By Doug Newman
I originally wrote this on August 9, 2001.
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“…always you are consistent and consider the boneheaded implications of feel good herd mentality quick fix solutions.” — JK in Colorado
Such were the comments of one of my regular readers after a piece in which I dissected and exposed the hidden costs of a liberally-oriented business regulation recently enacted in Colorado. I wonder what he will think when I expose the hidden costs of a proposal that has the support of many conservatives: closing the borders to stop immigration.
In June, I took a new job. When one does this nowadays, one fills out a battery of paperwork which includes an I-9 form from then Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). By filling out this form you affirm that you are legally qualified to work in the United States. The form was returned to me twice because of the most infinitesimal imperfections. The INS just as unforgiving as the IRS when it comes to paperwork. When filling out the form the third time, I said something to the effect of “Why on earth do I have to genuflect before people who point machine guns at six-year-olds?”
Yes, I was referring to these storm troopers. If the INS is this authoritarian when immigration is still permitted, how much more so will they be if those who desire a moratorium on immigration have their way? This is a question we must ask.
Closing down the borders, just like any other government program, is rife with unintended costs and consequences. Proponents of closing the borders, just like proponents of socialized medicine, never discuss these costs. Let us first ask why we have so many immigrants of the type we don’t want.
The United States has the world’s largest and most lavish welfare state. Whenever you give away money, schooling, health care, housing, or anything else, you create an endless number of people who will line up to take advantage of these goodies. Furthermore, when social and educational policies imply that one need not learn English, large numbers of people will fail to assimilate into the mainstream.
Whenever you subsidize something, you inevitably get more of it. When you stop subsidizing laziness and ignorance, you will get less of it. You will have far fewer deadbeats, layabouts, sluggards, and ne’er-do-wells coming here to sponge off the rest of us.
I observed the other end of the immigrant spectrum in my work as an insurance agent. At my suburban Denver office, I had clients who hailed from Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Japan, China, Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, India, Poland, Rumania, Germany, Norway, Egypt, Nigeria, Bosnia, Belarus, Russia and other countries. They were productive, hard working, well educated, responsible, and family-oriented. I had a few who said they did not speak good English. While their English may have been a bit broken, it was easy to understand. This lack of confidence was commendable, as it indicated an emphasis of fluency in English if one wanted to assimilate into the American mainstream.
This second kind of immigrant, i.e. the good kind, poses no threat to you or me. It was reassuring to watch so many of them improve their English, get better jobs, move into nicer houses, and to watch their children make the honor roll in school. Oh sure, a few of these kids would wear jeans a few sizes too large, but that was the worst of it. If one could measure the caliber of their citizenship as opposed to those of their schoolmates who were born in America, one would be impressed.
In the last week, in my neighborhood, Mexicans have made my chicken tacos, Koreans have dry cleaned my suits, and a gentleman from Gabon made some change for me at a convenience store. There is a large tradition of immigrants working in small businesses. Small businesses are already overtyrannized by the regulatory state. They do not have the deep pockets larger companies have to comply with these regulations. Every regulation you impose is a sort of tax. Businesses pass these costs on to customers in the form of – you guessed it – higher prices. Nothing in life is free, including immigration regulations.
If we close the borders, or even if we severely tighten immigration laws, how many small businesses are we prepared to lose? Minimum wage and other laws have already done unspeakable damage to small businesses, poor neighborhoods, and unskilled workers in America. How much worse do we want to make this situation?
Proponents of tougher immigration laws complain that aliens take jobs from Americans. If you were a business owner would you rather hire an industrious alien or a lazy American? If you would rather hire the lazy American, that is your prerogative. But don’t impose this philosophy on the entire nation.
Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution empowers Congress “To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization” and “To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution (this power)”. I have no problem with naturalization laws when it comes to such things as determining who can vote or who can have access to classified information. I have no problem with the feds monitoring the borders for potential terrorists who may enter the country, provided of course the rest of the Constitution is followed in the process. I have a big problem with putting the whole nation in a straitjacket in the name of curbing immigration. Just because the Constitution authorizes a power, this does not justify everything done in the name of exercising this power.
Yeah, but how about patrolling the border to stop the flow of drugs? Well, drugs to not “flow” across the border. People transport drugs in because millions of Americans want the stupid junk. There is nothing any federal or state entity can do to curb this appetite. There is no constitutional basis for the Drug War. The Drug War has been a monumental failure, and if you support it you learned absolutely nothing from alcohol prohibition. (At least, in 1920, prohibitionists had enough respect for the Constitution to amend it before implementing their agenda. Far be it from the Bennetts, Limbaughs, Ashcrofts, and McCaffreys to have similar respect.) Ergo, the Drug War is not sufficient justification for shutting down the borders.
If you make it illegal for drugs to cross borders, you create a lucrative black market in smuggling drugs. If you make it illegal for people to cross borders, you create a lucrative black market in smuggling people. If you shut down the borders, you would not stop people from coming in. You would see further erosion of our Fourth Amendment protections, as well as an expanded underground economy because of the overly intrusive economic policies implemented in the name of closing the borders. Raids such as the one depicted above are already too common in the name of fighting drugs. They would become even more common in the name of fighting immigration.
Proponents of closing the borders claim that too much immigration threatens our national sovereignty. Well, the disregard for our Constitution that would occur due to such a policy would pose a grave threat to our individual sovereignty, i.e. our freedom. This freedom distinguishes America from any other nation on earth. Freedom means liberty not only from foreign tyrants, but also from domestic tyrants. Tyrants always claim to have good intentions. We know how the road to hell is paved.