Tancredo Promotes Unjust Immigration Laws

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Tancredo Promotes Unjust Immigration Laws

by Ari Armstrong, September 21, 2002

Writing from his jail cell in Birmingham, Martin Luther King wrote, "I would agree with St. Augustine that 'an unjust law is no law at all'."

Congressman Tom Tancredo and many of his supporters have argued an honors student should be deported because his family came here "illegally." The law is the law, right?

In his little book titled "The Law," Frederic Bastiat warned about "[t]he law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it!" Our responsibility is not to enforce unjust laws, but to repeal them. Bastiat notes the proper function of the law is to protect the "liberty of conscience, of education, of association, of the press, of travel, of labor, [and] of trade."

Neither immigrants nor native-born citizens have a "right" to collect tax subsidies or to trespass against the property of others. But all people have a right to make trade contracts with others. Property owners have a right to invite others onto their land. Unfortunately, Tancredo and his supporters violate property rights for their own social ends.

In a September 17 letter, Tancredo argued the student got a "free K-12 education" and wants a "state-subsidized education." Never mind the fact that Tancredo himself takes in over a quarter million dollars of tax money every Congressional term. Never mind that many "illegal" immigrants pay nearly 15% of their income into the fraudulent Social Security system, even though they will never get any benefits. Either directly or through rent, immigrants pay property taxes and thus contribute to the education system.

What should now be obvious to everybody is that welfare creates social conflict. On the other hand, voluntary charity blesses both giver and receiver. Ironically, Tancredo's argument that the student should be deported because he accepted welfare payments implies that natives are somehow morally entitled to welfare payments. Otherwise, there would be no basis for Tancredo's double standard. Yet Bastiat does not exempt anyone from criticism who would "live and prosper at the expense of others."

The student Tancredo wishes to deport is learning useful skills and will (unlike Tancredo) offer positive contributions to our economy. Noted libertarian scholar Julian Simon points out that immigrants on the whole contribute more to the economy than they take in tax subsidies (not that we should judge individuals based on averages).

Those ignorant of economics may argue immigrants displace native-born workers or send U.S. wealth elsewhere. But dollars sent abroad come back in increased trade. And the number of jobs is not fixed: the creation of jobs spurs productivity and creates more jobs. Instead, the sole source of unemployment problems are domestic regulations that hamper the economy. Immigrants are just convenient scapegoats.

In addition to hurting the economy, the U.S. immigration caste system also threatens our security. Federal agents stormed the Denver airport -- and arrested food workers and custodians. The current system creates a black market in forged documents that prevents law enforcement from spending their resources going after truly dangerous individuals. At a minimum, the U.S. should implement a guest worker system to allow all peaceable immigrants to work here.

Another argument some anti-immigration advocates invoke is that immigrants supposedly undermine "American" values. The argument is that native-born citizens respect Constitutionally limited government, whereas immigrants support more socialism. That argument is a laughable fiction.

First, anti-immigration laws are fundamentally socialist in nature -- they seek to centrally control private property. It doesn't make much sense to advocate socialism as a cure for socialism. Second, native-born citizens are primarily responsible for America's decline into welfare statism. Indeed, white liberal enclaves are some of the most socialist regions in America. Third, immigrants are at least as likely to share libertarian sentiments. Some of my friends of Mexican and South American descent are among the best yuppie capitalists I know.

Tancredo and his supporters do make a few valid arguments. First, the Denver Post was irresponsible in publicizing the identity of the student. (The silver lining is that the paper's coverage opened up the debate.) Second, Tancredo is not blameworthy for having indirectly hired "illegal" immigrants to work on his basement. That fact does help illustrate the domestic need for immigrants, however. Third, immigrants should not get welfare benefits -- but then again neither should native-born citizens.

Let us hear no more talk that "the law is the law." Others who have resorted to that argument include King George, slave owners who demanded the return of escaped slaves, and Nazis who enforced laws against the smuggling of arms by Jews in the Warsaw ghetto.

I say, let unjust laws be damned.

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