Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

"Observe that the 'haves' are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the 'have-nots' have not." Ayn Rand

"The virtue involved in helping those one loves is not 'selflessness' or 'sacrifice', but integrity." Ayn Rand

13 December 2011

Federal Go-It-Alone Immigration Foolishness

It was only in 1875 that the Supreme Court decided that immigration policy was a federal responsibility.  In 1882 and 1891, Congress passed immigration acts.  The 1891 Immigration Act set up the Office of the Superintendent of Immigration to admit, reject, and process immigrants.  In 1893 the Office of Immigration had 119 employees at Ellis Island with a total staff of 180 employees.  Many of those other employees staffed other points of entry for immigrants.  How many employees remained for the task of finding and deporting illegal immigrants?  Clearly no more than a handful, if any.  So who did such work as was done to find illegal immigrants?  The answer has to be that this was the work of local and state governments.  The federal government defined and determined who could enter the USA legally, but it lacked the manpower to hunt down illegal immigrants.

By its own admission it still lacks the manpower to hunt down illegal immigrants and to deport them.  Logically, the states and local governments have continued the role they have always had in using their police power to do the task the federal government does not do now and really never has done.  Yet, I heard an Obama administration official just today claim that the federal government is the quarterback and states such as Arizona, Alabama, and Georgia have no role in finding illegal immigrants.  The Obama administration wants to be the quarterback who will hike the ball to himself and pass the ball to himself.  What a concept!

Of course, the federal government should do just what the 1891 Immigration Act said it should.  It should admit, reject, and process immigrants.  But, as the quarterback, it should understand that state and local governments are on the same team and have a vital interest in the law abidance of immigrants.  Of course they are tasked with protecting their local citizens from murder, theft, and other illegal activities of immigrants, as with anyone else.  Since the main reason there are immigration controls at all is a combination of concerns to keep criminals and terrorists out of the country, to control the effects of immigrants on wages and jobs, and to limit the number of people not yet well assimilated into the population and not familiar with the concepts of individual rights and limited constitutional government, these same concerns must be concerns of local and state governments.  To the extent these concerns are rational, then local law enforcement must not be denied a role in finding and removing illegal immigrants.

I am not anti-immigration at all.  I believe we allow too few legal immigrants.  I would like to see a large increase in the number of professional immigrants allowed into the country.  I also favor easy entry on work visas for less skilled workers, who upon completion of a few years of law-abiding work would be readily accepted as permanent residents should they choose to apply for such status.  I very much would like to see our immigration policies made freer, easier, and more welcoming.  Whatever the policy on immigration is, however, the laws should be enforced.  The only way the laws will be enforced is if the vainglorious quarterback becomes a team player and works well with the states and local governments.

This being the case, the only rational decision the Supreme Court can make on the Arizona illegal immigration bill called Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act or SB1070 is to overturn the lower court ruling that much of it is unconstitutional.  The Arizona law does not interfere with the federal government deciding who can legally emigrate and who cannot.  It simply requires that people within the Arizona borders obey the law, whether local, state, or federal law.  This is entirely the proper function of the state government.  It is a straight-forward excise of protecting the local people.  If it is not viewed as protecting the people to keep illegal immigrants out of the state, then the federal policy for deciding who can legally enter the country is clearly wrong.  Unfortunately, federal policy is rather poor, but it is not entirely without rational basis and the states are obliged to enforce the federal law as though it were rational and justified.  If the federal policy is too egregiously wrong, then the states are still obliged to rationally protect their citizens even if that brings them in conflict with the federal government.

Consider the defense of America from foreign invaders.  This is clearly a federal responsibility also.  Despite this federal responsibility, the states have a National Guard and while they do not set defense policy, they do provide manpower to make it possible to defend the country.  More to the point yet, if a company of enemy troops were to sneak into Tulsa, Oklahoma and attack the people there, would we not expect the Tulsa, Broken Arrow, Jenks, and Catoosa police forces and any local National Guard units to converge upon that company of foreign troops and protect the people of Tulsa from the invasion force before the federal government could get troops there to provide the protection.  Of course we would.  The fact that the federal government has the responsibility to set immigration policy is irrelevant to the need for local government officers to see to it that the law is obeyed locally and the people are protected.

