Friday, February 08, 2008

What about illegals?

A friend recently asked me a couple of questions about illegal immigration. For what it's worth, here's a slightly edited version of my original answer.


That's a complicated question to answer. With respect to your first question:

1. I don’t object to illegal aliens simply because they’re here illegally. One of the first questions we need to ask ourselves is not whether something is illegal, but whether it ought to be illegal. If we have bad laws, we need to change the law.

2. Illegals are not all of a kind, so I’m going to mention certain types of illegals which I object to:

i) I object to illegals who come here simply to leech off the welfare state. I don’t approve of the welfare state to begin with. I don’t approve of income redistribution generally. Since I don’t approve of the welfare state for American citizens, I don’t approve of extending the welfare state to illegals. That merely worsens a bad situation.

Our social obligations are concentric. My primary obligation is to support my own family.

Now, there are situations in which you and I benefit if we pool our resources. But that still involves a principle of reciprocity. I do something for your family if you do something in return.

One of the problems with the welfare state is that it tends to garnish responsible wage earners and transfer their income to subsidize the folks with an irresponsible lifestyle.

ii) Apropos (i), I object to illegals who come here for what they can get rather than what they can give back.

iii) I object to illegals who imagine, out of some arrogant sense of entitlement, that the host country should accommodate the customs which they brought with them from the country they left behind. For example, there’s no reason our government should issue official forms in foreign language.

I have no problem with immigrants speaking their mother tongue. But the host government is under no obligation to speak their language. Same thing with bilingual education.

In general, I don’t object to immigrants who bring their culture with them. But that’s different than imposing foreign customs on the host country. Cultural change and exchange should be voluntary rather than coercive.

BTW, I’m not just talking about, say, illegal Mexican immigrants. Legal Muslim immigrants are just as bad or worse in this respect.

iv) Not only is this arrogant, but it’s often hypocritical. If the country they left behind was so great, why did they leave it behind? If they’re coming to America for a better life, then why are they trying to turn America into a carbon copy of the culture which they came to America to escape?

v) Apropos (iv), I object to illegals who come to America to escape a dysfunctional culture, only to import their dysfunctional social mores into American society. An example would be Mexican street gangs, the Mexican Mafia, and other suchlike.

vi) Apropos (v), I do think that foreign nationals have some responsibility for reforming their own dysfunctional countries. America cannot absorb all the poor people of the world.

Many poor countries have natural resources. Many poor countries have a rich cultural heritage. It should be possible to make those countries viable.

vii) Another problem with the S. border is that Mexico doesn’t extradite illegals who commit a capital offense here, then flee to Mexico.

viii) Illegal labor dries up blue-collar jobs for American citizens. It contributes to joblessness.

At the same time, many American businesses like to exploit all of that dirt-cheap, sweatshop labor right across the border.

ix) There is also a danger that reverse discrimination is fueling a white supremacist movement. Ron Paul’s campaign is tapping into some of that pent up rage and resentment.

The charge of “racism” can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. When legitimate social grievances no longer have a legitimate political outlet, that drives them into angry seditious fringe groups.

x) Incidentally, the S. border gets a lot more attention than the N. border because we don’t have Canadians pouring into our country.

However, the Canadian border does pose a threat to our national security—as well as Canada’s national security. Because Canada has such a lenient policy on immigrants, refugees, and citizens of the UK, it’s a haven for jihadis:

That’s an oft- neglected issue in the controversy over porous borders.

In addition, the Eurabian bureaucrats in Canada are now treating any criticism of the jihadis a hate-crime:

I’m sorry that so many Canadian Christians are at the mercy of their own social engineers in the power elite.

With respect to your second question:

1. It isn’t inherently hypocritical to treat people we know differently than people we don’t. We treat friends better than strangers, and there’s a reason for that.

This doesn’t mean we should treat strangers badly, but there’s nothing inherently hypocritical about making an exception for a friend or acquaintance. Favoritism is an essential component of friendship. It’s part of the social glue which keeps the social fabric in one piece.

Of course, there are situations when this can be hypocritical. A paradigm-case would be bureaucrats who pass laws and prosecute offenders while they exempt themselves from the laws they enforce on everyone else.

2. There’s also a legal and moral distinction between reporting a crime and covering for someone.

i) As a rule, I’m not breaking the law if I don’t turn you in for breaking the law. Now, some localities have laws where, if you belong to a particular profession, you are legally obligated to report a particular crime. But, generally, civilians are not under a legal obligation to report a crime.

ii) And there’s not always a moral obligation to do so. A few years ago a convicted child molester was going to move back into a residential community. He had “served his time.” But before he moved in, one of the neighbors burned the house down.

Now, that’s not something I would do. And I don’t ordinarily approve of arson. And I don’t ordinarily approve of vigilantism. But if I knew who the torched the house, I wouldn’t report him to the authorities.

It situations like this, citizens take the law into their own hands because government officials are shirking their duties. They are failing to protect the populace.

Of course, there are many other situations in which I do have a moral obligation to report a crime. But there are times when it’s none of my business.

Take a stupid law like a smoking ban in a tavern. What do I care whether a customer is smoking in a bar?

My philosophy is: if you’re going to pass a stupid law, enforce it yourself. Don’t expect me to collaborate in your stupidity.

3. On the other hand, it’s one thing to turn a blind eye to certain crimes, but something else to facilitate a crime or actively subvert the legal system. Give him sanctuary. Falsify documents. Destroy evidence. Lie to authorities.

Mind you, there are other circumstances in which this is also permissible. Take the French Resistance. It was permissible for Frenchmen to lie to the Nazis, lie to the puppet regime of the Vichy government. Support an underground insurgency.

