Repost - MoE's First Blog Entry

Here's an excerpt from my very first post to Mother of Exiles.  It features a link to my favorite article about open immigration, and a video that a dear friend of mine made.

First, here's the link to a wonderful article by Craig Biddle from The Objective Standard.  Here’s an excerpt:

Immigration is the act of moving to a country with the intention of remaining there. Morally speaking, if a person rationally judges that immigrating to America would be good for his life, he should immigrate; a rational morality holds that one should always act on one’s best judgment. But does a foreigner have a right to move to America? And should America welcome him? Yes, he does—and yes, she should. Recognition of these facts was part and parcel of this country’s founding.

“The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations And Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment.” 1

Unfortunately this pro-immigration attitude, expressed by George Washington in 1783, has all but vanished from American politics. Indeed, the policies of America—the republic built by and for immigrants—have become hostile to immigrants.

I hope you’ll read the full article.  Craig addresses many of the common complaints about immigration and proposes solutions.

And finally, I just love this video my friend made about immigration to the US.  Once my other pages are up and running, I plan to have this on my home page.  Thanks, Pablo!

Republicans, The Election, and Immigration

My friend, Paul Hsieh from FIRM blog, forwarded me the following:

Ruben Navarette discusses both opportunities and dangers for Republicans [in this CNN article]. This phrase caught my eye:

"If you're a Republican, you have to have a lot of nerve to try to make political hay out of the president's failure to fix the immigration system, given that the GOP has played a major role in keeping it broken over the years by offering bumper sticker solutions to complex problems, pandering to racists and nativists, and failing to deal honestly with the fact that illegal immigrants do jobs that Americans won't do."

Paul writes about individual rights as they relate to health care, so if you like Mother of Exiles, you ought to check out his blog. 

Thanks for forwarding this article, Paul!

Repost: The Unethical Nature of Current Immigration Laws: Ayn Rand’s Theory of Rights contra Current Immigration Rhetoric

By guest blogger Andrew Ryanbill-of-rights

In this heavily-charged political atmosphere, the issue of immigration once again  Is at the forefront of political discourse. Candidates sharpen their campaign strategies, seeking to align their positions with the most popular and crowd-pleasing platform. Second only, perhaps, to marriage, no other subject has provided so much discourse, controversy and disagreements than that of the immigrant and his or her place in America. As it is usually common in times of economic frailty or recession, general sentiment has recently turned against the role of immigration as a whole, with candidates of either party making certain that they are not too welcoming or friendly to the idea of immigrants.

Several pieces of legislation have come and gone over the years seeking to address ‘the immigrant situation’, and yet the issue has never properly been addressed on the grounds of ethics. No single politician has asked what is the proper immigration policy for America? Politicians have ignored all ethical discourse and have remained ensconced in pragmatism- the results of which have created a baroque and overcomplicated immigration policy that violates the rights of all parties. The answers to the questions not yet posed by legislature are contained within the ethical theory of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism.

How does, then, a proper application of the Objectivist ethics look like in the realm of immigration? Firstly, we must understand the origin of Rand’s stance on rights, and look at the present state of immigration policy as it is. From there, we will then apply an Objectivist critique and proposal to solve the issue at hand, and finally address common objections to an Objectivist Ethics proposal.

As Craig Biddle writes in his article, “Ayn Rand's Theory of Rights”, “Rand discovered that an organism’s life is its ultimate value and thus its standard of value—the standard by which all of its other values and actions are to be evaluated. A tree’s standard of value is the requirements of its life as set by its nature. A tiger’s standard of value is the requirements of its life as set by its nature. And a man’s standard of value is the requirements of his life as set by his nature. Ayn Rand’s ethical theory rests exclusively upon the rights of the individual as necessary to his existence, as only life makes values possible. The pursuit of those values, Rand argues, must be done from a rational position, to determine what is the individual’s rational self-interest (this, unlike many of Rand’s opponents believe, does not discard emotions as unnecessary, but the issue of emotional integration is outside of the scope of this paper) and how to best go about in its pursuit. From the metaphysically given fact that existence makes the pursuit of values possible, Rand explains in “The Objectivist Ethics” that

“Metaphysically, life is the only phenomenon that is an end in itself: a value gained and kept by a constant process of action. Epistemologically, the concept of “value” is genetically dependent upon and derived from the antecedent concept of “life.” To speak of “value” as apart from “life” is worse than a contradiction in terms. “It is only the concept of ‘Life’ that makes the concept of ‘Value’ possible.” (18)

Making the concept of value a concept dependant exclusively of the concept of life, Rand sets up life as the standard of all moral value. This value is not exclusive of one individual or a collective, but rather it is an intrinsic property of each individual, in accordance with the metaphysical nature of a human- and so the violation of those metaphysically-necessary values against one individual by another was an act of immorality. In order to protect those values, and by the necessity of the nature of a man or woman’s existence, Rand points to the concept of rights as an acting principle that stands in the protection of these values, especially when establishing a context in which an individual is to interact with others. To quote Rand:

“Rights” are a moral concept—the concept that provides a logical transition from the principles guiding an individual’s actions to the principles guiding his relationship with others—the concept that preserves and protects individual morality in a social context—the link between the moral code of a man and the legal code of a society, between ethics and politics. Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law.(108.)

The principle of rights essentially define and protect an individual’s freedom in society, affirming his nature as an entity for whom the pursuit of values is not only necessary, but vital. Rand’s moral theory, unlike other moral theories, does not hold that the reward of morality is morality itself or some floating abstraction, but rather that the reward of morality is life itself – the ability for the individual to prolong his own life and to thrive, provided it is done morally (Rand, for example, holds that thriving through the imposition of force on others, or violating their rights and property, is immoral- it undermines the basic principles that make any value possible.)

The principle of rights, therefore, takes shape in Rand’s philosophy as the right that an individual has to be protected from the acts of coercive force. Coercive force is defined as any act impinging upon an individual’s right to his life or his property. Explicitly laying down the principle, Rand states that

“The basic political principle of the Objectivist ethics is: no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. No man—or group or society or government—has the right to assume the role of a criminal and initiate the use of physical compulsion against any man. Men have the right to use physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use. The ethical principle involved is simple and clear-cut: it is the difference between murder and self-defense. A holdup man seeks to gain a value, wealth, by killing his victim; the victim does not grow richer by killing a holdup man. The principle is: no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force.” (32)

Under the present immigration system, immigrants wishing to make their way in the United States face enormous obstacles: decades of baroque legislation have transformed what once was a relaxed immigration system into a veritable maze that only few are able to navigate successfully. Employers seeking to sponsor a foreign national for a work visa must, for example, invest around $7,000 in paperwork and legal fees to start the process. (U.S. Department of State) The following step consists of the potential employee being entered into a “lottery” in order to compete for one of the coveted visas- of which only 65,000 are granted a year by the government (should the employee be unlucky enough not to get a visa during the random lottery, his employer cannot recover the money invested). Should he be fortunate enough to secure one of the coveted visas, he must still wait six months before allowed to work for the employer. While the H-1B visa process is only one of many different processes and visas available in the immigration system, they all follow similar procedures and principle.

