Thursday, May 10, 2012


. Thursday, May 10, 2012

What follows is prompted by the news that the Justice Department has filed suit against Joe Arpaio, Sheriff of Maricopa County, AZ, alleging that he has violated the civil "rights of Hispanic inmates and suspects." 

Every semester when I teach I find 5 or 10 minutes to deliver a rant. It's the only rant on an overtly normative topic that I consistently give, and no component of my students' grade is contingent upon how they respond to it. It's not much, and I'm sure it has no effect. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to give it. It's about immigration, and how bollocksed-up both our public policy and ideological orientation is to immigration. I try to attack on several fronts at once:

1. If you express faith in the utilitarian value of free markets, then you can't be selective. If capital and goods markets are to be free, then labor markets should be as well.

2. If you express concern about development and the plight of the poor, then you can't be selective. If we want to reduce poverty, then we need to encourage things that reduce poverty. Freer immigration is near the top of that list.

3. If you think that corporation are -- on balance -- a force for good in the world, then you should favor things that help corporations form and prosper. Access to an eager labor force is attractive to corporations, as they have repeatedly made clear.

4. If you wish to emancipate the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free then you should let them breathe free. Let them escape the rule of the corrupt and capricious. Let them engage in the pursuit of happiness. In other words, if the word "solidarity" means anything to you, then show solidarity.

5. If you are not a nativist, nor any other sort of bigot, then you should support policies that are anti-nativist and anti-bigot.

6. If you are concerned about demographic changes, the fiscal balance, the state of the economies of most advanced industrial nations, then you should support actions that will bring young workers into the population, who will pay taxes and help bring the economy and public balance sheet back into a sustainable equilibrium.

7. If you care about the rights of humans, then surely the rights of freedom of movement and association are at the top of your list.

I feel like this little rant gives little room for dissenters to move. They can't be make a market-based argument. They can't make an anti-market-based argument. They can't make a liberty-based argument. Slight objections -- such as "national security" -- are very easily slapped away by both statistics and simple logic.* All that remains is some form of bigotry, either soft or not-so-soft, and these are not restricted to either side of the left-right political spectrum.

There is no good moral, ethical, economic, or pragmatic reason for continuing the horrible immigration policies we currently enforce in the U.S. and throughout the developed world. There are very good reasons to support liberalizing human movement from all over the ideological political spectrum, from the internationalist left to the corporatist right. There are no very good reasons to oppose it other than nativism, which is both ugly and incoherent. This is equally true whether it comes from the left or the right.

In my opinion this is the greatest civil rights issue of our time. And we're failing.

*Statistically, so far as I can tell, almost no immigrants are terrorists or otherwise threaten the integrity of their host countries. It's not even clear that immigration increases rates of crime -- setting aside the abhorrent fact that walking across an imaginary line is a crime in and of itself -- despite the fact that most immigrants are young and poor, which are (statistically) the most likely groups to resort to crime.


Greg Weeks said...

Unfortunately, both logic and facts go out the window with immigration.

LFC said...

Agree with the post.

Would also note that, acc. to fairly recent WaPo article (which I trust I've recalled correctly), more Mexicans living in the US returned to Mexico last year than the number of Mexicans crossing the US border (legally or otherwise). In fact I think G.Weeks may have posted on this.

LFC said...

Last line: I mean crossing the border into the US. Outflow was greater than inflow, iow.

Kindred Winecoff said...

My understanding is that that is correct, and has been since 2008 or so.


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