Illegal Immigration Is Immoral
Among its victims: the American underclass, the law, and legal immigrants.


Victor Davis Hanson

Illegal immigration has been in the news daily during the Republican primary campaign, even though a depressed economy here, stronger border enforcement, and vast new finds of petroleum in Latin America may soon radically curtail the number of illegal entrants into the United States. But for now, conservatives are warned that coming down hard on illegal immigration (i.e., enforcing federal statutes) would lose them the all-critical Hispanic vote. Meanwhile, in California, some legislators want to grant de facto state amnesty to illegal residents. But lost in the continuing furor, pro and con, is the moral dimension. The strange notion has developed that supporting something as immoral as illegal immigration is somehow ethical. It is not, and there are several reasons why.

1. Entry-level labor. Real wages for the working poor in the United States have been stagnant for decades, especially in the Southwest — largely because of the influx of millions of illegal aliens, who, at least for a time, will work for considerably lower wages than Americans. In the last three decades, we have written off an entire class of Americans on the premise that “They won’t do the work.” Here in a California of 10 percent–plus unemployment, everyone from farmers to landscapers complains from experience that the citizen poor cannot or will not work manually. But in theory, why should they, when employers have a constant option of undercutting their wages, and when expanding entitlements make entry-level work an unattractive alternative, both financially and socially? We have expanded social services and decreased workers’ incentives, and then we wonder that a subsidized welfare class lacks the spunk of people crossing the border illegally from an impoverished Mexico. Yet there is something abhorrent about the present American notion of giving up on incentives to promote American labor — among which would be the prevention of cheaper foreign workers entering the country illegally and undercutting wages. Advocacy for illegal immigration is now a de facto lack of concern for the American underclass.

2. Ethnic chauvinism. Illegal immigration is primarily a Hispanic phenomenon, in general from Latin America and in particular from Mexico. Advocates for open borders, other than cynical employers, are today largely Hispanic activists or those who seek political advantage by catering to them. They argue for changes in or relaxation of immigration law, both out of an understandable sense of ethnic solidarity and real concern for the downtrodden, and, yet in some cases, out of a more dubious notion that the more Latin Americans who enter the country by any means necessary, the more power will eventually accrue to Spanish-speaking American elites who represent the collective interest. Or as Los Angeles County supervisor Gloria Molina put it in an infamous 1996 rant, “We are going to talk to all of those young people that need to become registered voters and go out to vote, and we’re politicizing every single one of those new citizens that are becoming citizens of this country. And what we are saying is by November we will have one million additional Latino voters in this country, and we’re gonna march, and our vote is going to be important. But I gotta tell you, there’s a lot of people that are saying, ‘I’m gonna go out there and vote because I want to pay them back!’”

Immigration lobbyists, remember, are not really worried about the plight of Chinese or Indian students who overstay their visas. Somehow ethnic chauvinism has been cloaked with a thin humanitarian veneer, when in fact the concern is not for illegal aliens per se, but for a particular category of illegal aliens. Try a thought experiment. Ask the National Council of La Raza whether it would support offering fast-track citizenship to a commensurate 15 million economic refugees from an imploding Europe or an impoverished Africa, even on conditions not imposed on those from Latin America, such as legality, mastery of English, a college degree, and proof of sustenance. Unfortunately, present advocacy for illegal immigration assumes that race and race-based identity politics shall determine the winners and losers in the immigration lottery. And that seems to me immoral to the core.