Analyzing the unethical nature of current immigration policy, Objectivist philosopher Dr. Harry Binswanger points out that citizenship or residence with a country is not necessary in order to, as individuals, enjoy a moral entitlement “to be secure from governmental coercion against one's life, liberty, and property. In the words of the Declaration of Independence, government is instituted "to secure these rights"—to protect them against their violation by force or fraud(Binswanger, “On Open Immigration”, The Harry Binswanger List), this moral entitlement is not granted by nationality, but by the metaphysical nature of being human. Yet the existence of the specific requirements of these visa programs and caps (only a certain number of visas are allotted each year, by category and country) essentially criminalizes any foreigner who is not lucky enough to be favored in the green card lottery (a random lottery, again restricted by country, with a limited number of green card winners.)

How is this criminalization unethical? The sole act of requiring the granting of a work visa so that an American citizen may hire a foreigner is a violation of the most basic rights of both parties involved. The American employer, as owner of his business, has the full right to determine who is best suited to work for him or her, under his own standards as a business owner. The government intervention, however, violates that right: the law sets a series of standards, government-mandated standards, that he must meet as an employer (how much he must pay for salary, how much he must have advertised to Americans without success before hiring a foreigner is preferable) and that the foreigner must meet as a prospective employee (level of qualification for the job at hand, even if the employer does not regard degrees as pertinent)- these are third-party impositions that are involuntarily forced upon what otherwise would be a simple transaction between free-acting individuals. The element of coercive force is evident: Should the employer refuse to follow the standards the government has chosen for him and simply hire whom he thinks is the best employee (in this case, a foreigner) without the circuitous process that takes up to half a year, then the act is deemed “illegal” and carries the penalty of fines, prison (for employers) , deportation and blacklisting (for the employee.) If the employer has a right to his property, by what principle is he not allowed to exercise it when the exercise thereof causes no violations of rights? The simple answer is: No such principle can exist and still remain concomitant with the right to life, they cannot exist in the same ethical structure because what one grants, the other denies.

There exists, therefore, no right nor principle that can prevent an individual from entering freely into a transaction, as long as such transaction does not prove to be a violation of rights. Is there, then, a violation of rights that happens upon hiring a foreigner? The act of hiring an individual, specifically a native-born citizen, is not illegal. Then, what is the element that turns the transaction illicit? Nationality? By what process does simply having a nationality become immoral and illegal? Binswanger illustrates the fallacy of this in his example:

“If I want to invite my Norwegian friend Klaus to live in my home, either as a guest or as a paying tenant, what right does our government have to stop Klaus and me? To be a Norwegian is not to be a criminal. And if some American business wants to hire Klaus, what right does our government have to interfere?” (Binswanger, On Open Immigration).

Binswanger indicates that the premise at work in these situations is that ‘we’ have a right to restrict who comes into ‘our’ country. Notice the ambiguous ‘we’- what is the definition of this ‘we’? American soil is under no collective ownership- were it so, it would be abolish the individual’s right life and property, for property that belongs to one individual and to all individuals is a paradox- akin to belonging to everybody and nobody at all- and life is unsustainable without property, the ability to dispose of the fruits of one’s efforts in accordance with our best judgment. While an individual has the right to bar access into the boundaries of his property, he does not have the same right outside of those boundaries. The immigrant exists under the same principles of value-from-life as the native of any nation does, and his rights are not subverted by any appeal to collective ownership of land, which is a fallacious appeal to begin with.

One of the common objections to immigration takes different guises: that immigrants lower the quality of life of native-born Americans, that they bring crime, harm the economy, and similar. Immigrants, the arguments go, lower the quality of life of Americans by “taking jobs away” from Americans. The issues with this argument are plain to see at once—if we assume that there is some entitlement to work (there isn’t), then yes, immigrants would be infringing that entitlement. But the elephant in the room is the question that follows the previous assertion: If immigrants harm Americans by “taking away their jobs” – what do the proponents of these objections plan to do about the Americans who “take away the jobs” of other Americans? If every American citizen is entitled to a job, then it means that for every American citizen who is accepted into a company, all of the other applicants have been harmed by being denied the job to which they were “entitled.” Are we, then, to use the same penalties for every American citizen that is hired to a job, because of the ‘harm’ he brought to the other candidates? Of course not, and opponents of immigration would reject that argument outright- but the truth remains that it is an argument that is the direct and logical conclusion of their premises. The cornerstone of that particular guise of the argument rests on the principle of work entitlement. But are we truly ‘entitled to a job’?

A right to a job (or right-to-work) implies that a job must be guaranteed to every individual. Rights, in the legal sense of the word, must be enforced and protected by a government, one of its legitimate functions. How would government enforce this right-to-work, if not by using its legislative and coercive force to make individuals hire other individuals- whether they wish so or not. It is not an altogether strange idea, since current immigration laws forbid individuals from hiring individuals they do wish to employ. This argument, then, is fallacious. As are all other arguments listed so far, since they fall under the category of collective claim. Immigrants should be left out because they might be criminals? What about the American citizens who are criminals, why is their right to be in the country not revoked? Why is potentiality punished, rather than actual action? The answer is the same as to the right-to-work issue: There is no such principle at work, nor can there ever be one.

All arguments against immigration have one thing in common: a collective claim to some sort of ‘quality of life’ which is somehow harmed by immigrants. The invalidity of that argument was addressed by Ayn Rand in her Question and Answer period in the 1973 Ford Hall Lecture:

“No one has the right to pursue his self-interest by law or by force, which is what you’re suggesting [with closing the borders and impede immigration]. You want to forbid immigration on the grounds that it lowers your standards of living—which isn’t true, though if it were true, you’d still have no right to close the borders. You’re not entitled to any ‘self interest’ that injures others, especially when you can’t prove that open immigration affects your self interest. You can’t claim that anything others may do—for example, simply through competition—is against your self interest. But above all, aren’t you dropping a personal context? How could I advocate restricting immigration when I wouldn’t be alive today if our borders had been closed?”

Rand attacked the core of the argument. It is very easy to see that the argument of restricting immigrants because they allegedly affect someone’s “quality of life” could easily be turned against other individuals who allegedly impinge upon someone’s “quality of life” - specifically the group of individuals who can easily be outvoted: minorities (these are exactly the same arguments used against gay marriage today, and which were used against integrated classrooms, marriages, etcetera.) One of Rand’s constant reminders was that the proper role of government was to protect the minority from the tyrannies of a majority- and that the smallest majority was the individual.

The penultimate opposition to open immigration, and in particular the pardoning of illegal immigrants, falls along the appeal to the Rule of Law. Even though immigration laws have become so obtuse as to be almost unmanageable, and even though it restricts liberties and freedoms without basis, and even though the process, as has been mentioned, violates the rights of all parties involved, opponents of immigration call for heavy penalties for ‘illegal’ immigrants because they broke the law of the land in order to come into the country and seek a better life for themselves (exactly the same, it would be good to point out, that most of the ancestors of these opponents did in their time—the only difference being that immigration laws at the earlier twentieth century were far more rights-respecting.) This appeal to blind obedience is essentially a disguised Kantian Categorical Imperative, by which (for example) all laws are to be respected and to act against them is wrong. Rand has, on many occasions, spoken about the moral malignancy of Kant’s philosophical system, but it becomes crystal clear when we simply change the law being broken but retain the same principle at hand. Let the law be, for example, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Said law, forged during the split between the North and the South in matters of slavery pre-Civil war, requires all found runaway slaves to be returned to their masters.

