conflict with the teachings of Objectivism. ;)

Please provide one quote from somebody in this thread arguing that illegal immigration is justified on the basis of the immigrant's need, or retract that statement.

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I do retract my statement. I apologize, and I note that I did not find a direct quote supporting what I stated, that folks were claiming illegal immigration was justified based on need. :D

I suppose I was getting a feeling from the posts in general that because we have stuff, and they (foreign folk) do not, that somehow they get a right to break into our country. That's what I was reacting to.

I do feel that illegal immigration is immoral. Let me try and explain:

First, to consider whether a law is just or unjust, moral or immoral, in its application, I would think that first off, that law should apply to the person who's actions are in question. Our American laws do not apply to non-citizens living outside our country. Nobody living in South America or Mexico, for example, is subject to our laws. But then they cross our borders by stealth, because indeed we do not have an open and unregulated border - and then upon entry into America they are breaking our laws. So at that point, do they have a moral position?

It is moral to disobey a law that seeks to take your life away. Thus, if the law forbids you from earning any money, but then does not allow you any food, so you will just starve and die, then certainly you should disobey that law. If the law says "wear a yellow star" because you are a Jew in Germany just before the war, then you disobey that law if you want to live. But our laws are not forced on any other country's citizens. Our laws deprive no other country's citizens of rights at all, certainly not rights that seek their life or livelihood. Rather, the illegal alien by choice forces their way into our land, and then resides here as an active lawbreaker. So that's point one.

Point two is, do illegal aliens take the results of legal immigrant's and citizen's productive labor away from them, involuntarily, without trade? (and therefore, should we care if someone is in fact an illegal alien?) It has been argued that they seek work, that their employment is a rational and voluntary exchange of value with an employer and thus fully supported by the tenets of Objectivism. I do not disagree - with that one point about their employment. But what benefits do residents of America have that residents of so many other countries do not? America is a mixed economy and very high taxes are paid for considerable infrastructure and available benefits: fire, police, roads, border security (ironic, no?), national defense, social services, subsidized health care, all the varieties of welfare, all the trappings of our large democratic government. Who pays for these? I do. You do, assuming you are a legal immigrant (resident alien) or a citizen. We pay for these in the form of our taxes. Do illegal immigrants pay for these? Or do they simply use these vast services, paid for by others, entitled not by their contribution but by the sole standard of sucessful stealth in penetrating our country?

Lest you think that illegal aliens do pay much more than sales tax, I have to say that part of what I do for a living involves running social security indexes on applicants for benefits. You can always tell when the applicant is an illegal alien: the index comes back with 10 or 15 or sometimes 30 names. All folk using the same, usually fake social security number. Do you really think that 15 illegal aliens, using the same fake social, are filing income tax? They only use the number because they can't get hired without one.

Falsifying a social security number for the purpose of gaining employment means that in order to perform a rational and voluntary trade of values with their employer they will at the same time steal benefits paid by and intended for others. What they are stealing are all the expensive benefits of American citizenship listed earlier. Every illegal alien protected by the police, saved by the fire department, treated for free at a hospital, given food stamps, given counseling, even simply driving on the publically funded roadways, are consuming the fruits of someone elses productive labor without any payment or contribution at all. Your contribution. Your real money that you worked to earn. And that is immoral.

Thus, my final conclusion is that, since the illegal alien voluntarily chooses to place him or herself under a set of laws that originally did not apply to them, and then to break those laws, and then by necessity take without payment the production of others, that illegal aliens commit an immoral act when they sneak across our borders.

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I do feel that illegal immigration is immoral. Let me try and explain:

First, to consider whether a law is just or unjust, moral or immoral, in its application, I would think that first off, that law should apply to the person who's actions are in question.

The problem is that there is NO LEGAL WAY for many good and decent people seeking to be free, self-supporting American citizens to do it.

There is a quota of how many people from each country can become permanent residents (get a green card) in any given year. From many countries, like Canada, the quota is ZERO. I have a friend from Honduras who would like to bring his business here and become an American citizen. He has been on a waiting list for a green card for twenty years. His housekeeper, however, entered the country illegally, got amnesty, a green card, and eventually became a citizen.

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The problem is that there is NO LEGAL WAY for many good and decent people seeking to be free, self-supporting American citizens to do it.

Two questions I hope someone can answer for me:

One: What gives anyone on earth an inherent right to be an American? So much so that they can leave their own country and break into ours (let's admit that, at least, they are sneaking across the border by definition) and then exist illegally among us - and they are defined as moral?

Two: Can anyone answer my earlier assertion that the illegal alien will unavoidably consume benefits produced and paid for by others at no cost to themselves; ie, steal them?

I am absolutely ready to reverse my opinion that illegal aliens act in an immoral fashion if someone can show me that they have a right to be here, that their right is superior to a requirement to obey our laws (not just residency laws, mind you, but income tax laws, etc), and that they do not take from me and all other taxpayers the fruits of our productive labor by their evasion of such laws.

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I am not sure who originally brought up the point, but I think it is an important one: immigration is a right, not a privilege bestowed by the government. There is no basis for allowing someone born here to leave and enter the country and denying someone born elsewhere that right. There is the practical matter of keeping criminals and terrorists out, but that is the only valid reason to deny anyone entry to America.

Btw, John Galt, not paying taxes is not “stealing.” That’s ridiculous, and if you think that, you don’t deserve the handle of “John Galt.” It’s perfectly moral, if you can get away with it. It’s in fact immoral to pay taxes, if you can safely get away with not paying them. I immigrated to America legally myself, but if I felt could benefit by coming here illegally, I would certainly do so.

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I'm surprised that no one on this forum is considering the implications of open immigration for fighting terrorism. I tend to side with the conservatives on this issue, if only on their point that we have look carefully at the backgrounds of those who want to come here. Many of the terrorists who attacked the WTC and Pentagon could have been stopped if we had only enforced the immigration laws we have.

I fear that many of us on this board assume that everyone who comes to America does so with good intentions, but that is not always the case. How can we structure our immigration laws to protect ourselves from those who would do us harm, while respecting the rights of the majority of immigrants who genuinely want a better life in this country?

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I wouldn't say that anything other than fully open borders is morally defensible under laissez faire, so I would have to disagree with the conservatives. However open borders certainly isnt incompatible with rigorous background checks on potential immigrants - ideally anyone who wanted entry to a country would be allowed in, after a customary check on their background to make sure they werent affiliated with terrorist groups or whatever. Obviously the implementation of this would be a lot more difficult than I've stated here and its likely that some undesirables will get through anyway, but I would argue that this will happen regardless of the system you have in place.

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I'm surprised that no one on this forum is considering the implications of open immigration for fighting terrorism. 

Perhaps you have not read enough posts. Several people here, including myself, have pointed out the need to exclude not only terrorists, but the criminal element in general. We certainly would not like the United States to become a haven for wanted criminals from other parts of the world. And, there are other proper screening functions which should be employed; screening for serious contagious diseases, for instance.

Open immigration means that people, in general, should be free to move about as they please, as long as they do not violate the rights of others. Criminals of all sorts have lost that right, and no one can claim as a right infecting others with a serious contagious disease.

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