08 Jun 2007

A Better Immigration Policy Proposal: No Policy

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The Immigration Bill didn’t really please anybody (except for George W. Bush, and who cares what he thinks?), and died a deserved death last night during a procedural vote in the Senate.

Becky Akers and Donald J. Boudreaux, in the Christian Science Monitor of all places, supply the right answers: no restrictions on immigration, no welfare for immigrants.

The Constitution does not authorize the federal government to control immigration. Nor does it say anything about illegal aliens. We looked for a clause with directions for ranking immigrants on a points system – another feature of the Senate’s reform bill – but we couldn’t find one.

Sadly, lawmakers have repeatedly interpreted this silence as license for ill-conceived legislation. Congress began barring entry to the nation in 1875 with prostitutes and convicts. Soon, all sorts of people fell short of congressional glory: ex-convicts in 1882, along with Chinese citizens, lunatics, and idiots. Paupers, polygamists, and people suffering from infectious diseases or insanity made the list in 1891, while the illiterate were banned in 1917. …

Given the talk about point systems, guest-worker programs, and fenced borders, you’d think immigration endangers America’s cultural and economic wealth. But just as the unhampered flow of goods and services – free trade – blesses participants, the easy flow of workers – free labor markets – also brings unprecedented prosperity.

By contrast, schemes to control immigrants hurt everyone, native or newcomer, and not just economically. Customs agents often abuse immigrants at the borders, but they also interrogate, search, and fine returning Americans.

Immigrants must produce the proper papers for bureaucrats’ inspection, but so do their American employers and landlords. And let’s not even think about the scary implications of the draconian Real ID Act.

As technology and globalization continue shrinking the world, people and ideas move more quickly and freely. Political borders become increasingly irrelevant. But that’s fine because the qualities that define Americans don’t depend on geography. Rather, it’s their history of liberty, pluck, ingenuity, optimism, and the pursuit of happiness. Culture is a matter of mind and spirit. Why entrust it to politicians, border guards, and green cards?

The ideal immigration policy for this smaller world would harmonize with both the Constitution and common decency. It wouldn’t deny anyone the inalienable right to come and go. …

If Congress seriously wants reform, it might begin by returning decisions on immigration to the individuals involved, in obedience to the Constitution’s Ninth and 10th Amendments.

But Congress will need to go further. Requiring taxpayers to subsidize immigrants’ healthcare, education, food, shelter, or anything else breeds resentment.

Plenty of private charities will extend a hand to newcomers, not to mention friends and families eager to help their countrymen adjust to American life. …

What do we do about the 12 million illegal immigrants already here? Apologizing for their poor welcome is a start. Then we can hire them, patronize their businesses, become friends. So long as we don’t control them, and they don’t expect our taxes to support them, goodwill should prevail on both sides. …

Quota-wielding bureaucrats should not define the country’s demographic destiny. It’s time to let the free choices of millions of individuals determine America’s complexion.

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Hat tip to Frank A. Dobbs.

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