Immigration Debate

I’ve been doing a little thinking about the current immigration debate. The two main lines of argument that seem to be dominating discussions are as follows (in broad strokes).

  1. Illegal immigrants are hard workers who just want a piece of the American pie and are willing to do jobs that Americans aren’t willing to do. Leave them alone.

  2. Illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes and heavily burden America’s educational and medical services. They’re also a security risk. Kick them out.

I think both are right and both are wrong.

Let’s start with the first. I agree that most illegal immigrants are hard workers that do jobs others won’t do. Some have argued that others won’t do them because they’re demeaning, low-paying, and offer no health benefits. This may be true, but it’s a red herring. The point is that some people are humble and driven enough to do them. There are plenty of poor Americans who burden our social programs by refusing to do unpleasant jobs. Instead of cursing the darkness, illegal immigrants choose to light candles. However, I think those in favor of guest worker programs are trying to have their cake and eat it too. We can’t extort work from the downtrodden and not give them the same compensation we give citizens. Equal work should result in equal pay and benefits.

Looking at the second argument, I do believe that illegal immigrants are burdensome, but as an essentially Judeo-Christian nation, we should welcome those burdens and share of the wealth God has allowed us hold for a while. However, that doesn’t mean that illegal immigrants should be left as they are. We may welcome them and willingly shoulder their burdens, but that doesn’t mean we can do so indefinitely. Compassion doesn’t come without a price tag and there is indeed a security risk associated with porous borders. The answer isn’t to close up our borders more tightly, though. Rather, we should make legal immigration easier by ditching quotas.

This nation was founded and made great by immigrants, not all of whom were legal. Let’s let more of them in so that they can continue to help America be a great nation of hope and prosperity. When listening to the main lines of argument about immigration, I can’t help but wonder when our nation abondoned the ideals represented by the Statue of Liberty. On the base of that great symbol of our nation is a portion of the poem "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Addendum: I’ve decided to add some bits of Scripture related to immigrants and foreigners to see how they affect the debate in the comboxes.

"You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." – Exodus 22:21

"You shall not oppress a stranger; you know the heart of a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." – Exodus 23:9

"When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God." – Leviticus 19:33-24

"For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner therefore; for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt." – Deuteronomy 10:17-19

"You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brethren or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns; you shall give him his hire on the day he earns it, before the sun goes down (for he is poor, and sets his heart upon it); lest he cry against you to the LORD, and it be sin in you. You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow’s garment in pledge; but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this. When you reap your harvest in your field, and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow; that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward; it shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this." – Deuteronomy 24:14-15,17-22

"’Cursed be he who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’" – Deuteronomy 27:19

"Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place." – Jeremiah 22:3

"The LORD watches over the sojourners, he upholds the widow and the fatherless; but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin." – Psalm 146:9

"Father and mother are treated with contempt in you; the sojourner suffers extortion in your midst; the fatherless and the widow are wronged in you. The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery; they have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without redress." – Ezekiel 22:7,29

"(the sojourner has not lodged in the street; I have opened my doors to the wayfarer);" – Job 31:32

‘Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me’, says the LORD of hosts." – Malachi 3:5

"Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy each to his brother, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor; and let none of you devise evil against his brother in your heart.’" – Zechariah 7:9-10

"When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’  Then he will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." – Matthew 25:31-46

"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." – Hebrews 13:2

"Beloved, it is a loyal thing you do when you render any service to the brethren, especially to strangers, who have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey as befits God’s service." – 3 John 1:5-6

Comments 7

  1. The Waffling Anglican wrote:

    I would submit that the reason Americans won’t take (some of) the jobs performed by illegals is that they don’t pay enough. To use illegals for those jobs maintains an artificially low wage structure for those jobs in order to maintain an artificially low price structure for the respective products. It leads to a permanent exploited class who lives in the country but owe no allegiance to the country and which maintains a separate culture within the nation. This is bad all the way around – as demonstrated by huge crowds of people demonstarting in this nation-state while flying foreign flags.

    Illegals do indeed take jobs from Americans. This may not show up in New York City or Tacoma, but it sure shows up around here in the building trades. If you build a house, you will be lucky to find anyone in the crew who speaks English.