This treatment allows, then, for the perpetuity of unjust laws (such as most current immigration laws), and therefore no progress shall ever be accomplished. Any law that violates the rights of the individuals must remain forever embedded on the books of the legislature, the violability of rights being insignificant (to these argumenters) compared to the sanctity of law- essentially inverting the rational order of government by making humans serve the law, and not have laws that serve the rights and well being of humans. The argument from the Sanctity of Law must be discarded immediately, for no moral law could ever subvert the spirit of the inalienable rights of the individual.

Finally, the last argument against immigration is also the argument that will allow to condense all previous hostile arguments, and facilitate the formulation of an ethical alternative. Opponents of immigration cite the lack of security, especially around the border. The argument alludes to the potential presence of terrorists and criminals slipping through unsecured borders, and therefore proving that tighter security and closed borders are necessary. However, what is never fully explored by the proponents of this argument is that these conditions were caused precisely by current immigration laws. By making legal access to the country nearly impossible, the immigration system has essentially created a ‘black market’ of immigration in the guise of Coyoteros (people who specialize in smuggling immigrants through the border), fence-hoppers, visa-shams and other similar situations.

Under the principles of Rand’s ethics, immigration isn’t a privilege- it is a right, based solely on the right for an individual to choose the course of his life and property in the manner that he sees fit as long as he does not infringe upon the life or property of others. The black market in immigration is nothing more than a sense-of-life reaction to a rights-violating regulation: individuals will go to great lengths to secure their basic rights, even in the face of tyrannical controls. This was the case with a similar regulatory violation, Prohibition, and the same could be said for the War on Drugs. Individuals have the right to determine the course of their lives--- whether it be positive, rational endeavors such as immigrating to a country to find better fortunes, or indulge in a moderate drink in a relaxed social atmosphere, or whether it be negative or even criminal, such as immigration with intent of crime, and complete substance abuse. The laws of a republic’s judicial system are in place in order to enact appropriate punitive action towards those that violate the rights of others: the immigrant who steals will receive his sanction, the substance abuser will be penalized should he drive, for putting the lives of others at risk. Prohibition and the War on Drugs caused no decrease in the use of those substances in question- and it has not created a change in immigration, either. Rather, it has conflated the issue.

All across the border, an uncountable number of immigrants crosses ‘illegally’ each day. Uncountable, because the Border Patrol of the United States is stretched to the limits in its attempts to secure the border. The risk lies in the fact that hidden among the majority of, let’s face it, innocent immigrants (there is no moral crime in the pursuit of that which is a legitimate right, and any law seeking to impede it is, in fact, the moral criminal) are individuals who come to the country with far more nefarious purposes, but using the large number of ‘border-hoppers’ as a screen.

This is the practical result of current immigration policy: the creation of a situation that is unmanageable and which, in the long term, will put the United States at risk in a manner from which it cannot defend itself. Since Ayn Rand defines morality and ethics as the codes that make life possible, sustainable, and able to thrive—can it be honestly said that, by their results alone, these immigration policies are ethical, or even moral? Rather, the interventionist streak of the pragmatist philosophy espoused by politicians, combined with the Categorical Imperative, have created an unsustainable situation.

So what is the rational, ethical, and moral option? Harry Binswanger and most student of Ayn Rand favor an open borders policy that allows people to come into the U.S., work and obtain residence (not citizenship- the issue of whether citizenship should even be given freely at birth is another issue tackled by Objectivists, but it is outside of the scope of this paper) in a mostly hassle-free procedure that consists of a background check and proper identification.

The reason for the background check is simple: while a government may not impede a rights-respecting individual from entering the country, the legitimate role of government is to protect its citizens against threats- and this includes both terrorists and criminals alike. The procedure itself would cost no more than that of a background check (state police checks range from as little as $19.95 to as much as $49.95 ) instead of tens of thousands of dollars as most current immigration processes go.

With this ethical alternative, we would have given legitimate immigrants a means by which they may cast their own lot legally. With a far more expedient procedure and less paperwork, most immigrants will pass through the process as they did when they entered the United States through Ellis Island, many generations ago. Across a far more depopulated border, we will find those who will still be trying to cross the border: The criminals, terrorists and similar individuals who would have red flags in their backgrounds. Of course, catching every single criminal is unrealistic, just like it is impossible to pinpoint which US-born citizen will become a criminal or a terrorist until they act (like Mohammad Atta, but also like the Unabomber) , but the important principle at work is that the system is no longer punishing individuals because they might be something, but rather are treated with courtesy or restrained for what they are, which is shown through their actions.

This provides an ethical means through which to stop the worst threats and the most blatant criminals, who find themselves no longer being able to use millions of people as shields- people whose sole ‘crime’ is that of wanting to breathe free. As a result, the border patrol has a much easier job, the job industry is revitalized with immigrants working both in low-skilled areas and high skilled areas, and a system is in place that, finally, respects the rights of the individual.

Sources Cited

Biddle, Craig. “Ayn Rand's Theory of Rights: The Moral Foundation of a Free Society.” The Objective Standard. Fall 2011. Vol 6. Glen Allen: Glen Allen Press, LLC, 2011. Print.

Rand, Ayn. “The Objectivist Ethics”, The Virtue Of Selfishness, A New Concept Of Egoism. New York: Signet, 1964.

Rand, Ayn. “Man’s Rights”, The Virtue Of Selfishness, A New Concept Of Egoism. New York: Signet, 1964.

Binswanger, Harry “On Open Immigration”, The Harry Binswanger List

Ayn Rand, Ford Hall Forum, 1973.

U.S. Department of State, "Temporary Worker Visas." U.S. Department of State, 2011. Web. 29 Mar 2012.

Repost: The Defense Of Marriage Act: End unconstitutional tyranny upon individual rights and the rights of immigrants.

By Guest Blogger, Andrew Ryan

Immigration legislation unfairly discriminates against binational LGBT couples in the United States, placing unconstitutional hardships before them by refusing toLGBT Liberty and Justice Kissing  validate the contractual validity of their relationships and exposing them to deportation and separation, traumatic hardships which their heterosexual counterparts do not have to face.

Based on census data from 2000, Immigration Equality has estimated that there are approximately 36,000 same-sex binational couples in the United States. Over 45% of these couples have children [1]. Furthermore, in 79% of said binational families, the non-citizen partner is from a country that doesn’t provide immigration benefits to these couples. The situation therefore becomes one in which each partner is completely unable to offer sponsorship for a process of naturalization common to most heterosexual marriages in which the spouse is able to provide a permanent means of residence for the spouse[2].

