Saturday, June 19, 2010

Moral Reasons for Immigration

I recently a list of legitimate concerns about increasing immigration into the United States. Here's where those same reasons are used to convince America to bear those costs:
The argument I want to raise today is that even if you're among the net losers, you have a moral imperative to favor permitting lots of new immigrants to enter America legally, because at some point in the past, your ancestors arrived here from somewhere, and on doing so they imposed costs on the people already here. It is hardly fair, now that you've reaped the benefits of past immigration, to restrict others from doing the same.

This argument is particularly compelling because odds are when your ancestors came to this country, the burdens their arrival imposed on the folks already here was many times greater than anything you'll face today. The Europeans who initially came to this continent spread diseases that wiped out Native American populations -- and the ones who survived disease were often kicked off their land or even brutally killed. Folks of Irish ancestry who complain that their cities are overcrowded today should read about New York City tenements during the biggest wave of immigration from Ireland. Are you worried about immigrant gangs like MS13? So am I, but it's doubtful that any imported criminal organization will prove more burdensome than the Italian mafia or the organized crime families that exist in many other ethnic groups that immigrated to the United States.

Name any problem associated with immigration today, and odds are it was much worse at some point in the American past -- and our ancestors grappled with those problems despite living in a country many times poorer than the America of today. Unless you're a Native American, fairness would seem to demand that you don't favor restrictionist immigration policies that, were they in place when your ancestors came, would've prevented their arrival and your status as an American today.


  1. Wai. Seriously? We should do this even though it's bad because we have done worse things before?

    That's ludicrous.

  2. What he's saying is that although immigration MAY be bad for SOME, it is unfair to suggest we halt that immigration now. Especially when you consider that my grandfather probably did more harm than any immigrant today.

    The reason he's not saying what you suggested is because of the emphasis I put on MAY and SOME. Immigration is overwhelming beneficial for citizens and immigrants.

  3. I'll repeat one of my concerns from the earlier post: The government (at all levels) today has provided a regulatory and social welfare environment that did not exist in 1905. It is inconceivable that the immigrant today would assimilate the same way as a century ago. The level of investment required to provide infrastructure, and the level of taxation required to provide transitional welfare benefits, and the barriers to entry into small business, are all stacked against unlimited migration, for moral reasons or otherwise.

  4. Great point. In fact, this is one of the reasons I'm weary of expanding safety nets.

  5. Let's change the laws so that:

    A) Any immigrant can come to America that wants to consistent with national security.
    B) All immigrants is ineligible for any social welfare benefits of any kind for 15 years.


  6. I'd support it. I don't think America would be okay not giving any kind of support to those who probably need it the most.


You are the reason why I do not write privately. I would love to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or not.