    In addition, by acting as a safety valve for the Mexican economy, it removes a lot of the incentive for Mexico to become a decent, viable nation. They can continue to have their economy subsidized to the tune of many billions per year without reforming anything, and the USA accepts being a cash cow in order to keep getting artificially cheap lettuce / cotton / houses / whatever.

    I have always believed we would be better off paying a quarter a head more for lettuce and a couple thousand on the cost of a house in order to eliminate the problem. I don’t blame the Mexicans for wanting to cross the border; in their situation I would do the same. I blame us for letting them. And I think claims to the moral high ground by those who want to keep them here are at best mistaken and at worst blasphemously cynical.

    If you want to help the Mexican people (who, remember, are not starving or brutalized by islamofascist thugs), I think you could do better by meeting them at the border, giving them an AK-47, copies of the US constitution and declaration of independence, turning them around, and telling them where to get more ammo. Mexico is a well-resourced land that ought to be a nice place to live; the fact that it is not is largely a testimony to decades of corruption and incompetence on the part of those who should have been its stewards. The longer that reckoning is put off, the more catastrophic it is going to be.

    Posted 03 Apr 2006 at 12:35 pm
  2. Fred K. wrote:

    ha. I love what the waffling anglican said about ak47’s (but why for crying out loud a russian rifle?). It would seem that the stability of Mexican government (corrupt or not) is another benefit of illegal immigration to the US. Mexican corruption would seem to be in the US’s best interest for a number of reasons.

    Perhaps it’s time to crack down on businesses who accept payments from illegal aliens

    If anybody’s going to take jobs from American citizens, it should be folks living in India, not aliens living in the US.


    Posted 03 Apr 2006 at 8:05 pm
  3. The Waffling Anglican wrote:

    Fred – I would think an AK-47 de rigeur for the serious revolutionary. A Latin Aamerican geurilla with an M-16 would be like a Hell’s Angel with a Honda – it just wouldn’t look right.

    The Indians we outsource to don’t have kid’s in Texas public schools, don’t drive in Texas w/o insurance, don’t fill up Texas jails, don’t use Texas hospitals and ERs, and don’t receive other forms of Texas public assistance. They also speak English, so teaching them Texan is fairly easy.

    I’m not a huge fan of outsourcing, but my entire dev team is in India, and it seems that the more we expand there, the more folks we hire here as well.

    (BTW, white collar jobs are the easiest ones outsourced. Outsourcing production jobs means you incur shipping costs for the product. Since the actual labor costs involved in making stuff are so low, it is much cheaper to manufacture it here for $10/hr than to do so overseas for $1/hr and then have to ship stuff. You can save, however, save money by hiring an engineer overseas for $25K + bennies versus one here for $100K + bennies)

    Posted 04 Apr 2006 at 11:17 am
  4. Tom Smith wrote:

    I really don’t have an opinion on the matter (not yet, anyway), but I do have a question. . .

    Why does citizenship in a particular nation grant one rights to a job over and above aliens?

    Posted 05 Apr 2006 at 12:51 pm
  5. The Waffling Anglican wrote:

    Why does citizenship in a particular nation grant one rights to a job over and above aliens?
    It doesn’t, over legal aliens.

    Counterquestion: Why don’t nation-states have the right to determine who does and who doesn’t enter their territories, and under what circumstances?

    Posted 05 Apr 2006 at 3:30 pm
  6. Funky Dung wrote:

    I can’t speak for Tom, but for myself I can say that I don’t dispute that right. What I question is our particular nation-state’s choice to be so anal about who gets in. Quotas seem rather pointless to me.

    Posted 05 Apr 2006 at 3:32 pm
  7. Tom Smith wrote:

    “‘Why does citizenship in a particular nation grant one rights to a job over and above aliens?’
    It doesnt, over legal aliens.”

    Okay, what I’m getting at is, why is the right to a job dependent upon land boundaries?

    “Counterquestion: Why dont nation-states have the right to determine who does and who doesnt enter their territories, and under what circumstances?”

    They do. But that seems to be a non sequitur — I asked about employment, not immigration.

    Posted 06 Apr 2006 at 8:21 am

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