Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Moral Rightness of Disregarding Immigration Quotas

Recently, George Mason University economics professor Walter E. Williams wrote a piece on the subject of immigration quotas that warrants some response.

Here, on my page is a reply from Ken Schoolland, an associate professor of economics and political science at Hawaii Pacific University and the author of The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible: A Free Market Odyssey (serialized here). Some years ago, Prof. Schoolland met Dr. Williams in person.

Aside from the comments on immigration that shall be addressed below, we are generally fans of Dr. Williams's work.


Walter E. Williams wrote,

My sentiments on immigration are inscribed at the foot of the Statue of Liberty:

"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

These words of poet Emma Lazarus served as the welcome mat for tens of millions seeking liberty and opportunity in America -- legally. Being a relatively land-rich and labor-scarce nation, immigration has always been good for our country. Plus, for most of our history, there was a guarantee that immigrants would come here to work. The alternative was starvation.

With today's welfare state, there's no such guarantee. People can come here, not work and not starve because the welfare state guarantees that they can live off the rest of us.

Ken Schoolland replies: The welfare state is not caused by immigrants. The cause is U.S. politicians. It is collectivist to say that immigrants should be deprived of liberty in America when it is native-born politicians who chose to create a welfare bribery system to win votes in the first place. Illegal immigrants don't qualify for welfare anyway.

In answer to the myth that welfare is the biggest predictor of what attracts migrants into a geographic region, one should note that, statistically, both native-born Americans and immigrants have a tendency to move away from U.S. states that pay out the most in welfare benefits and to move into U.S. states that pay out the least. A more significant predictor of whether one can expect migrants to move into a U.S. state is whether that is where many job opportunities are. When this trend occurs with U.S. states, why should we assume that it does not also occur in the case of nation-states?

Williams wrote,

At the heart of today's immigration problem is its illegality. According to several estimates, there are 11 million people who are in our country illegally, mostly from Mexico. Many people, including my libertarian friends and associates, advance an argument that differs little from saying that people anywhere in the world have a right to live in the United States irrespective of our laws or preferences. According to that vision, American people do not have a right to set either the number of people who enter our country or the conditions upon which they enter.

Prof. Schoolland replies: Thomas Jefferson et al. wrote in the Declaration of Indepencence,

WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men Are Created Equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness [emphasis added].

Observe that the document says "all men are created equal." It doesn't say, "Only those born within the thirteen colonies have rights." It says all men are "endowed" with the "unalienable Rights" to "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."

It isn't only libertarians who espouse this, but most Americans every Fourth of July. If most of us truly mean these words, then are not those born in Mexico endowed with these same unalienable rights that, well, all men are? Since when did the U.S. Founders say that one only had these rights if one happened to be born within U.S. borders? Thomas Paine was not born in the United States; did he not have rights then?

Contrary to what Dr. Williams says, you do not need to have any immigration quotas or regulations to determine the number of immigrants that come onto your private property. On your private property, you can invite or not invite as many immigrants as you want. That does not give you the right to demand, with all the force of law (backed by the government's guns), that your neighbor be prevented from inviting as many immigrants as he wants onto his own private property.

Dr. Williams said himself that nobody has the right to dictate what you peacefully do with other consenting adults on your own private property. The logical conclusion to draw from this is that Dr. Williams has no business sending armed men after me or my guests if I invite dozens of Mexicans into my home every year when we commit no trespasses upon others.

Dr. Williams wrote in 2002 that "in the house, restaurant, airplane or workplace that I own, another doesn't have the right to prohibit smoking. If you don't like the fact that smoking is permitted in my restaurant, you can go elsewhere. Similarly, I can do the same if you don't permit smoking."

Paraphrasing Dr. Williams, "in the house, restaurant, airplane or workplace -- like a strawberry field! -- that I own, another doesn't have the right to prohibit my having peaceful Mexican aliens over as my guests or employees. If you dno't like the fact that Mexicans are allowed to work at my business, you can shop elsewhere. Similarly, I can avoid associating with you if you don't permit Mexicans onto your property.

In his recent column on immigration, Williams continues,

Some of the arguments and terms used in the immigration debate defy reason. First, there's the refusal to call these people "illegal aliens." The politically preferred term is "undocumented workers," which is nothing less than verbal sleight-of-hand.

Prof. Schoolland replies: Runaway slaves were also committing an illegal act. They were "stealing themselves" from their unrightful masters. During World War Two, Jews defied U.S. federal law when they fled Hitler and entered the United States when the U.S. immigration quotas would allow no more foreign Jews. The Founding Fathers of this nation were acting illegally. So

"Laws don't determine morality" -- Walter Williams said those exact words to John Stossel in the 1997 TV documentary "Freeloaders." Has Dr. Williams changed his mind since then? Or is he being very selective and arbitrary when it comes to choosing the cases in which he will apply his own standards?

