On Immigration: Limiting It Is the Only Way to Save Our Quality of Life ... and regarding Emigration: People Should Be Free to Leave Countries

Article excerpt

The story of the Vietnamese boat people rioting in Hong Kong in a desperate attempt to avoid being forced to go back to a country in which they fear for their safety or abhor for its lack of freedom was heartbreaking ("Hong Kong presses repatriation despite riot by Vietnam refugees," Page One, May 11).

Why must these people be repatriated? Why are political leaders in this country and around the world so silent?

One reason, I suspect, is that they do not fully understand the principle involved. It goes back to the concept of individual, natural rights. Thomas Jefferson articulated this principle perfectly, in a landmark bill he proposed to the Virginia legislature in May 1779.

In the first law laying down general principles and specific procedures for naturalization and emigration in the history of man, he set down a unique provision asserting the natural right of expatriation. He spoke of "that natural right, which all men have, of relinquishing the country in which birth, or other accident may have thrown them, and seeking subsistence and happiness wherever they may be able or hope to find them. …