Monday, May 22, 2006

The Problem With The Legal/Illegal Distinction

Perhaps the biggest of the arguments in the immigration debate is the distinction between legal and illegal immigration, and that the issue here is only about those who break our laws. The problem with this argument (and with current immigration law) is that they are totally divorced from reality.

Put yourself in the following situation: You are a Mexican, and your family is suffering because the best job you can find to support them pays only 2 dollars a day, which isn't even enough to feed everyone sufficiently. You've had little education, you can't read or write, and you've grown up in poverty. You've heard that to the north, in the United States, you can make not just 2 dollars a day, but 2 dollars an hour, just by picking vegetables and doing other similar jobs. Maybe you know the "legal method" for going north and getting a job, or maybe you don't. But you know that there are plenty of ways you can get across the border, and start working for your family now. Regardless of what you know, coming here "illegally" is far simpler then having to wade through the American bureaucracy and come through "official channels." What would you do?

The problem with this legal/illegal distinction is that it assumes our laws are morally right and efficient. For those who support immigration quotas at their current levels, you need to defend why it would not be efficient and morally right to greatly expand the number of legal immigrants we allow into the country. If securing our borders and national security are the most important issues in this immigration debate, why should we not solve the problem in the most efficient manner possible- letting more people in. Clearly, with at least 12 million illegal immigrants in the country already we can handle a lot more than we're taking in through legal routes.

And more importantly, what is the moral problem with opening our borders to foreigners, when the businesses, consumers, and the immigrants themselves are all the better because of their move to America?


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