Monday, March 27, 2006

Thoughts on Immigration Marches 

Watching the accounts on TV over the weekend, and reading the stories today, I think a few points need to be made.

First, nobody who is not a citizen of the United States has a right to enter the country. For the sake of argument, I will concede that there are rational arguments for allowing hundreds of thousands of Mexicans and other nationalities into the country to perform labor for a much lower wage than native-born Americans would insist on. I will also concede that there are rational arguments for keeping such people out of the country. Both of those positions are irrelevant to the point I'm making, which is that the United States government, and only the United States Government, has the authority to determine who will be permitted to enter and who will not, and on what terms. To deny this is to deny that the United States is a nation-state.

Second, only the United States government has the authority to determine what to do with persons who enter the United States in a manner that is not permitted by law. Local governments that develop their own "immigration policy" do so only with the explicit or implicit permission of the United States Government. To the extent that local governments act in contravention of the laws of the United States with respect to immigrants and immigration, they are subject to whatever penalties the law may exact on them.

Third, any person who enters the United States in a manner that is not permitted by law possesses only those rights that the United States Government, acting through the legislature or the federal courts' interpretations of the Constitution, statutes and regulations, elects to confer on them, other than basic human rights such as the right to be treated humanely. Those rights may properly be of lesser scope than the rights possessed by citizens and noncitizens who have entered the country in the manner permitted by law. One right in particular that those here illegally do not possess is the right to vote. Accordingly, the attempt to exert political pressure in the form of mass demonstrations amounts to an effort to bypass the established political process and intimidate the Congress, and perhaps the courts, of the United States.

All that said, it appears to me that the Congress lacks the political will to do what it takes to stop the US illegal immigrant problem, which is to get rid of the magnet of readily available, relatively well-paying jobs. Some employers probably need to go to jail, and I don't think that's about to happen.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds' take is here and, as always, it's well thought out and well expressed.

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