Thu 22 Mar 2007
I would vote for Ron Paul in a heartbeat against almost any conceivable opponent, which makes this all the more disheartening:
We’re often reminded that America is a nation of immigrants, implying that we’re coldhearted to restrict immigration in any way. But the new Americans reaching our shores in the late 1800s and early 1900s were legal immigrants. In many cases they had no chance of returning home again. They maintained their various ethnic and cultural identities, but they also learned English and embraced their new nationality.
Today, the overwhelming majority of Americans – including immigrants – want immigration reduced, not expanded. The economic, cultural, and political situation was very different 100 years ago…
We must reject amnesty for illegal immigrants in any form. We cannot continue to reward lawbreakers and expect things to get better. If we reward millions who came here illegally, surely millions more will follow suit. Ten years from now we will be in the same position, with a whole new generation of lawbreakers seeking amnesty.
Amnesty also insults legal immigrants, who face years of paperwork and long waits to earn precious American citizenship.
The whole essay is an exercize in question begging. Paul tells us that we must restrict immigration because illegal immigrants are lawbreakers, and the whole essay simply presents variations on this basis theme. The reason that all those 19th-century immigrants were legal immigrants is because we had much less restrictive immigration laws. Likewise, the argument about “insulting legal immigrants” presumes there’s something sacred about our immigration laws. If restricting immigration was a dumb idea to start with, it doesn’t “insult” anyone to liberalize them, any more than tax simplification “insults” those who had successfully navigated the previous, Byzantine tax code.
The essay reflects an underlying attitude toward immigrants that I find simply baffling. Paul writes that “Americans are happy to welcome those who wish to come here and build a better life for themselves, but we rightfully expect immigrants to show loyalty and attempt to assimilate themselves culturally.” Maybe more immigrants would do that if our laws didn’t encourage them to live in the shadows. The problem isn’t that immigrants lack loyalty or an interest in citizenship. The problem is that under our immigration laws, millions of people can’t become citizens no matter what they do. It should hardly surprise us that—with all options for legal assimilation closed to them—some of them choose to break the law.