In a heterosexual binational marriage in the United States, if an American citizen were to marry a foreign national of the opposite gender, the aforementioned national is eligible for a process of naturalization. Should they reside outside of the United States prior to the matrimonial contract, they may enter the United States through a special ‘fiancé’ visa known as the K-1 Visa. Once married, they may file for adjustment of status and enter the Green Card process. While often a long and protracted process, if the marriage is not fraudulent a spouse is granted naturalization status in a time period between three and five years[3]. This process is unattainable for same-sex binational couples thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Defense of Marriage Act (from here on referred to as DOMA) was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 21, 1996. Section 3 of the Act amends Chapter 1 of title 1 of the United States Code in the following manner:

In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.[4]

Once passed into law, DOMA proceeded to completely annul the possibility of any committed binational same-sex couple, should they marry in a state which allows for same-sex marriage, to initiate naturalization procedures- effectively preventing one spouse from sponsoring the other for a Green Card. The resulting scenario thus forces binational same-sex couples to exist in a state of uncertainty that no other kind of relationship in the United States has to undergo. Due to the current state of immigration policies, most legal immigrants have a slim chance of attaining a coveted Work Visa, and few have the significant funds to qualify for an Investor’s Visa[5]. In a struggle to remain together, most couples resort to enrolling the foreign partner in an educational institution for an F-1 Visa. A scenario that is echoed all throughout the country is that of Frances Herbert and her Japanese partner, Takako Ueda. Featured in an article on the Brattleboro Reformer, in order to remain with her partner Ueda had to obtain a student Visa: “Ueda enrolled in classes at Keene State College soon after arriving in the United States despite the culture shock and her limited grasp of English. Last year she earned her third degree in 10 years. With the expiration of her visa looming, Ueda said she exhausted every possible avenue, looking for a way to remain with her partner.[6]

The issues with the student scenario are worsened by the prospect of financial drain: international students under an F-1 Visa never qualify for in-state tuition and thus must pay out-of-state prices throughout the length of their degrees. That brings the cost of a full academic year at an institution such as the University of Colorado in Boulder to $44,560 per year[7], and $20,000 per year at a community college such as Colorado’s Front Range Community College[8]. Students must take a full course load, or have their Visa status revoked. If this by itself were not daunting enough a price to meet on a yearly basis, two facts make the situation even more forbidding: International students do not qualify for most available scholarships or financial aid, and they are not allowed to work outside of campus to supplement their income under penalty of revocation of status.[9]

Further complicating the situation is the fact that on-campus employers often prefer students who qualify for the Federal Work Study program, as it essentially provides them with students whose earnings are paid for by federal funding.[10] As expected, international students do not qualify for Federal Work programs, and as such the available positions open to them are few and far between. An international student may apply for authorization to work off-campus, but only if: (a)they can prove financial hardship, (b) that their workload will not affect their academic performance and (c) they have been in the United States for at least one full academic year.[11]Approval for off-campus employment is good for one year, and If the student wishes to continue off-campus employment, they must reapply- which can result in a revocation of status under the argument that the student should not be in the United States if they cannot support their education. As Ueda’s scenario demonstrates, this is a state of affairs that can only be temporary, as the international student must put all productivity on hold and drain their financial resources until they can no longer finance their education. Eventually after several degrees, Immigration authorities will suspect the student of ‘Immigrant Intent’ and deny any further visas.

Outside of the extremely costly Investors’ Visa, there are no Visas that allow a foreigner to be self-employed. Even should a foreigner be able to obtain the much-coveted and seldom-awarded H-1B work visa, they cannot be self-employed and earn additional income: doing so will render them out-of-status.

Eventually, and in the majority of cases, money runs out or visas stop being renewed due to suspicion of “immigrant intent”, the quest for the H-1 Visa Grail fails, and the inevitable outcome looms ever closer: every one of those 72,000 individuals faces the choice of being forcibly separated from their longtime partners. Most of these couples have been together for years and even decades, and find themselves leaving behind splintered lives and the deafening absence of the other. This reality is so foreign to the average American that he or she may fail to fully comprehend the enormity of it, and a dramatization may be necessary to paint the full image: Imagine that the person whom you have chosen as your life partner, whose life you have decided to share, whose habits have been integrated into yours, whose tastes, companionship, histories and background have become as part of your own history as your birthplace and family have, is removed by force from your life and sent to a remote location by a government that does not consider your relationship a valid one. You are left with only two options: Seek a means to be re-united with your partner on American soil (unlikely after deportation or expiration of status), or abandon the country and place of your birth in favor for their country – but only if their country recognizes your relationship. If that is not the case, neither of you have recourse to repair your forcibly-shattered life.

While an emotional appeal may be powerful enough to elicit sympathy in cases such as these, Americans need to realize that the issue is far from being simply a question of emotions- but that these cruel and tragic circumstances have been brought about by the deliberate violation of constitutional principle and individual rights. The formulation of the Defense of Marriage Act was introduced at a crucial time in United States in which it was expected that Hawaii and other states would legalize same-sex marriage. Opponents, members of the Religious Right movement, became keenly aware that under the 14th Amendment, other states would be obligated to uphold matrimonial contracts from such states, and thus open the floodgates for further marriage reform in other states. Hence, DOMA was drafted as a measure by which the Religious Right could bypass the issue and be able to define the concept of ‘marriage’ as it applies to all United States citizens.

We may find a telling example of the exposed principle that drives the political crusade by examining the rhetoric of Stand For Marriage Maine (SFMM), a subset of the National Organization for Marriage, a non-profit established in 2007 to prevent the legal recognition and acceptance of same-sex marriage in the United States[12].

During its campaign to defeat a same-sex marriage proposition in Maine, SFMM posited on its website: “If Question 1 fails and LD 1020 is allowed to take effect, marriage will be redefined to be about any two consenting adults without regard to gender, the focus being only about what the adults want for themselves, and not what is best for society as a whole. If allowed to take effect, LD 1020 would throw to the trash heap Maine’s decades-old interest in traditional marriage and legalize homosexual, genderless marriage.[13]

The assumption that rhetoric such as SFMM smuggles as an accepted claim is it is proper for government to restrict the right of an individual to enter into a contract of his own choosing with another individual. Furthermore, the sentence insinuates that it is perfectly within the rights of a sufficiently agitated majority to restrict other individuals from entering into a specific kind of contract (in this case, a civil marriage contract) simply because they are in disagreement with it. This, in fact, is not true at all: as long as the terms of the contract and its actions do not violate the individual rights of others, individuals are protected by the principles individual rights– they are free to enter into a marriage contract or other kind of contract if they so desire.

For the citizenship to have the power to prohibit a couple of the same sex from entering into said contract, there would have to be an explicit right to specifically delimit relationships of third parties. No such right exists and no such right could exist because its philosophical and legal repercussions would be devastating upon individual liberties: with these principles put into practice, one group may prohibit a set of individuals from entering into a contract of marriage because of religious grounds, racial grounds, public opinion, et cetera. Specific provisions by the Constitution protect the rights of the individual from the use of coercion by government on a federal or state level.[14]

To be specific, SFMM and DOMA’s rhetoric specifically violate the 14th amendment of the Constitution which guarantees equal protection (emphasis added):

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.[15]

The intent to violate equal protection is evident in the fourth line of SFMM’s website excerpt: ‘The focus being only about what the adults want for themselves, and not what is best for society as a whole.’ Upon reading this excerpt it behooves us to ask: who is ‘society’? What rights does ‘society’ have that it supersedes the rights of the individual? In this example, just as in all other examples of arguments using ‘social theory’ rhetoric throughout the ages, same sex couples are not part of ‘society’ and their benefit is not part of ‘what is best for society.’ The main intent consists solely on denying or imposing a course of action upon a third party simply because a majority has decided it must be so, without any necessary proof other than testifying that they ‘speak for society,’ and in this particular species of argument “society” always happens to be everybody but the parties being coerced. On this principle of ‘social theory’ at work, Rand said that “Although it claims that its chief concern is life on earth, it is not the life of man, not the life of an individual, but the life of a disembodied entity, the collective, which, in relation to every individual, consists of everybody except himself.[16]

There are no special rights that are conferred when two or more people are gathered together against a third party- each individual has his own rights, which are no different from any of the rights those around him hold. The argument from social theory would have you believe that consensus equals truth, but that is not the case: Society is not a beast apart from the individual unit (it is, in fact, nothing more than an abstract concept that subsumes the total sum of individuals living within a specific social framework)—what is good for the individual is what is ‘good for society’, and what is good for the individual is to have his individual rights respected and enforced: to impede two individuals from defining their relationship in legal terms is infringing those rights.

