Some of the public confusion on this issue has been deliberately nurtured. There are strong forces supporting illegal immigration from businesses that need cheap labor to bleeding-heart liberals (who can’t think any further than that allowing people in seems nice) to Americans of Mexican decent who desire to see others from Mexico have an opportunity to live in the U.S. For years those groups have demonized anyone who was against illegal immigration as being anti immigrant or racist. Add to that the overwhelming fear of most people not to be deemed to be discriminating in any way and a lack of general understanding of when discrimination is prohibited and you have a public that does not feel free to think clearly on the subject. That suits those supporting illegal immigration just fine.
Well, its time for a bit of clarity on the subject.
Legal Immigration is generally good :-). Legal immigrants are people who are in this country with our permission. We get to choose which legal immigrants get to come here (fn. 1). We have an opportunity to know who they are and what they want to do. They provide a fresh supply of labor (for some of the jobs that generally more affluent Americans do not want to do). They add their vitality and character to the melting pot and pay taxes. In return, we grant them many of the rights we grant citizens.
Illegal immigration is bad :-(. There is no argument you can make in support of it if you are interested in the well-being of the United States. Illegal immigrants are people who have entered this country without our permission. We have no idea who they are, what they are doing or what they want to do. It only took 19 people, many of whom were illegals, to kill 3,000 Americans and topple the World Trade Center. It is estimated that there 11 million people in this country illegally. If even a tiny tiny fraction of the illegal immigrants have Al Qaeda-like ill intent that is the potential for a hell of a lot of dead Americans and leveled buildings.
Illegal Immigrants provide nothing that the U.S. could not obtain from legal immigrants.
Illegal immigrants can also be expensive. Illegal immigrants don’t pay income taxes but are entitled to many public services by the constitution (fn. 2).
Illegal immigration is bad for legal immigration. Rampant illegal immigration creates a stigma against legal immigration. Further, illegal immigrants take some of the jobs that legal immigrants would take – reducing the demand for legal immigration. In the end we lose the opportunity chose which immigrants enter this country.
What can we take away from this? Stop all illegal immigration entirely. Seal the borders the best we can. We obtain no benefit from open borders and expose ourselves to a great deal of risk. Then, lets engage in a public debate about legal immigration. Lets discuss who we want in and how many. In order to make the elimination of illegal immigration more palatable to those currently in favor of illegal immigration we should consider a very sizable increase in legal immigration (which is very limited compared to the number of people involved in illegal immigration).
This can be a win-win solution. Anyone in support of this approach is being pro immigration, pro security and pro business.
(fn. 1) Yes, we can choose who gets to immigrate to this country. We can discriminate based on race, religion, country of origin, sex… all we want. Why? We can discriminate against prospective immigrants because the protections of the constitution (including the prohibition on improper discrimination) do not apply to non-citizens who are not on U.S. soil. For instance, we could pass a federal immigration law that says that no more Muslims will be allowed to immigrate to (or even visit) this country (not something I am advocating - just an example of how targeted the law could be). Indeed, we do currently have quotas based on country of origin.
(fn. 2) Who gets the benefits of constitution protection? It protects the citizens of the United States and persons present in the United States. This explains why Camp Delta is located at Gitmo. If any of the battlefield detainees in the war were brought to the U.S. they would likely be entitled to constitutional protections. This also explains why Zacarias Moussaoui, who was arrested in the U.S., is getting the benefit of a federal trial (with all of the due process that entails) even though he is not a citizen. It also explains why John Walker Lindh was not kept at Gitmo. He is a citizen and is entitled to constitutional protections regardless of where he was captured.