It’s about time the U.S. em­braced my im­mi­gra­tion plan

The Star Democrat - - OPINION - DAVID HARSANYI David Harsanyi is a se­nior ed­i­tor at The Fed­er­al­ist and the au­thor of the book “First Free­dom: A Ride Through Amer­ica’s En­dur­ing History With the Gun.” To read fea­tures by other Cre­ators Syn­di­cate writ­ers and car­toon­ists, visit the Cre­ator

Judg­ing from my Twit­ter feed, I’m some sort of na­tivist hate­mon­ger for believ­ing that bor­ders should be en­forced and that na­tional sovereignty mat­ters. This is a wholly un­fair char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of my views, be­cause on im­mi­gra­tion I’m also some­what of an elit­ist RINO. Un­sur­pris­ingly, I be­lieve that my three broad no­tions about im­mi­gra­tion are quite rea­son­able.

1) Let’s bet­ter pro­tect our bor­ders. Do most Amer­i­cans re­ally be­lieve that bor­ders are im­moral? Be­lieve it or not, not very long ago, the con­sen­sus among most po­lit­i­cal fac­tions was that par­ti­tions be­tween na­tions were le­git­i­mate and use­ful. I tend to be­lieve in na­tional self-de­ter­mi­na­tion, so I’m a “yes” on that ques­tion. And if you think it’s a straw man, you haven’t been pay­ing at­ten­tion to the ar­gu­ments of high-pro­file Democrats.

Even now, polls show that though most Amer­i­cans don’t like the idea of a bor­der wall — a no­tion that’s taken on par­ti­san di­men­sions — they still be­lieve there’s some level of cri­sis at the south­ern bor­der. Politi­cians cer­tainly shouldn’t dem­a­gogue the prob­lem, but I imag­ine that most Amer­i­cans would con­sider even just six ter­ror sus­pects ap­pre­hended at the bor­der (well, six names that ap­pear on the ter­ror­ist data­base and hap­pened to get caught) to be six too many.

Be­cause whether the num­ber of im­mi­grants here il­le­gally is 25 mil­lion or 10, whether cross­ings are ris­ing or fall­ing, peo­ple breaking laws and im­pos­ing them­selves on an­other coun­try with­out per­mis­sion un­der­mines the abil­ity of cit­i­zens in that coun­try to make their own de­ci­sions — and that in­cludes craft­ing a co­her­ent im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy.

More­over, any lib­eral re­form on im­mi­gra­tion — in­clud­ing any form of amnesty — is go­ing to be un­ten­able if would-be im­mi­grants are in­cen­tivized to not only break the law but also put them­selves in dan­ger by cross­ing ar­eas of our por­ous bor­der. (And yes, I re­al­ize that the habit of over­stay­ing visas is also a big driver of il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.)

2) Strong bor­der se­cu­rity doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily in­hibit le­gal im­mi­gra­tion; in fact, it might spur it. I hap­pen to sup­port in­creases in le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, in­clud­ing work visas. I just want peo­ple to check in. I sup­port cit­i­zen­ship — not just a form of “le­gal­iza­tion” — for non-felon “Dream­ers,” who, for the most part, were brought here and won’t be prop­erly as­sim­i­lated with­out cit­i­zen­ship. See­ing as the econ­omy isn’t a zero-sum propo­si­tion as a num­ber of peo­ple in both par­ties seem to be­lieve these days, there’s a good case that im­mi­grants help the econ­omy grow and make us richer.

These are lib­eral po­si­tions. If vot­ers dis­agree, Con­gresses and pres­i­dents can cal­i­brate the lev­els of im­mi­gra­tion to com­port with what­ever demo­cratic will dic­tates. They can’t do that with any con­fi­dence when we have mil­lions of un­doc­u­mented peo­ple in the coun­try.

Right now, mil­lions of Amer­i­cans are un­der the im­pres­sion that im­mi­grants here il­le­gally are steal­ing their jobs — and in some sense, they are. My own eco­nomic view is that those work­ers gen­er­ally help Amer­i­can con­sumers and the econ­omy, but telling work­ing-class peo­ple that they’re big­ots for hav­ing ap­pre­hen­sions about peo­ple who both cir­cum­vent the law and un­der­cut their salaries isn’t help­ing this cause.

It’s quite plau­si­ble, in fact, that a more ef­fec­tive bor­der would mel­low at­ti­tudes about new­com­ers in gen­eral. Polls show that Amer­i­cans al­ready sup­port le­gal im­mi­gra­tion in huge num­bers. A less chaotic sys­tem would most likely en­hance that view­point.

3) Let’s em­brace di­ver­sity rather than al­low peo­ple in the clos­est prox­im­ity to de­fine pol­icy. After all, if one of the goals of im­mi­gra­tion is to en­hance Amer­i­can di­ver­sity, we shouldn’t al­low those clos­est to the bor­der to dic­tate the pa­ram­e­ters of Amer­i­can im­mi­gra­tion. I un­der­stand that Hon­duras is an ap­palling place, rife with crime and poverty, but so is Chad. I re­al­ize that Gu­atemalans are op­pressed, but so are Cop­tic Chris­tians in Egypt.

That said, if we want a di­verse set of im­mi­grants, we should wel­come those with use­ful skills and those with no skills at all. Mil­lions of hu­man be­ings in this world lack skills be­cause they haven’t been al­lowed to de­velop their gifts in the theo­cratic, so­cial­is­tic or cor­rupt so­ci­eties they live in. As we’ve seen with the most suc­cess­ful im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tions that em­brace Amer­i­can val­ues — those from China, Nige­ria and Eastern Europe — some peo­ple just need a chance.

Of course, in prac­tice, con­vert­ing these broad con­cepts into pol­icy would be in­cred­i­bly com­plex. What­ever im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy ul­ti­mately looks like, though, it shouldn’t be forced on us by the ac­tions of oth­ers.

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