There is a large and intentional confusion when it comes to the term ‘marriage’ as it is applied to the non-ecclesiastic function of two individuals signing a legal contract with the intent to share their assets and their lives. Opponents of same-sex marriage have used this tactic over and over again, obscuring the nature of the argument to muddle the definition of what exactly is being discussed. Opponents of same-sex marriage use charged rhetoric in order to emotionally confuse ecclesiastic marriage, the ceremony by a religious officiator unites the couple in question before their shared deity, with contractual civil marriage. This is, in fact, not the case, as the entities of civil marriage and religious marriage are separate and it is impossible to treat them as a single entity: one is a legal contract, the other one a religious ritual, and neither has any effect on the other by virtue of the first amendment to the Constitution. The contract that a couple signs when marrying through City Hall is, in fact, a civil union, regardless of the specific genders of the couple in question.

A marriage contract, such as is performed through the government, is a contractual agreement whereby two individuals mutually promise to live together as a legally interrelated whole for life, or until the legal termination of the relationship. Rand, arguing on the principle of government, observed that “the only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law.[17]” The proper role of a rights-respecting government therefore is contradictory with the aims of NOM, SFMM and ultimately the mandates established by DOMA: third parties do not have the right to delimit the legal relationships into which consenting individuals enter, and neither does the government have the right to exercise one of its primary functions (the upholding and defense of contractual agreements) based upon a religious principle. The first amendment to the Constitution reads (added emphasis):

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.[18]

The first clause, commonly referred to as the establishment clause, shows evidence that a number of the founding fathers such as Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson felt that established religion, under the auspices of state enforcement, would serve as a threat to freedom. This is plainly evident in Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.[19]"

The majority of arguments against gay marriage are religious in nature[20], and indeed that is the case with government-based opposition: rhetoric featuring the term “sanctity of marriage” is the first and foremost spearhead directed against any attempts at counter-legislation. In 2006, President George W. Bush, on his weekly radio program, called upon Congress to pass a constitutional amendment in order to ban gay marriage, expressing his opinion that marriage “cannot be cut off from it cultural, religious, and natural roots.[21]” Arguing for a contractual law to mirror religious creed is a blatant disregard for the first amendment, and alluding to cultural and ‘natural’ roots are part of a common logical fallacy known as The Appeal To Antiquity, where the claimant asks his or her audience to assume that the mere fact that an idea has a long tradition or life behind it is an immediate and irrevocable implication that it is, in fact, true.[22] One would only need to point to the pre-Civil War South and its long ‘tradition of slavery’ as an example of how this kind of reasoning is completely fallacious. One may also equally point towards humanity’s long tradition of racism to indicate that, in fact, a racist attitude is not only right, but “natural” as well. Appeals to antiquity disintegrate quickly when exposed to oxygen.

As it has been explained before, opponents of same-sex marriage do not have a constitutional or rational reason to oppose the rights to which, by constitutional principle, should be granted. The effect of continuing to disregard individual rights and constitutional principle is that scenarios such as Takako Ueda’s are repeated tens of thousands of times all across America, separating individuals who have no reason for being treated as second-class citizens, and tearing families asunder simply because certain elected representatives do not believe they should be families in the first place. The United States of America is not a Democracy, where a majority may willingly vote away the rights of a minority- it is a Constitutional Republic, with checks and balances placed by the Constitution upon the power and reach of government upon the lives of its individual constituents to prevent scenarios like these. The ordered death of Socrates was a fully democratic act carried out by the people of Athens,[23] and it was scenarios like these that the fathers of the Constitution sought to avoid with the original document and its first tend amendments called “The Bill of Rights” which guaranteed the inalienable rights of an individual, even against overwhelming votes.

Opponents continue to fight the issue, citing that same-sex marriages are “special rights”- that is, rights not found in the original Constitution and for which special legislation had to be effected[24]. However, this argument also falls apart in contradiction when examined: The drafting of DOMA, a specialized piece of legislation, proves that special treatment was actually given to a group of religious ideologies to interfere with the natural course of events as guaranteed by the 14th amendment. Unless one were to argue that the Constitution and its amendments initially promoted ‘special treatment’ (which would render the purpose of the Constitution as a document establishing individual rights impossible), there is no option but to discard the argument of ‘special rights’ immediately. The question is impossible to ignore: why did it take a special action from a focused interest group to sign legislation that obstructs a constitutional amendment from honoring same-sex contractual marriages, as they would have been under the fourteenth amendment? There was, in fact, a ‘special treatment’ granted in the issue of same-sex marriage, but in this case it was granted to the Religious Right in flagrant disregard for constitutional principle.

The only conclusion to which a rights-respecting individual, under Constitutional principle, can arrive at is that there is currently a subset of the American population that is suffering extreme injustice, discrimination and persecution. These are not special rights that have been taken away from same-sex binational couples, but basic constitutional rights that have been restricted through political maneuvers by the Religious Right. Such a situation cannot be tolerated nor can it be allowed to stand. There are two courses of action to which I exhort the reader, after presenting the arguments in favor of this case:

Support the Uniting American Families Act: Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) reintroduced U.A.F.A. in the House of Representatives. Said bill has been presented to the house over a course of ten years, constantly being re-introduced, and which would allow the provision of ‘same sex partnerships’ to immigration procedures, allowing committed same-sex relationships to qualify for immigration and naturalization benefits without depending on the repeal of DOMA (which might take several years in court). And,

Support the Repeal of the Defense Of Marriage Act: U.A.F.A may be considered a stopgap measure in order to prevent further deportation of innocent, rights-respecting same-sex couples that have run afoul of the Religious Right’s legislation, but the ultimate goal to which any rights-respecting American must aspire is towards the full and absolute repeal of the Defense of Marriage act on the grounds that it violates individual rights, and specifically the first and fourteenth amendments to the United States Constitution. In order to become involved in the process to pass both U.A.F.A. and repeal DOMA, I urge the reader to refer himself to the Immigration Equality Action Fund at http://immigrationequalityactionfund.org/ and follow the guides in place for action.

