Sunday, April 6, 2014

Right to Immigrate—Yes. Right to Citizenship—No

President Obama recently called for immigration reform that provides for a more open immigration policy, but also includes, as he put it, “providing a pathway to earned citizenship for those who are living in the shadows.”

The Republicans, as Josh Richman reports, are “split over whether reform should include providing a path to citizenship for those already here,” so reform efforts are stalled in Congress.

Leaving aside both sides’ respective reasons for their positions, the Republicans are right to oppose linking citizenship to immigration. Immigration and citizenship are separate issues that should be debated and decided as such.

Freedom of migration across national boundaries is an inalienable individual right. (For a full explanation of why, see Craig Biddle’s Immigration and Individual Rights.) No race, government, society, or culture can claim ownership of a geographical area, to the exclusion of other peaceable people. Contemporary Americans have no more right to arbitrarily limit immigration of Mexicans or Chinese than American Indians had to keep European settlers out of the North American continent centuries ago. So long as an individual passes a proper screening test—found to be free of infectious diseases, have no criminal background, pose no national security risk (such as Islamists), and otherwise pose no risk to Americans’ rights—he should be allowed to enter America to live and work as long as he likes, so long as he refrains from violating or threatening others’ rights. 

(One argument against open immigration is that, due to America's welfare state, people will flock here just to collect taxpayer handouts. The problem is the welfare state, not immigration. No welfare state, no problem of attracting mooching immigrants. Nonetheless, it is a valid concern. A solution need not involve abandoning open immigration. Some proof of a means to earn a living, such as a pre-arranged job, a skill, etc., might be added to the list of requirements for entry.)

Citizenship is another matter, however. Although Americans don’t own the continent, they do own their political system. Consequently, they, through their government, have every right to be selective about who is granted citizenship. There is no automatic right to “a pathway to citizenship.” As Biddle notes:

Open immigration does not mean that anyone may enter the country at any location or in any manner he chooses; it is not unchecked or unmonitored immigration. Nor does it mean that anyone who immigrates to America should be eligible for U.S. citizenship—the proper requirements of which are a separate matter.

Congress should put aside the citizenship issue, and—in the name of American ideals of inalienable individual rights and limited, rights-protecting government—accelerate work on a policy that opens America to decent, productive immigrants and “legalizes”—i.e., properly documents and monitors—immigrants already here.

1 comment:

Mike Kevitt said...

"Right to immigrate - Yes. Right to citizenship - No".

That's as far as I've read so far. I buy it. If they ain't crooks and have no catching diseases they got a right to come here. But, then, they gotta earn citizenship. Whoever among them just can't earn it even after decades of trying, they can still stay unless they turn criminal. If they turn criminal, 'book' 'em & put 'em thru the system, then deport 'em. If they had become citizens and turned criminal, 'book' 'em & put 'em thru the system, then release 'em. I'll read your post, now.