The most severe problems of illegal immigration are diminishing due to a combination of factors.  According to an article in the 13 December Wall Street Journal, there are now 21,500 agents along the Mexican border, an increase of a factor of two since 2004.  The slowdown in the U.S. economy has made us much less enticing, especially since the Mexican economy is growing faster than ours.  Another big factor is that Mexican families are becoming smaller and the population growth is now at a replacement level.  In 1970, the average Mexican woman had 6.8 children.  In 1990, that number had fallen to 3.4 and now it is the stasis rate of 2.1.  According to the Pew Hispanic Center, the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. reached a maximum in 2007 of 12 million.  That number is now about 11 million.  Mexican immigrants are about 60% of the illegal immigrants.  In 2000, a total of about 750,000 Mexicans came to the U.S., counting both legal and illegal immigrants.  That year, the U.S. Border Patrol caught 1.64 million people along the Mexican border.  A net of only 150,000 Mexicans are believed to have made it into the U.S.  last year and 340,252 were apprehended at the Mexican border.  Deportations hit a record high in the last fiscal year of 397,000.  While the problem is diminishing, 11 million illegal immigrants is still a huge number of illegal immigrants.


Alan Siddons said...

A police officer’s oath explicitly acknowledges that his duties also have a national dimension — in other words, that he is obliged to enforce the country’s laws as well. Here is the Arizona oath, for instance.

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution and laws of the State of Arizona, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same and defend them against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of the office of (name of office) according to the best of my ability, so help me God (or so I do affirm).

The notion that a “wall of separation” exists between national and state interests obviously undercuts a state’s autonomy, let alone subverting one of the most fundamental rights, the right of self-defense. If the Supreme Court determines that Arizona’s laws are somehow “illegal,” the United States are cooked.

Charles R. Anderson, Ph.D. said...

Hi Alan,

Thanks for your great comment.

It is gratifying to know that an Arizona police officer takes the kind of oath one should rationally expect he would. The all too successful efforts of the federal government to add to its powers, often in clear contradiction of the Constitution, while forcing the reduction of the role of the states to that of servants, is a severe threat to the rights of the individual. Our rights are better served by having a more rational division of powers between the states and the federal government. This is an important separation of powers protection and provides the individual with a potential advocate, especially as the states compete with one another.

Individual rights, the rule of law, and limited constitutional federal government ought to be viewed as the responsibility of the People, the state, the House of Representatives, the Senate, the President, and the federal courts. Unfortunately, none of those with responsibility is fulfilling it very well. It is critical for liberty's champions to push them all to do better.

Michael E. Marotta said...

As an Objectivist myself, I find most interesting the many various personal interpretations of current events among people who nominally share the same premises. In this case, I have to ask, why did it take the Federal government 100 years to decide to regulate immigration? My answer is that immigration control was part of the Progressive movement. The word "immigration" does not appear in the Constitution. (Making laws to define naturalization is an enumerated power under Article I Section 9.)

Charles R. Anderson, Ph.D. said...

That is an interesting point Michael.

Part of the answer is likely that in our earlier years we obviously had huge resources, including much land, and everyone understood that people were in short supply. America was population limited. It was the Progressives with their dim view of mankind and desire for the return to a Rousseau-like primitive nature who began more and more to want to keep people out. The many radical environmentalists of the Democrat Socialist Party still explicitly espouse this dim view of man and an ecstatic view of primitive nature. The development of the unsustainable welfare state also seems to many to argue against major immigration. Some people will also just dislike anyone who seems different. It is interesting that Congress passed an anti-discrimination, civil rights bill in 1866 that barred rights discrimination against Norwegians, Russians, and people of other nationalities, as well as against blacks and former slaves. Now many still discriminate against Hispanic immigrants, though that is partly because so many are illegal.

I do believe it is very reasonable to exclude criminals and terrorists. Further controls may also be needed until the entitlement programs are cut back, though in some cases more immigrants help to sustain some such programs. Generally, legal immigration should be easier.