Sources Cited

1. Immigration Equality: About Us. http://www.immigrationequality.org/about/

2. Immigration Action Fund: Statistics and Facts.http://immigrationequalityactionfund.org/press/facts/

3. Travel State Gov: Nonimmigrant Visas for Fiances.http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/types/types_2994.html

4. Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Pub. L. 104-199, 100 Stat. 2419 (Sept. 21, 1996)

5. Visas for Treaty Traders and Treaty Investors, Travel.StateGov,http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1273.html

6. Jaime Cone, Vermont Couples In Limbo From Defense of Marriage Act,http://www.immigrationequality.org/clippings/vermont-couple-in-limbo-from-defense-of-marriage-act/

7. Information for International Students, Undergraduate Admission, CU Boulder ,http://admissions.colorado.edu/undergraduate/finances/international

8. Community College International Student Admissions, FRCC ,http://www.frontrange.edu/international/

9. Student Visas, U.S. Department of State,http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1268.html

10. Federal Work Study Program, U.S. Department of Education,http://www2.ed.gov/programs/fws/index.html

11. Off-Campus Basic Guidelines, ICE,http://www.ice.gov/sevis/employment/faq_f_off1.htm

12. NOM: About NOM,http://www.nationformarriage.org/site/c.omL2KeN0LzH/b.3479573/k.E2D0/About_NOM.htm

13. Why Marriage Matters, SFMM, http://www.standformarriagemaine.com/?page_id=115

14. 14th Amendment, U.S. Constitution Online,http://www.usconstitution.net/xconst_Am14.html

15. Constitutional Law, Legal Information Institute,http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/Constitutional_law

16. Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 34.

17. Ayn Rand, “Galt’s Speech”, For the New Intellectual, 183.

18. Constitution of the United States of America,http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution.html

19. Jefferson’s Wall of Separation Letter, U.S. Constitution Online,http://www.usconstitution.net/jeffwall.html

20. Common Arguments Against Gay Marriage, About.com,http://atheism.about.com/od/gaymarriage/p/ContraGayMarria.htm

21. Comely Beattie, “Preserving the Sanctity of Marriage”, Common Dreams,http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0605-25.htm

22. Appeal To Antiquity, Logical Fallacies,http://www.logicalfallacies.info/relevance/appeals/appeal-to-tradition/

23. Doug Linder, The Trial of Socrates,http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/socrates/socratesaccount.html

24. Tom Strode, “Opposed to ‘gay marriage’ , ‘special rights’ Bush says”, Baptist Press,http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=6657

Repost: On Open Immigration, by Guest Blogger Fotis Olympodoros

The restrictive immigration policies that are currently in place in the United States nowadays are contrary to the spirit and principles upon which this country was founded, and they must be eliminated in favor of a system of open immigration for the sake of the country’s ideological integrity as well as its financial integrity. The very principle of the issue demands it.

Under the present immigration system, immigrants wishing to make their way in the United States face enormous obstacles: decades of accumulated baroque legislation have transformed what once was a relaxed immigration system into a veritable maze that only few are able to navigate successfully. Employers seeking to sponsor a foreign national for a work visa must, for example, invest over $7,000 in paperwork and legal fees to start the process. The following step consists of the potential employee being entered into a “lottery” in order to compete for one of the coveted visas- of which only 65,000 are granted a year by the government (should the employee be unlucky enough not to get a visa during the random lottery, his employer cannot recover the money invested). Should he be fortunate enough to secure one of the coveted visas, he must still wait six months before allowed to work for the employer.  As it can be plainly seen, this system is a flagrant violation of the rights of both employer and employee: The employer finds his right to property violated the instant the government dictates whom he may or may not employ, and the immigrant in question finds his own rights violated by being treated as a potential criminal for the mere act of wishing to work. There is, in fact, no article in the Constitution which prohibits non-violent, non-criminal individuals from seeking to reside in the United States, nor is there an actual prohibition on their working on American soil (indeed, George Washington said, in his December 2nd, 1873 address: "The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent and respectable stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions, whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment.")

Anti-immigration rhetoric in this country has seen a surge thanks to the efforts of groups such as FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform), founded by John Tanton, a white supremacist whose major funding comes from the Pioneer Group- another white supremacist organization whose main platform is the support of eugenics. While groups such as FAIR would gladly paint an image of a racially homogenous America, their very arguments crumble into dust upon examining any family tree.

Regardless of current status, every man, woman and child alive in the United States has an ancestor in their family tree who, at one point in history, set foot on these shores a complete stranger to its ways, its people, and its language.  What awaited this traveler at the turn of the 20th century was not a draconian process requiring thousands of dollars and Monte Carlo odds, but a rather simple medical checkup and other cursory examinations. It is a simple fact that if today’s immigration regulations were in place when the honorable ancestors of these men and women came to America, they would have been rejected and sent back… or, perhaps not wishing to go back to a country in the dawn of war, they might have jumped the border and become illegal immigrants.

Illegal immigrants become thus because, through sheer over-regulation, the government has turned the entire process of immigration into a nearly-impossible goal. Individuals not unlike the ancestors of our current prominent political figures (the O’Reillys – Irish peasants, or the Tancredos—Italian peasants) must either face the choice of staying in countries that are in strife (Mexico, Venezuela, Ecuador, Honduras), or seek to carve a new life in a freer country—even it if means risking the status of illegality. Decades ago, America welcomed such immigrants;  today they must claim the promise of American freedom through the barbed wire and the border fences.

One of the common fallacies used against open immigration is that an increased number of immigrants will ‘dry up’ the job market and send the economy plummeting. This is known as the “Zero Sum Fallacy”, because it assumes that wealth and industry are a zero-sum game: that there are only so many ‘slices of the pie’ available at one point or another, and that it therefore runs out with more people 'grabbing' for then. If this argument were actually true, then the great cosmopolitan cities such as Los Angeles and New York, who have some of the highest population density in the country, would necessarily have to be wastelands of abject and complete poverty all across the board, and the arid and desolate expanses of Kansas’ small towns being shining examples of wealth and prosperity.

The fact that reality is quite the opposite points towards something that the country has known from its very inception: increased population causes an increase in the demand for skills, goods and services, and the new immigrants help ensure that those demands are covered—generating wealth and prosperity. Opponents of immigration also forget the most glaring error in their argument: That the O’Reillys, the Coulters, the Tancredos and other prominent figures are the direct beneficiaries of lax immigration laws in the past. Very few- if any- of their ancestors possessed degrees, many may not have known how to read at all. Under the immigration laws currently in place (and under their proposed, stricter laws) they would have all been turned away. Yet these ancestors were able to stay, work and prosper in America, and the most recent generations of their family trees reap the fortunate rewards whilst arguing that no-one else should have the same opportunities that their ancestors enjoyed, and from which they are currently benefitting.

Their argument even goes further towards barring any rights for anyone except American-born citizens. The very spirit of independence that created America revolts against such a notion- the ideas of monarchy and privilege by blood, where a group of people were given more rights than others because of who their fathers were, were the ideas that generated oppression against the colonies: a small sub-set of the population felt entitled to the property, income and land of others merely because of birthright.  It was Thomas Payne, in his essay on Common Sense, who said “For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have a right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others forever.” The idea that citizenship and the recognition of rights should only be applied to those born on US soil is the violation of that; it is the establishment of privilege by heredity, of aristocracy. And even if a person could take leave of their senses long enough to consider that argument seriously, the question arises: how far back is it to be applied?