Williams wrote,

My colleague, Thomas Sowell, exposes some of this verbal sleight-of-hand in a recent column. He questions calling for "guest worker" status for people who, because they weren't invited, are not guests at all but gate-crashers. Sowell argues that the more substantive arguments for flaunting our immigration laws are just as phony.

Prof. Schoolland replies: Dr. Williams is wrong yet again. The "guest workers" are invited by any employer willing to hire them for the diligence they offer, the low pay, hard work, dangerous and dirty work they are more willing to do than many native-born Americans. And every American employee invites them to come and hire them in the businesses these immigrant entrepreneurs start up. They are invited by every business that wants to sell them food and clothing, by every landlord who wants to rent an apartment.

Was an invitation necessary for all the European settlers? No. They came for the opportunity, and dismissed native American "Indians" who might not have invited them. Indeed, invitations were made illegal when the immigration laws of 1882 outlawed contract immigrant labor.

Williams wrote,

How about the argument that "We can't catch all the illegals"? That's true, but should we apply that rinciple to other illegal acts? For example, we can't catch every rapist or burglar, but does it follow that we shouldn't try?

Prof. Schoolland replies: Does Dr. Williams believe that moving across the U.S.-Mexican border -- a line that exists only on maps and not on the actual soil of the Earth -- falls into the same ethical category as burglary and rape? Why is Dr. Williams comparing honest, peaceful employment to actual acts of violence? Because this country's immigration quotas outlaw foreign-born work within its borders, turning away people who are escaping to freedom from tyrants such as those of North Korea and Cuba?

I say that the criminal act is not in North Koreans escaping to freedom in America, but in Americans denying freedom to them by sending them back! That's a fugitive slave law.

Williams wrote,

The base motives for much of the political response to illegal aliens are fear of losing the Hispanic vote and pressure by employers who want to maintain a source of cheap labor. Politicians are calling for "guest worker" programs, but they're really calling for amnesty. They are fearful of actually using that term because they know it's political suicide, but the "guest worker" proposal is essentially the same as amnesty."

Prof. Schoolland replies: The major motive of politicians to stop immigrants is because those fearful citizens who have the vote are more powerful than those courageous immigrants who don't have the vote.

Williams wrote,

The word amnesty comes from the Greek "amnestia," defined in part as: "the selective overlooking or ignoring of those events or acts that are not favorable or useful to one's purpose or position." That's what the proposed guest worker program essentially says: Forget that you're here illegally.

Prof. Schoolland replies: Let's talk about something. Dr. Williams is siding with the U.S. federal government for putting quotas on the number of people, including Mexicans, allowed to come into this country every year and stay only on the private property of those willing to provide them with shelter or employment.

Dr. Wiliams supports that quota while opposing quotas of another kind -- quotas on the number of taxi cabs that may be operated in a city at a given time. Several cities have what they call a "medallion" system. There is a quota on the number of taxis in operation, and, for a taxi cabe service company to operate an additional cab, it has to obtain a permit called a "medallion." Walter Williams has proudly told the story many times of his operating an illegal, "undocumented," black-market taxi cab -- without any permit -- when growing up in New York. That was illegal, but he believed he had the right to give a ride to people despite the preferential laws that tried to exclude him on account of his not having a medallion.

If Dr. Williams believes it is right to operate a taxi cab without a government-authorized permit, then why does he oppose the right of a Mexican to obtain shelter from willing American providers on the providers' own private property without this Mexican having a government-authorized permit?

Williams wrote,

In principle, the solution to people being in our country illegally is simple. No one in the country illegally should be eligible to receive any social services except emergency medical services. Efforts should be made to deport illegal aliens. Our borders should be made secure both against illegal entry of persons and potential threats to national security.

Prof. Schoolland replies: Excuse me? Has Dr. Williams forgotten about private churches and private charities that give social and medical services to Mexican immigrants voluntarily? And yet the anti-immigration legislators are trying to have these private organizations punished for their aid to immigrants who do not have visas Of course, government forced payment for services should not be done for immigrants -- nor for native-born U.s. citizens.

Oh, and national security? Security of our rights does not routinely begin by first denying people their rights, both citizen and immigrant. If I want to hire a maid or gardener cheaply, so that they can live much better than in Guatemala and I can live better without doing cooking, cleaning, or gardening, then that is my right and it is none of the government's business. Williams should not be scapegoating these people for our national security woes. That has much much more to do with the shenanigans of the politicians in D.C. Of course, the politicians in DC already have their protected (often illegal) maids and gardeners, so it won't really affect them either way.

Williams concludes,

Finally, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services procedures for obtaining work permits and citizenship should be streamlined so that law-abiding people around the world can more easily contribute to and enjoy America's greatness.

Prof. Schoolland replies: Finally, something I can agree with.