Sunday, July 14, 2013

Deported Immigrant had a Right to Be Here

Attorney Elissa Steglich tells the story of a deported immigrant, who goes unnamed. This immigrant came to America legally, seeking asylum from an African country where "he was brave enough to do his part to encourage democracy. He spoke out against authoritarian rule and was persecuted." In the ten years he was here, he established a productive career and a family, including three children, all of whom are American citizens. His "crime": He overstayed his visa, and was arrested, detained, and forcibly deported.

After reading this sad story, I posted these comments:

This story is tragic, both for this man and for America's Founding ideals. America is the nation of individual rights, and this man's rights have been violated. He presumably posed no national security risk, did not have a criminal record, and carried no infectious disease. Such exceptions aside, he should have been allowed to remain here. People have a right to immigrate here whether they are seeking asylum or not. (The right to immigrate does not imply the right to citizenship. That is a separate issue and should not be included in immigration reform.)

Individual rights means that every person has an inalienable right to live and work where he pleases, so long as he poses no threat to the rights of the citizens of the country of his choice. America, in theory, stands for this principle. We should live up to it.

In answer to a reply that states that "It is a PRIVILEGE not a right," I said:

Freedom is a "privilege?" The fundamental premise that America was Founded on is that freedom means inalienable individual rights, possessed by all people at all times. A privilege is something granted by an authority like a king. A right belongs to the individual as a requirement of his nature, and can neither be granted nor rescinded by any king, theocrat, or democratic majority. Rights are either recognized and protected, or they are not. In America, rights are recognized and protected--at least, in theory--as stated in our philosophical blueprint, the Declaration of Independence.

In answer to the same respondent after he indicated he was referring to citizenship, I wrote:

To be clear, citizenship is not a right. The "path to citizenship" should be long and grueling  and granted selectively to people who pledge allegiance to the basic principles governing this country (principles that too many Americans have forgotten). If that's what you are referring to, I agree with you. My point concerns immigration only, as I made clear.

Most of our political leaders, Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative, profess belief on some level in free trade--the right of individuals to trade with others regardless of where they live. But the principle of trade presupposes production, because one can not trade what one has not produced. It follows that one has a right to live where he believes he can be most productive and happy, as he chooses. Freedom of trade and freedom of migration are corollaries.

Finally, some correspondents commented that immigrants soak up government benefits like free healthcare.  To one, I commented:

The "cost to taxpayers" is not a problem of immigration. It is a problem of the welfare state, which forcibly redistributes wealth to dole out "free" healthcare, "free" education, etc. There are plenty of Americans mooching off of the system while contributing little or nothing in taxes. Does it really make any difference whether the parasite is an illegal immigrant or an American citizen? If America was only a place to work, make money, and take care of yourself and you family in freedom, rather than leech and take money and benefits seized from others, then only productive people would be incentivized to come here. This would clearly be to America's economic benefit, as it was before the rise of the welfare state.

We should be focusing our energies on phasing out the welfare state, not keeping productive people out.

America is a sovereign country, which is why citizenship is not an inalienable right. But America is not a tribal nation. Americans are not a collective that owns the land mass our country is situated on. Americans as individuals (or voluntary associations of individuals) have a right only to the property they legally own. Americans have no more right to keep immigrants out than native American Indian tribes had to keep Europeans out.

Related Reading:

Time to Rethink Immigration

Amnesty for Illegal Immigrants is not Enough, They Deserve an Apology by Harry Binswanger

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