Go back far enough, and nobody (except the Native Americans) was born on U.S. soil. Stop at any point before that, and it is simply an aleatory non-objective law. As Russian immigrant Ayn Rand pointed out, “only a non-objective law can give a statist the chance he seeks: a chance to impose his arbitrary will—his policies, his decisions, his interpretations, his enforcement, his punishment or favor—on disarmed, defenseless victims.” This is precisely what opponents of immigration- both private individuals and government functionaries wish to achieve, they require non-objective law and prejudice to bolster their bravado, as they have no rational arguments to back their claims.

No matter how they may wish to phrase their fallacies, the irrefutable truth is that the Constitution does not discriminate in its allocation of rights between citizens and non citizens, and it also does not deny the right of any man, be he a law-abiding citizen, to live where he wishes to live. Washington D.C’s baroque and overtaxed immigration machinery has made criminals out of the kind of people who, many generations ago , might have been found descending from a boat at Ellis Island or, even further back, from the Mayflower itself.

by Fotis Olympodoros

Repost: Harry Binswanger on Open Immigration

Since Cora was born in June, I've been struggling to form a normal routine.  I've returned to work and things are definitely more settled than they were a few months ago, but until she gets a little bit older, her schedule is pretty much all over the place, making my free time unpredictable.  As such, Mother of Exiles has suffered, and I need to find time to make new posts, no matter how small or simple. 

Today, I had the idea to start reposting some older posts that are still very relevant.  The answers to questions I'm frequently asked in the comments of my posts can usually be found in previous posts, so I started thinking, why not repost those important posts occasionally?  (Ultimately, I'd like to permanently post links to some of my basic topics in a menu off to the side, or simply complete my FAQ section, but we'll see how much I can get done and when!)

So in that vein, here is a reposting of Harry Binswanger's excellent article about open immigration:

Open Immigration, by Harry Binswanger

This is a defense of phasing-in open immigration into the United States. Entry into the U.S. should ultimately be free for any foreigner, with the exception of criminals, would-be terrorists, and those carrying infectious diseases. (And note: I am defending freedom of entry and residency, not the automatic granting of U.S. citizenship).

An end to immigration quotas is demanded by the principle of individual rights. Every individual has rights as an individual, not as a member of this or that nation. One has rights not by virtue of being an American, but by virtue of being human.

One doesn't have to be a resident of any particular country to have a moral entitlement to be secure from governmental coercion against one's life, liberty, and property. In the words of the Declaration of Independence, government is instituted "to secure these rights"—to protect them against their violation by force or fraud.

A foreigner has rights just as much as an American. To be a foreigner is not to be a criminal. Yet our government treats as criminals those foreigners not lucky enough to win the green-card lottery.

Seeking employment in this country is not a criminal act. It coerces no one and violates no one's rights. There is no "right" to be exempt from competition in the labor market, or in any other market.

It is not a criminal act to buy or rent a home here in which to reside. Paying for housing is not a coercive act—whether the buyer is an American or a foreigner. No one's rights are violated when a Mexican, or Canadian, or Senegalese rents an apartment from an American owner and moves into the housing he is paying for. And what about the rights of those American citizens who want to sell or rent their property to the highest bidders? Or the American businesses that want to hire the lowest-cost workers? It is morally indefensible for our government to violate their right to do so.

Immigration quotas forcibly exclude foreigners who want not to seize but to purchase housing here, who want not to rob Americans but to engage in productive work, raising our standard of living. To forcibly exclude those who seek peacefully to trade value for value with us is a violation of the rights of both parties to such a trade: the rights of the American seller or employer and the rights of the foreign buyer or employee.

Thus, immigration quotas treat both Americans and foreigners as if they were criminals, as if the peaceful exchange of values to mutual benefit were an act of destruction.

To take an actual example, if I want to invite my Norwegian friend Klaus to live in my home, either as a guest or as a paying tenant, what right does our government have to stop Klaus and me? To be a Norwegian is not to be a criminal. And if some American business wants to hire Klaus, what right does our government have to interfere?

The implicit premise of barring foreigners is: "This is our country, we let in who we want." But who is "we"? The government does not own the country. Jurisdiction is not ownership. Only the owner of land or any item of property can decide the terms of its use or sale. Nor does the majority own the country. This is a country of private property, and housing is private property. So is a job.

American land is not the collective property of some entity called "the U.S. government." Nor is there such a thing as collective, social ownership of the land. The claim, "We have the right to decide who is allowed in" means some individuals—those with the most votes—claim the right to prevent other citizens from exercising their rights. But there can be no right to violate the rights of others.

Our constitutional republic respects minority rights. 60% of the population cannot vote to enslave the other 40%. Nor can a majority dictate to the owners of private property. Nor can a majority dictate on whom private employers spend their money. Not morally, not in a free society. In a free society, the rights of the individual are held sacrosanct, above any claim of even an overwhelming majority.

The rights of one man end where the rights of his neighbor begin. Only within the limits of his rights is a man free to act on his own judgment. The criminal is the man who deliberately steps outside his rights-protected domain and invades the domain of another, depriving his victim of his exclusive control over his property, or liberty, or life. The criminal, by his own choice, has rejected rights in favor of brute violence. Thus, an immigration policy that excludes criminals is proper.

Likewise, a person with an infectious disease, such as smallpox, threatens with serious physical harm those with whom he comes into proximity. Unlike the criminal, he may not intend to do damage, but the threat of physical harm is clear, present, and objectively demonstrable. To protect the lives of Americans, he may be kept out or quarantined until he is no longer a threat.

But what about the millions of Mexicans, South Americans, Chinese, Canadians, etc. seeking entry who are not criminal and not bearing infectious diseases? By what moral principle can they be excluded? Not on the grounds of majority vote, not on the grounds of protecting any American's rights, not on the grounds of any legitimate authority of the state.

THE MORAL AND THE PRACTICAL

That's the moral case for phasing out limits on immigration. But some ask: "Is it practical? Wouldn't unlimited immigration—even if phased in over a decade—be disastrous to our economic well-being and create overcrowding? Are we being told to just grit our teeth and surrender our interests in the name of morality?"

This question is invalid on its face. It shows a failure to understand the nature of rights, and of moral principles generally. Rational moral principles reflect a recognition of the basic nature of man, his nature as a specific kind of living organism, having a specific means of survival. Questions of what is practical, what is to one's self-interest, can be answered only in that context. It is neither practical nor to one's interest to attempt to live and act in defiance of one's nature as a human being.

Yet that is the meaning of the moral-practical dichotomy. When one claims, "It is immoral but practical," one is maintaining, "It cripples my nature as a human being, but it is beneficial to me"—which is a contradiction.

Rights, in particular, are not something pulled from the sky or decreed by societal whim. Rights are moral principles, established by reference to the needs inherent in man's nature qua man. "Rights are conditions of existence required by man's nature for his proper survival." (Ayn Rand)

Every organism has a basic means of survival; for man, that means is: reason. Man is the rational animal, homo sapiens. Rights are moral principles that spell out the terms of social interaction required for a rational being to survive and flourish. Since the reasoning mind cannot function under physical coercion, the basic social requirement of man's survival is: freedom. Rights prescribe freedom by proscribing coercion.

"If man is to live on earth, it is right for him to use his mind, it is right to act on his own free judgment, it is right to work for his values and to keep the product of his work." (Ayn Rand)

Rights reflect the fundamental alternative of voluntary consent or brute force. The reign of force is in no one's interest; the system of voluntary cooperation by mutual consent is the precondition of anyone achieving his actual interests.

