Magazine article The New American

Avoiding Extreme Solutions: In Trying to Solve the Problem of Illegal Immigration, Both Extremes-Opening Our Southern Border Completely or Imposing Police-State Controls-Must Be Avoided

Magazine article The New American

Avoiding Extreme Solutions: In Trying to Solve the Problem of Illegal Immigration, Both Extremes-Opening Our Southern Border Completely or Imposing Police-State Controls-Must Be Avoided

Article excerpt


The great 19th-century French economist and statesman, Frederic Bastiat, famously pointed out that partisans of big government have the habit of "concocting the antidote and the poison in the same laboratory," that is, of using government to create problems which more government is then expected to solve.

In modern America, for example, government bailouts and subsidies of big business have created moral hazards that encourage malinvestment and other risky behaviors--and the demand for further bailouts. In the financial sector, the Federal Reserve, using its fiat money system (money not backed by a precious commodity like gold), is tasked with fighting inflation and recession that the Federal Reserve's own policies have created. In the war on crime, government restricts firearms ownership--then passes more "gun control" legislation in response to the resultant crime wave. Everywhere that government power is exercised illegitimately (and that means, in these benighted times, almost anywhere laws and law enforcement are to be found), it generates negative consequences that then become the pretext for still more controls.

The national pathology of illegal immigration is an important case in point. For most of its history, the United States of America has had essentially largely unsecured borders with Mexico and Canada, yet never, until the last few decades, has illegal immigration attained anything like its present-day pandemic proportions.

Illegal immigration, smuggling, and other illicit border activities on a small scale have always been facts of life that no amount of border vigilance can wholly prevent. So are wars, famines, and other crises abroad that drive people to emigrate. The Irish potato famine in the 19th century was a case in point; so were the Mexican Civil War, the World Wars, and the Cold War. All of these crises prompted immigrants--sometimes in very large numbers--to seek refuge in America. Yet illegal immigration always amounted to a comparatively minuscule percentage of the whole. Even the long and bitter Mexican Civil War created no massive exodus of beleaguered Mexicans willing to enter the United States illegally, despite the fact that Mexico then was far worse off than it is now, and crossing the Rio Grande unnoticed was far simpler.

Welfare Magnet

The ongoing flood of illegal immigrants, many but by no means all originating from south of the border (large numbers also arrive from Asia, often via Canada, which has much laxer immigration standards), cannot, therefore, be blamed on the usual suspects--war, poverty, and despotism abroad. Something else has changed in recent decades, and it has little to do with perennial corruption and poverty in Mexico.

That something is the burgeoning American welfare state, a bloated, unconstitutional application of federal power that offers largesse to Americans and non-Americans alike, combined with a perversely tolerant climate of border law enforcement.

A Mexican or other foreign national choosing to enter the United States illegally can expect to find a job, free medical care, free schooling for his children, and eventually may become the beneficiary of amnesty legislation.

The single most important solution to the illegal-immigration crisis is to remove the legal and political incentives for illegal immigration. Not only would this discourage future illegal immigration, it would cause many illegal immigrants already here to self-deport. Yet many in Washington and in state houses across the land, reluctant to diminish the welfare spoils system of which the political class itself is the chiefest beneficiary, are now considering measures that will endanger our freedoms in the name of curbing both illegal immigration and one of its potentially deadly handmaidens, terrorist activity. These measures will compound the very problem that the politicos created, and generate new problems besides. …

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