This was originally written as a single editorial, but I have decided to break it down into 3 parts to make it easier for everyone to digest.
Are immigration laws even necessary or is this all just racism and scapegoating?
I used to think immigration laws were totally necessary. I used to have the widely shared view that people coming into this country had better do it legally, and they had better follow a set of guidelines and should be vetted properly to ensure they meet our standard of citizenry. I used to think, why should people come here use our resources and take our jobs and leave us to flip the bill?
Let’s start with the necessity of immigration. If we look at the why question in Part 2, it’s easy to see that instead of blaming someone else for our own problems we should try to focus on solving them. That requires figuring out what the problem actually is.
(Please bear with my very abridged generalization of events below for the sake of eventually making a point without writing a 14 volume catalog on the history of the United States…)
When we had an influx of illegal immigration during the 1800’s, industry was booming. But we started cutting off almost all of our imported cheap labor by the turn of the century and even more so into the 20’s. The Great Depression aside, industries had to spend lots of capital on innovation to replace the missing cheap labor.
Around the same time, American workers were tired of putting up with crappy, dangerous working conditions, and lower pay. They formed labor unions which lead to higher regulations and the eventual creation social bailout programs. The unions also helped fuel racial animosities looking for scapegoats for work shortages in certain industries which only reinforced the reflexive “need” for tighter immigration laws. The innovation that did replace the cheap unskilled labor eventually required less workers which resulted in higher unemployment. This eventually lead to Public works and even more social programs such as social security.
Enter WWII. America blindly and without recognition, embraced socialism, to make up for the fact that most of our workforce has been sent overseas fighting. Women started taking up the mantel typically reserved at the time for men, as the head of the household and the new provider. Rationing and stamp programs, massive recycling, and conservation efforts, government takeover of industries and assigned worker placements became the new normal. Once the war ended many of these changes reverted back but not all of them. The Government intervention and war contracts started to pay off in a big way, while regulatory and social changes reamian. Government growth became the new normal. People started going back to work. The war created a plethora of new innovations and wealth which in turn created more skilled higher paying jobs, for a workforce willing to take them. Not only was immigration not deemed necessary at this point, but it was pretty unwelcomed as a whole. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 reinforced this notion.
During the baby boom the agricultural industry had a rapidly expanding need for unskilled labor and eventually got a huge shot in the arm with the Mexican Bracero Program. The old racial animosities and scapegoats of against the Chinese of yesteryear started being replaced by the hatred of an expanding popluation of Mexican migrant farm workers. The program was repealed over 50 years ago but the need for cheap labor labor remained. The influx of illegal Mexicans still seems to be the driver of our immigration fears to this day.
One of the common complaints I hear a lot is that illegals cut into our social programs. As a conservative the solution to this is easy. The problem isn’t that people who would otherwise be considered legal if not for the required paperwork, might get some of the government handouts intended for citizens. It’s that these massive government programs exist in the first place. Why are we so worried about people taking what we are already not happy with? Maybe you think they are getting free stuff without paying for any of it? You’d be wrong again. Did you know that illegal immigrants pay over $13 billion in payroll taxes and $12 billion in state and local taxes each year?(procon.org) Did you know most illegals are not eligible for social security benefits? I guess no taxation without representation does not apply!
Another common concern is in the vetting of illegals. We don’t know who these people are. How do we know we are not letting in a terrorist? Well, we don’t. But many modern terrorists have been either residents or citizens who were recruited in the United States long after they had already arrived. I liken this to the gun debate that grabbers always like to give. They often say that we need to strengthen our vetting of who can purchase a gun to prevent mass shootings, when almost all of the time, the shooter purchased the guns well before they went nuts, or obtained them illegally in which case vetting wouldn’t and often didn’t work anyway.
Bad people do bad things whether they are citizens, illegals, or sasquatch. People like to point to the few instances of high profile crimes that are FOX News famous as a reason to keep an entire race of people out. Or they use that silly MS-13 argument. In both cases we are talking about an infinitesimal amount of the population of illegals, which don’t represent even .01% of the people they wish to keep on the other side of the border. That’s called a scapegoat. We need to do much better than that.
Is it qualifications? President Donald Trump says we only want the best of the best. People like Albert Einstein never would have made it here under that standard. Have you taken a look at our citizenry lately? I’d take piles of illegal immigrants over 1/2 the people I see freaking out on TV and social media everyday. We clearly are not in the position to expect a higher standard from immigrants than that which our own President displays on a daily basis.
Is it maybe the very act of committing what is now a misdemeanor to cross the border, bypassing the massive bureaucratic process of coming here legally and dealing with the limited outdated quota system that’s got everyone all riled up? Well that argument kills itself on its face. If it wasn’t illegal to come here in the first place… problem solved?
So what’s left? Why do people still feel the need to have immigration laws? I fear the most likely is also the ugliest answer and it’s probably more to do with conditioning and upbringing, rather than a purposefully conscious thing. If it truly is just plain old racism, then maybe we don’t really deserve to have the freedoms we pretend to care so much for in the first place?
How can one truly enjoy freedom and liberty without doing whatever you can to extend it to another?