Saturday, May 15, 2010

Immigration

By Diana Hsieh

[Note: This post is part of Modern Paleo's weekend schedule of blogging on Objectivism on Saturdays and free market politics on Sundays.]

Recently, the topic of immigration has flared up again, thanks to the stringent anti-immigration law recently passed in Arizona. Unlike conservatives seeking to close our borders to any new faces, Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism advocates open immigration as the only policy consistent with respect for individual rights.

What would a policy of "open borders" mean? As Craig Biddle explained in a 2008 article Immigration and Individual Rights:

Open immigration does not mean that anyone may enter the country at any location or in any manner he chooses; it is not unchecked or unmonitored immigration. Nor does it mean that anyone who immigrates to America should be eligible for U.S. citizenship--the proper requirements of which are a separate matter. Open immigration means that anyone is free to enter and reside in America--providing that he enters at a designated checkpoint and passes an objective screening process, the purpose of which is to keep out criminals, enemies of America, and people with certain kinds of contagious diseases. Such a policy is not only politically right; it is morally right.
Biddle argues for that policy of open borders based on the moral right of each person to live his own life by his own judgment. As a taste, he says:
America's border is not properly a barrier for the purpose of keeping foreigners out; it is properly a boundary designating the area in which the U.S. government must protect rights. Rights-respecting foreigners who want to cross that boundary in order to enjoy the relative freedom and abundant opportunity in America have a moral right to do so. Likewise, American citizens who want to associate with foreigners in rights-respecting ways--whether through friendship, romance, recreation, or commerce--have a moral right to do so. And Americans who do not want to associate with foreigners have a moral right not to associate with them. But no one--including the government--has a moral right to prevent anyone from acting on his judgment.
If you're interested in this issue, I recommend reading the whole article.

As an addition to the points raised by Biddle about the proper response to terrorism, I would add that, contrary to popular myth, national security would be enhanced, not diminished, by open borders. Our current slew of inane restrictions on immigration creates enormous financial incentives for shady people willing to smuggle workers into the United States. While most of the smuggled workers are simply seeking a better life, terrorists can easily use those same shady networks to cross the border too. Without the black market in immigrants created by our government, those terrorists would be left without any help from smugglers... because the smugglers wouldn't exist.

On a more personal note, I simply cannot fathom viewing immigrants as a threat to my life or my work. I welcome the variety and vitality that many immigrants offer. I admire the courage of people willing to travel to distant lands in search of a better life. I want the best and brightest people in the world to work for the companies I patronize. I just don't care where people were born: I care what they make of their lives.

Illegal immigrants are not mere criminals, as conservatives claim. They're not "undocumented workers," as progressives say. They're the victims of our unjust laws. It's time to fix that.

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