One can come up with many parallel examples.

4. Basically, I think that people should break the law at their own risk—as long as they’re not putting others at risk.

If you violate immigration laws, even if I don’t report you, don’t expect me to front for you. You’re on your own as far as the legal system is concerned. You came here at your own risk. You knew the risk. Don’t count on me to bail you out.

It’s like swimming when no lifeguard is on duty. Swim at your own risk. Don’t sue me because I didn’t pay to keep a lifeguard to be on duty around the clock, and someone drowns in his absence.

If you try to cross the Rio Grande, and you’re swept away, that’s a tragedy, but it’s not my fault.

5. There is also a difference between the few and the many. The social infrastructure can absorb a certain amount of criminality—but when it reaches a certain extent or intensity, then that’s intolerable.

It’s like the ER. No, we don’t want someone to bleed to death. When possible, we should be charitable. But if the ER is so overwhelmed by indigent patients that it has to close its doors, then everyone loses.


  1. Comment about the arson on the child-molester's house - interesting.

    Would it be morally defensible to DO the burning?

  2. "However, the Canadian border does pose a threat to our national security—as well as Canada’s national security. Because Canada has such a lenient policy on immigrants, refugees, and citizens of the UK, it’s a haven for jihadis."

    Whoa, whoa, slow down there. This may be true enough, but you forgot our primary countermeasure to prevent terrorists from getting a foothold in our nation. Even if they do get into the country, the Canadian government will tax them to death. They will die a slow death at the hands of Revenue Canada. Muahahaha!

    Btw, the human rights commissions are ridiculous. They invert a basic principle of justice, assuming that the one who is charged is guilty, and the onus is on the charged to clear themselves. They shouldn't be confused with our normal courts -- and from what I've seen, as the article you provided illustrates, groups go to human rights commissions to BYPASS the normal judicial system. Remember, if its a human rights violation, and you speak against it, well, then you are an evil bigot who doesn't like the taste of our wonderful omnitolerant multi-cultural soup (note that Canadian omnitolerance is of course intolerant towards what it thinks is intolerance). You go to the human rights commissions to get some Salem-style justice.

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your posting. What you write about responsible workers being taxed to pay for the lifestyles of the irresponsible - that is classic.

    I want to add something to your dialog about illegals. Europe has a problem with illegal immigration. For decades Europe - especially France and Germany - have welcomed immigrants. Most of these immigrants are Muslims or poor Africans. What have European countries gotten for their trouble? Contempt. So many of these immigrants - and many of them were legal - are multigenerational welfare rotters. Some of them have become part of the terrorist problem facing the West. They won't integrate into society; they just take and take.

    Whenever there is a class of people that thinks they are owed something, the rest of us end up with a problem. In Europe so many of the children of these immigrants feel they deserve a scooter, cell phone, apartment, and job just for having been born. In the US many lament that illegals are coming here "just to get a job." Well, jobs and opportunities are precious things. We are right to enforce immigration laws.

  4. Rhology asked:
    Would it be morally defensible to DO the burning?

    No. The only way this would be ethically permissible is if the state imposed it as a punishment for the child molester. An individual behaving in this manner is usurping the proper governmental authority, and thus it is no different from any other criminal. (Indeed, simply because a victim is also a criminal does not mean the crime against him is justified.)

    In this case, I agree with Steve that the laws about child molesters are woefully unjust. However, it is still the responsibility of the state (and not individuals) to meet out justice. The only way such an action could be morally justified is if, in the process of protecting one's life or property, one engaged in this behavior. Even then, the ethical standard is that you are only justified in using the minimum necessary force to stop someone from committing a crime against you. It is difficult to see how intentionally burning someone's house down would qualify as morally justified here, even if emotionally satisfactory.

    Again, the state is assigned the role of doling out punishment, and that includes depriving a person of his property. While it is sometimes morally justified to usurp the state's authority, it will always remain incumbant upon the one who breaks the law to demonstrate his just reasons for doing so. The presumption must be that his breaking of the law is evil; the burden of proof is not on the law to justify that it applied in this particular case.

  5. Alan,

    Tricky question. One difficulty is that our social obligation sometimes tug in opposing directions. On the one hand, what is a dad suppose to do if a convicted child molester is slated to move into the house next door? He has a right to protect his kids. But he can’t keep them under house arrest. And he can’t escort them wherever they go. So we might contend that he has the right to protect his kids by burning down the house.

    On the other hand, arson investigators would naturally ask who had the most to gain by this action. And suspicion would naturally fall on the next-door neighbors as persons of interest.

    If he were caught and convicted, then he couldn’t provide for his family. So his action would endanger the very rationale he had for contemplating such an action. Is it worth the risk?

    But what if he could do this with impunity? Tempting question.

    I would add, though, that this is not as much of a moral dilemma as it appears to be. We do live in a democracy. It’s possible for the electorate to demand stiffer penalties. But the electorate is too passive to demand that lawmakers fix the situation. So you get what you vote for.

    Speaking for myself, if I were a juror in this case, I’d acquit the defendant.

  6. Game theory! you just gotta love it. it solves the problem here. U.S. social security demographic curve is problematic, after baby boom, therefore, exponential population growth from young, healthy hispanic youth,who have a very high fertility rate, will pull US out of its demographic disaster, (Europe is not so lucky, is in real bad trouble) so is eastern euro/former eastern bloc,allow guest workers with papers, utilizing the lorenz inverse demographic curve, the U/S. will do very well by obliquely "allowing" illegal immigration .and p.s it also allows us to be theological good guys!