To ignore the principle of rights means jettisoning the principled, moral resolution of conflicts, and substituting mere numbers (majority vote). That is not to anyone's interest. Tyranny is not to anyone's self-interest.

Rights establish the necessary framework within which one defines his legitimate self-interest. One cannot hold that one's self-interest requires that he be "free" to deprive others of their freedom, treating their interests as morally irrelevant. One cannot hold that recognizing the rights of others is moral but "impractical."

Since rights are based on the requirements of man's life as a rational being, there can be no conflict between the moral and the practical here: if respecting individual rights requires it, your interest requires it.

Freedom or force, reason or compulsion—that is the basic social alternative. Immigrants recognize the value of freedom—that's why they seek to come here.

The American Founders defined and implemented a system of rights because they recognized that man, as a rational being, must be free to act on his own judgment and to keep the products of his own effort. They did not intend to establish a system in which those who happen to be born here could use force to "protect" themselves from the peaceful competition of others.

ECONOMICS

One major fear of open immigration is economic: the fear of losing one's job to immigrants. It is asked: "Won't the immigrants take our jobs?" The answer is: "Yes, so that we can go on to better, higher-paying jobs."

The fallacy in the protectionist view lies in the idea that there is only a finite amount of work to be done. The unstated assumption is: "If Americans don't get to do that work, if foreigners do it instead, we Americans will have nothing to do."

But work is the creation of wealth. A job is not just drawing a salary, it is acting to produce things—food, cars, computers, internet content—all the goods and services that go to make up our standard of living. And we never get a "too high" standard of living or "too much" wealth. The need for wealth is limitless. And that means the need for productive work is limitless.

From a grand, historical perspective, we are only at the beginning of the wealth-creating age. The wealth Americans produce today is as nothing compared to what we'll have two hundred years from now—just as the standard of living in 1800 was as nothing, compared to ours today.

Unemployment is not caused by an absence of avenues for the creation of wealth. Unemployment is caused by government interference in the labor market, preventing the law of supply and demand from "clearing the market" in labor services, as it does in every other market. Yet, even with that interference, the number of jobs goes relentlessly upward, decade after decade—from 27 million workers in 1900 to about 140 million in 2010. Jobs do not exist as a fixed pool, to be divided up. Jobs can always be added because there's no end to the creation of wealth and thus no end to the useful employment of human intelligence. There is always more productive work to be done. If you can give your job to an immigrant, you can get a more valuable job.

What is the effect of a bigger labor pool on wage rates? Given a constant money supply, nominalwage rates fall. But real wage rates rise, because total output has gone up. Economists have demonstrated that real wages have to rise as long as the immigrants are self-supporting. If immigrants earn their keep, if they don't consume more than they produce, then they add to total output, which means that prices fall (if the money supply is constant).

And, in fact, rising real wages was the history of our country in the nineteenth century. Before the 1920s, there were no limits on immigration; yet these were the years of America's fastest economic progress. The standard of living rocketed upward. Self-supporting immigrants brought economic benefit, not hardship.

The protectionist objection that immigrants take away jobs and harm our standard of living is a solid economic fallacy.

WELFARE

A popular misconception is that immigrants come here to get welfare. In fact, this is rarely immigrants' motive. It is true that the small minority of immigrants who come to get welfare doconstitute a burden. But this issue has been render moot by the passage, under the Clinton Administration, of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity and Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), which makes legal permanent residents ineligible for most forms of welfare for 5 years. I support this kind of legislation (which should be enacted at the State level as well; currently left-leaning States, like California, continue to throw tax money at immigrants—and everyone else).

Further, if the fear is of non-working immigrants, why is the pending House bill aimed at employersof immigrants?

CRIME

Contrary to "accepted wisdom," the data show that immigrants are less prone to crime than are native Americans. For instance, over one-fourth of the residents of the border-town El Paso, Texas are immigrants. But El Paso has about one-tenth the murder rate of Baltimore, a city of comparable size.

That's not an anomaly:

"If you want to find a safe city, first determine the size of the immigrant population," says Jack Levin, a criminologist at Northeastern University in Massachusetts. "If the immigrant community represents a large proportion of the population, you're likely in one of the country's safer cities. San Diego, Laredo, El Paso—these cities are teeming with immigrants, and they're some of the safest places in the country."

http://reason.com/archives/2009/07/06/the-el-paso-miracle

Criminals have a short-range, stay-in-the-'hood mentality. Immigrants are longer-range, ambitious, and want to earn money, not grab it.

The deeper point is moral-legal. The fact that some men in a given category may commit crimes is no justification for treating everyone in that category as criminals. Guilt is not collective. Just as Bernie Madoff's crimes are his, not those of all hedge-fund operators, just as the fact that Madoff is of Jewish descent in no way legitimates anti-semitism, so it is a slap at morality to curtail the rights of all immigrants because of the crimes of a few individual immigrants.

Man has free will. The choices of some do not reflect on the moral status of others, who make their own choices. Each individual is responsible for his own actions, and only his own actions.

OVERCROWDING

America is a vastly underpopulated country. Our population density is less than one-third of France's.

Hordes of immigrants would come to overcrowd America? Okay, take a really extreme scenario. Imagine that half of the people on the planet moved here. That would mean an unthinkable eleven-fold increase in our population—from 300 million to 3.3 billion people. The result? America would be a bit less "densely" populated than England. England has 384 people/sq.km; vs. 360 people/sq. km. if our population multiplied 11-fold. Another comparison: with half of mankind living here, we would be less densely populated than the state of New Jersey is today (453/sq. km.). Note that these calculations exclude Alaska (our biggest state) and Hawaii. And the density-calculations count only land area.

Contrary to widespread beliefs, high population density is a value not a disvalue. High population density intensifies the division of labor, which makes possible a wider variety of jobs and specialized consumer products. For instance, in Manhattan, there is a "doll hospital"—a store specializing in the repair of children's dolls. Such a specialized, niche business requires a high population density in order to have a market. Try finding a doll hospital in Poughkeepsie. In Manhattan, one can find a job as a Pilates Method teacher or as a "Secret Shopper" (two jobs actually listed on Craig's List). Not so in Paducah.

People want to live near other people, in cities. One-seventh of England's population lives in London. If population density is a bad thing, why are Manhattan real-estate prices so high?

THE VALUE OF IMMIGRANTS

Immigrants are the kind of people who refresh the American spirit. They are ambitious, courageous, and value freedom. They come here, often with no money and not even speaking the language, to seek a better life for themselves and their children.

The vision of American freedom, with its opportunity to prosper by hard work, serves as a magnet drawing the best of the world's people. Immigrants are self-selected for their virtues: their ambitiousness, daring, independence, and pride. They are willing to cast aside the tradition-bound roles assigned to them in their native lands and to re-define themselves as Americans. These are the people our country needs in order to keep alive the individualist, hard-working attitude that made America.

Here is a short list of some great immigrants: Alexander Hamilton, Alexander Graham Bell, Andrew Carnegie, most of the top scientists of the Manhattan Project, Igor Sikorsky (the inventor of the helicopter), Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Ayn Rand.

Open immigration: the benefits are great. The right is unquestionable. So let them come.

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