Immigration is often spoken about as a domestic issue with international complications. In fact, it is an international issue with domestic complications. I say this because the ethical aspects of immigration policy have an effect on the international level, while the domestic aspects, according to some, foil the possibility of fulfilling the founding principles of this country.
For brevity, I will quote part of the preamble to the Declaration of Independence as a representation of these founding principles. “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
The aspect of this statement that I wish to focus on is that all men are created equal. Some interpret this as giving all men the same rights. I wish to apply this idea to immigration.
If the government allows someone to freely change residences from within and out of the United States, then the presumption is that all men should be allowed to do the same. All citizens of the United States are allowed to do just that and, following the cited passage, so should non-citizens.
When one does not allow for free immigration to take place, one is inhibiting the social mobility of the rest of the world.
This is not to insinuate that the entire world wants to come to the United States, although some argue that this is the case and make it an argument against free immigration.
To illustrate the absurdity of closed immigration, one must look at why people come to the United States. The overarching reason is that they believe they will be better off in the United States than in their own countries. Two factors control whether or not this will be true.
The first is what the potential immigrant’s economic situation in the United States would be. He would judge his situation to be better in the United States because American society is willing to voluntarily pay him for his services.
The only case in which this is not true, but still legal, is when he makes use of social programs. If the goal of these programs is to help the poor, one cannot argue against free immigration based on the fact that these programs will help too many poor people.
This appears to be a problem with social programs and the incentive they create for those in power to micromanage the poor. Rather than dissuading one from fighting for free immigration, it may be a reason to restrict or even eliminate social programs.
The second condition is political oppression in his home country. The economic circumstances must still hold for the person to come to the United States; hence, he will only come when he believes that he can make do in this country.
I do not feel comfortable telling other people when they can come to this country based on whether or not I could tolerate the circumstances they would live in. They know their situations best, and if they think they are going to be better off here, then they certainly have that right.
Therefore, if one is to argue against free immigration, one must be willing to tell people where to live based on whether one finds it acceptable for someone to live there. Either that, or all men are not created equal and that, on the basis of nationality, discrimination is acceptable.
The first presumes that one has such an uncanny ability to empathize that one can judge a situation for people better than they can judge it for themselves. The second goes against the Declaration of Independence, the founding document of this country.