Sunday, April 02, 2006

Immigration and Xenophobia

During the last week or so, immigration reform has become an explosive issue in the United States. Of course, to effect reform, there must be a consensus as to what is wrong with the current system. Giving the devil his due, this is the one issue where I feel that President George W. Bush has demonstrated remarkable insight into what is wrong and what must be fixed. Where he fails on this issue is where all right-thinking people fail on all important issues: Finding accord with other people who just don't get it.

One of the most common complaints that I hear from xenophobes in the United States is that illegal aliens are breaking the law when they come to the United States. This complaint begs the question of whether the law is just: If the law is not just, it should be changed. Meanwhile, people who are targeted for persecution by unjust laws will respond pragmatically, which is exactly what illegal immigrants do, and I have a very hard time finding fault with that. Rather, I find fault with the ignorant and misguided people who create and support unjust laws.

With the exception of Asians and Africans, immigration to the United States was relatively free and unrestricted until the late 1800s. That's when Congress started to impose immigration restrictions on people that it considered undesirable. From that point forward, the history of immigration to the United States has been a history of persecution and exploitation.

By virtue of the fact that immigrants are not part of the voting franchise, it's relatively easy for the powers that be to pass laws that are unfair to immigrants. And since they can't vote, immigrants make perfect scapegoats for all of society's ills. If and when said immigrants become naturalized citizens, thereby escaping the role of victim, they often (but not always) forget where they came from, thereby perpetuating the cycle of persecution and exploitation.

Most people who cry foul about illegal immigration will quickly conflate illegal immigration with legal immigration, and I have yet to hear a sound argument for restricting entry to the United States for law-abiding people who want to come to the United States to live and work. In fact, any economist worth his or her salt will tell you that protectionist policies like these invariably hurt the countries that impose them. And yet ignorant xenophobes in the United States continue to embrace the myth that removing barriers to entry for legal immigration will create a "race to the bottom" for standards of living in the United States.

American workers are part of a global economy, and closing the borders to immigrants will not close the borders to imported goods that are produced by workers in foreign countries. Even if the United States could close its borders to cheaper foreign imports, American exporters would have to compete against cheaper foreign goods when exporting to other countries. So, when all is said and done, protectionism, in all its forms, is a chasing after the wind.

If you have a legal issue concerning immigration, find out if an immigration lawyer can help you. No matter what your case may be the right lawyer can make all the difference so for a big business matter a corporate lawyer would have the right skill set.

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