The Watcher asked “Do you consider Illegal migration to America a problem, and if so, what would you do about the estimated 11 million illegal aliens already here?” Not only did some of the Council members have an opinion on this one (or, given all of our busy lives, manage to meet the deadline), a few special guests responded too.
Here’s what I had to say, but I very much urge you to read the other responses, most of which make mine look pretty shallow:
The problem isn’t the number of illegal aliens — or, at least, the main problem isn’t the number of illegal aliens. The problem arises when our federal government boldly countenances and supports illegal activity. Ours has always been a nation of laws. Laws provide reliability, stability, justice, and equal opportunities. This is the covenant between the people and the government as explained in the Declaration of Independence and made manifest in the Constitution. Betraying this trust bespeaks a fundamental failure in the relationship between our federal government, which is responsible for using the people’s representatives to enact the laws and the people’s executive to enforce them. The free flow of illegal aliens across the borders — regardless of whether they’re people searching for a better life for their families, helpless young children, or hardened criminals — is a gaping hole in the existential fabric of a constitutional democracy.
So yes, I do consider illegal migration to America to be a problem. As to what to do with the estimated 11 million illegal aliens already here, that’s a more vexing practical problem. Ethically, I’d like to deport all of them, but I know that’s almost impossible to do and (yes, even a conservative gets this) that doing so is a humane problem. I would draw an admittedly arbitrary bright line (because there are no non-arbitrary lines) in the sand and say that those who have been here more than five years will get a temporary green card and must immediately put themselves on the waiting list (no priority) to become a legal resident. Those staying under the green card would then have all the legal rights and responsibilities of any other green card residents — and no greater rights. Those who have been here less than five years would get deported, but without prejudice to put themselves on the waiting list.
As for that waiting list, if the U.S. really needs the cheap labor illegal immigrants provide, then the laws should be changed ASAP to admit more legal immigrants. If we’ve been lying about the necessity of cheap labor, we need to be honest about that with the American public. Incidentally, lowering taxes, especially employment taxes, might reveal that the only virtue of illegal labor has been the ability to pay illegal immigrants under the table.
When it comes to hard work, the illegal immigrant population is, for the most part, an admirable one. I hope I make it clear that my concern about illegal immigrants has to do with the integrity of the American social, economic, and political contract, and not with any animus towards those Hispanics who come here. As I’ve argued before, they’re reasonable to leave their often dysfunctional economies. I’ve also argued that, by countenancing illegal immigration, we immorally provide a safety valve to those dysfunctional, usually corrupt, countries from which they come.