DREAMing About Enlisting Illegals

I had to double-check the URL when I read this to make sure it wasn’t the Onion or some kind of spoof site. But no, this really is a Pentagon press release calling for Congress to revive something called the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM — how lovely), which would offer  “a way for high-achieving children of undocumented or illegal residents to join the military and, ultimately, become citizens…” Says acting deputy undersecretary of defense Bill Carr:

 “In other words, if you had come across (the border) with your parents, yet you were a minor child and have been in the U.S. school system for a number of years, then you could be eligible to enlist,” he said. “And at the end of that enlistment, then you would be eligible to become a citizen.” 

Looks like Max Boot might just get his American Foreign Legion. (Hat tip to Tales From the Dark Side.)


A Libertarian Case Against Open Borders

Stephen Cox, editor of Liberty, sets out a very good one, with which I’m mostly inclined to agree. Particularly this point:

Poor people, and ethnically self-identified recent immigrants vote overwhelmingly for modern-liberal candidates, and modern-liberal candidates, once elected, take as the whole duty of life the effort to raise taxes and expand government programs and entitlements. They seek to bless their constituency with affirmative action programs, ethnic quotas, foreign-language maintenance programs, socialist and race-conscious school curricula, and every other modern-liberal institution that has any potential for transforming the United States into the Canadian or Mexican version of a progressive country. The expectation of political support explains why modern-liberal politicians are such vigorous proponents of immigration, why they are, even now, trying to enlist illegal immigrants in the electoral process (see “The Election of 666,” Reflections, August 2006 – a commentary that prompted a nice little flurry of hate mail). The same goes for labor unions. They used to be the biggest opponents of immigration. No more. Now most of them are endorsing every open-borders proposal that comes along. Why? Because they too have identified their natural constituency: unskilled, politically unsophisticated workers, just waiting to be organized in support of higher minimum wage laws, universal social welfare, and whatever other political demands the unions want to make.

Is it possible that politicians and labor leaders know a few things that libertarian theorists don’t? Is it possible that they have correctly identified the current immigration from third-world countries as the ultimate weapon in the attack on limited government?

To a considerable extent, as much of Cox’s evidence elsewhere in his piece suggests, poor immigrants are a constituency for greater government services whether or not they can vote. They can still exert statist political pressures in a number of ways, relatively weak though they may be. Probably the most serious source of such pressure is the opportunity poor immigrants give liberal (and all too many conservative) do-gooders to show their generosity and compassion by taxing the rest of us. Even if immigrants don’t clamor for social services, their mere existence is enough to provoke bleeding hearts into demanding that government provide for them.

Plainly enough, the potential harm poor immigrants can do to our liberties is mightily exacerbated if they get the vote. But illegal immigrants aren’t queuing up for naturalization and citizenship, right? Perhaps not; but any children of theirs born here are automatically American citizens, thanks to the prevailing jus soli interpretation of the 14th Amendment. If I could have just one immigration reform, this would be it: I’d restict citizenship to the children of citizens and to naturalized immigrants.

It’s true, of course, that by no means do all poor immigrants who get the franchise use it to vote for greater government. Can you exclude the libertarian few in order to keep out the socialist many? Absolutely. To do otherwise would be to sacrifice liberty to democracy. Some libertarians will object here that, hey, maybe tomorrow the odds will change and poor immigrants will be more likely to support less government. My reply is: the probabilities matter. Until we have good reason to believe that such a change has come about, we shouldn’t be gambling on enfranchising hundreds of thousands of unskilled, low-wage workers.

A more challenging objection might be to ask whether the outcome Cox outlines is really so bad relative to the alternative: higher taxes and greater support for affirmative action are certainly bad things, but they have to be weighed against the militarism and corporate cronyism that the other major party supports. (Though in fact both parties are in favor of militarism, affirmative action, and corporate cronyism, and whatever advantage Republicans appear to accrue from being for nominally lower taxes they lose by supporting deficit spending, which has to be paid by taxes or devaluation of the currency sooner or later.)

Looks Like Robert Samuelson Had an Effect

A few days after his column wondering why the media haven't covered the sheer magnitude of new immigration that will take place under the Senate plan ran, the Washington Post publishes a story headlined "Senate Bill Would Add 20 Million Legal Immigrants, Report Says."

The 20 million figure is one of the more conservative estimates that's been mooted. Edwin Rubinstein has an interesting piece up on Vdare arguing that even the more drastic estimates are probably undercounting.

The Immigration Story That Doesn’t Get Covered

Robert Samuelson has another very good immigration column, this time on what the major media didn't deign to cover in the Senate's immigration bill.

he White House's projected increases [as a result of the Senate bill] of legal immigration (20 million) are about twice the level of existing illegal immigrants (estimated between 10 million and 12 million). Yet, coverage overlooks the former. … Whether or not the bias is "liberal," groupthink is a powerful force in journalism. Immigration is considered noble. People who critically examine its value or worry about its social effects are subtly considered small-minded, stupid or bigoted. The result is selective journalism that reflects poorly on our craft and detracts from democratic dialogue.

See also: coverage and analysis of the case for war against Iraq, circa 2002.

Dispatches From the Planet of the Milicrats

"Milicrats" — short for military bureaucrats — is a term William S. Lind uses in his piece in the new issue of The American Conservative, which prints tomorrow. It's apt, and being a resident of Arlington, Virginia, I live close to the precincts of milicrat central.

We have art here. Here's what kind of art we have.

Looking at links for that post on Reactionary Radicals, I came across this fun fact about the Arlington school system: "children attending county schools now speak 60 different languages." As you might imagine, that's not on account of a really rigorous curriculum.

Closed-Door Policy

Doug Bandow has a brief but thought-provoking post about liberty and immigration on the 4Pundits blog. He acknowledges some of the downsides to mass immigration — "the expansion of the welfare state, loss of national acculturating institutions, and danger of terrorism" — but concludes that "nevertheless, America should never close its door to those seeking a better life."

I have to say, my reaction to that conclusion is to ask, "Why not?" Nobody would say that "my apartment must never close its door to those seeking a better life" — which hardly means that one doesn't think others should seek better lives, only that they ought to do so on their own property. Or in their own countries.

In deciding whether to invite someone into one's apartment, the consideration is usually "do I like this person? Do I want his or her company?" Or for someone running a hotel, the question is "can this person pay?" With national immigration policy, the same sorts of questions ought to be asked — does the public want more immigrants (possibly it does) and what do prospective immigrants have to offer? There could be several good answers to that latter question: hard-working immigrants bring profit and economic growth, immigrants can enrich the country culturally, etc. But there is no free-standing, abstract right to come to the United States any more than there is such a right to admission to my apartment or to somebody else's hotel.

Public policy is not, of course, the same thing as administering private property, and governments, which are plenty harmful enough as it is, should not be alllowed to make distinctions between persons as arbitrarily as individuals do. But one distinction that governments conventionally are allowed to make is a distinction between citizens and noncitizens. And while government interests are never the same thing as citizens' interests — govenrments always have their own agendas, and citizens have differing interests among themselves, of course — on an issue like immigration, where fundamental liberties are not directly at stake, even a libertarian ought to be able to say that immigration policy should concern itself with what citizens want. That's making the best of a bad situation, where instead of perfectly free association there is some degree of coerced association and some degree coerced dis-association, which is what actually exists under any government. Someone who wants to immigrate to a particular country must justify himself to its people: what does he offer them? His desire for a better life is irrelevant: after all, everybody desires a better life.

I don't mean to suggest, by the way, that Bandow is not insensitive to all this. His post has just spurred some random thoughts.