With much fanfare, the federal government recently announced it had smashed the largest ever alien-smuggling ring, which allegedly brought thousands of Indians and other foreigners into the United States for $20,000 a head. In announcing the results of the yearlong operation, code-named “Operation Seek and Keep,” Attorney General Janet Reno declared: “Let all those who flout the nation’s immigration laws be warned: We plan to take swift and decisive action against you.”
To match the warlike rhetoric, the feds boasted of new encroachments on civil liberties. In the crackdown, the Immigration and Naturalization Service used new authority, granted under the 1996 immigration law, to intercept electronic communications, monitoring 35,000-plus calls. Also, for the first time, federal prosecutors used money-laundering statutes to smash an alien smuggling operation and seize assets.
Apparently, all’s fair when it comes to keeping foreigners out of the United States. In the immigration war, rights get trampled all the time. Consider: INS agents recently stopped and questioned Hispanics leaving a Catholic church in Detroit. Those who couldn’t produce the right documents were arrested.
As casualties of the immigration war, they were lucky. In California recently, agents of the U.S. Border Patrol shot and killed two men trying to enter the United States illegally from Mexico. The violent confrontation was one of many that have taken place since the feds initiated Operation Gatekeeper, a massive U.S. immigration crackdown along the U.S.-Mexican border, four years ago.
In a decade in which one of history’s most infamous walls was dismantled, U.S. officials have built and reinforced their own wall along the southern border. Four years ago, the federal government spent $50 million building a 14-mile-long fence on the California-Mexico border. The border area from the Pacific Ocean to the California desert is now manned by more than 2,200 agents – more than double the number earlier this decade – and has the latest in surveillance technology, making illegal crossings much more difficult than they were before.
The increase in manpower and surveillance has caused illegal immigrants to take unusual risks to avoid detection. In Texas, six illegal immigrants were killed by a train as they slept on the tracks. Officials said that they might have been victims of a superstition that the rails would protect them from snakes. Other illegal entrants have died in the mountains and deserts of the Southwest – over 70 so far this year.
Cuban refugees arriving by boat fare no better. It is now official U.S. government policy to repatriate these refugees back into communist tyranny. Didn’t we fight a bloody war in Southeast Asia a generation ago to save people from communism?
Despite the customary expressions of remorse and regret from U.S. government officials, the fact is these tragedies are an integral part of our immigration laws themselves.
Essential to every law passed by government is the concept of force. Government must use force or the threat of force to ensure that people comply with laws.
Immigration laws prohibit foreigners from entering the U.S. without permission. Yet, throughout history, people fleeing economic or political tyranny or chaos have not let laws prevent them from crossing a border in the hope of sustaining or improving their lives.
What happens when a foreigner determined to enter the country encounters a government agent just as determined to prevent his entry? Force meets force. The result is deportation, repatriation, or death.
Is this necessary in a nation that prides itself on its Judeo-Christian heritage and its legacy of free enterprise? No, because there’s a better way – a rational approach that is consistent with the principles of morality and liberty on which the United States was founded.
Repeal all immigration controls and open the borders.
This would immediately put a stop to INS raids, Border Patrol killings, Coast Guard repatriations, and all of the other tragic consequences of immigration controls. Foreigners could travel into our country as human beings rather than as contraband in the trunks of cars or like animals trekking across lonely deserts. People from all over the world would be free to tour America, visit with families and friends, or work for those willing to hire them. Open borders would lead to a more peaceful and harmonious society.
The repeal of immigration laws would also result in a more prosperous society. The most economically dynamic decades in American history coincided with our most liberal immigration policies. Cheap labor, especially by immigrants eager to better their lot in life, is always an economic boon to a society.
Let’s look at – and dispense with – the standard arguments against open borders.
They’ll go on welfare. Not if we make it a criminal offense on the part of any U.S. government official to knowingly distribute welfare to a noncitizen. What American bureaucrat is going to risk his liberty for that?
They’ll burden our public facilities. Then privatize these facilities. Think about it: it’s always the public (i.e, government) sector, not the private sector, that complains about too many customers. We often hear complaints from public officials about overcrowding in public schools and on public highways. When was the last time we heard Microsoft, Disney, or McDonald’s complaining about too many customers? Anyway, immigrants pay taxes, just like the rest of us.
They’ll take jobs away from Americans. Not so. Some immigrants might displace Americans from some lower-rung jobs, but think about all the new higher-paying jobs created by immigrants’ spending the money they earn on food, housing, transportation, entertainment, electronics, and the like.
They’ll vote. Again, no, because they will simply be foreigners visiting or working in America, not American citizens. Citizenship (and voting) would depend on entirely different criteria.
They won’t speak English. Maybe, but so what? Historically, the first waves of immigrants haven’t spoken fluent English, and that hasn’t prevented them and their children from prospering.
They’ll bring a foreign culture to America. What’s wrong with that? Historically, America’s culture has been one of freedom, diversity, and assimilation.
Everyone in the world will move here. No way. Most people are not about to leave their homeland, their friends, and their culture to come to a country where language and culture are so different and where the work environment is “root hog or die.” People who come under these conditions would most likely be the risk-takers, the hearty, the entrepreneurial – the very type of people every society should relish.
Why not rely on government to determine the number and nature of immigrants needed in the U.S. marketplace? Because government planners do not have the requisite knowledge and information in a rapidly changing world to adequately make these types of complex determinations. An unhampered market – that is, one in which individuals and companies are free to plan their own economic affairs – capitalizes on the specialized knowledge and information of employers, employees, and other market participants under swiftly changing circumstances.
Immigration raids, arrests, deportations, repatriations, and killings cannot be reconciled with principles of free enterprise and loving thy neighbor. There’s only one way to recapture the moral and economic heritage on which America was founded. End the immigration war and open the borders.
Mr. Hornberger is co-editor of The Case for Free Trade and Open Immigration.