Politics & Policy

Our Illiberal Immigration Policy Leads to Chaos

Immigration protest in Murrieta, Calif. (David McNew/Getty)
We need a meritocratic, ethnically blind system — the opposite of the status quo.

A federal judge has temporarily blocked President Obama’s executive order that overrode existing immigration law. The result is more acrimony and chaos.

It is a good time to remember that there are more than just two types of immigration — legal and illegal. There also exist liberal and illiberal approaches to immigration.

Take liberal immigration. It is governed by laws passed by Congress and signed and executed by the president. Nearly all Americans accept that no individual can pick and choose which federal statute he chooses to obey, depending on his own perceived self-interest.

Liberal immigration would be entirely legal, meritocratic, and ethnically blind. Skills and education would matter more than proximity to the border or political clout.

The numbers of immigrants would be balanced by liberal considerations: the need for skilled newcomers to avoid dependency on American society, and concern that their arrival not harm the economic aspirations of poor working citizens.

Liberal immigration would aim at rapidly integrating and assimilating immigrants in accordance with further classical-liberal principles. America is not a multicultural society where appearance is essential to our characters, but a uniquely multiracial nation bound by common values where race becomes secondary.

In contrast, illiberal immigration would be the opposite of the above.

A president by fiat would nullify existing laws and order federal agencies to ignore them. Or he would issue executive orders contrary to both his prior promises and to the Constitution.

President Obama did not, as he alleges, override Congress because it failed to act on immigration. Instead he ignored it because Congress would not act in a particular fashion that he found ideologically akin to his own beliefs.

Illiberal immigration would also mean that new arrivals could ignore the cost, time, and inconvenience of applying for visas. Instead, they would simply enter the U.S. illegally and not be transparent about their illegal status.

Illiberal immigration would turn policy away from ethnically blind considerations to focus on ethnic criteria.

It would assume that the enforcement of federal immigration law and the making of immigration policy should react to particular ethnic and political lobbying groups.

Illiberal immigration would not concern itself with the impact of arrivals on the host country, especially the costs incurred by the public or the effect on the wages and services of the poor and working classes.

Also, illiberal immigration would seek — both explicitly by political intent and implicitly by sheer numbers — to undermine easy assimilation, in hopes of creating bloc constituencies with group concerns rather than individual concerns.

Illiberal immigration would encourage romance for, not disappointment with, the country left behind. And it would result in demands on, rather than gratitude to, the newly adopted country.

The reason why immigration is now a mess is not because there are no liberal solutions, but because there are so many illiberal stumbling blocks.

Many Americans are willing to allow some sort of exemption to the immigrants residing here illegally. Such an exemption would offer a pathway to permanent legal residency to the majority of immigrants here illegally if some liberal criteria were first applied.

First, close the border to illegal immigration to prevent recurrence of these problems. Texas authorities report that 20,000 foreign nationals have crossed the state’s southern border with Mexico in just the last two months.

Ensure that those who have committed crimes in the United States, or who have no history of work but instead only a record of dependency on entitlements, return to their nations of origin.

Those who have just illegally arrived in cynical anticipation of amnesty should likewise return home to go through the process legally.

Make immigration a meritocratic system that does not take into consideration the particular country of origin or ethnic background of the would-be immigrant.

What is holding up legislative compromise and what drove President Obama’s executive order is illiberal opposition to what most Americans see as a liberal compromise.

The advocates of open borders apparently do not wish an end to easy entry without regard to the law.

They do not wish to deport foreign nationals who have broken U.S. laws, or who have no history of productive employment, or who have just arrived in anticipation of amnesty.

They do not wish to reform legal immigration to a completely meritocratic system that might not necessarily favor the current preponderance of arrivals from Latin America and Mexico — and thus might not enhance the political clout of ethnic operatives.

And they most certainly do not wish to end admission to the U.S. on the basis of cheap labor. To do that would increase the wages and bargaining power of working Americans.

The solution to the immigration mess is not to threaten militancy if a particular political agenda is jeopardized. It is not to slam a federal judge who demands adherence to the law. And it is certainly not to scapegoat a generous host for not agreeing to political demands of guests.

The answer instead is simply to act legally — and liberally.

— Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The Savior Generals. You can reach him by e-mailing author@victorhanson.com. © 2015 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More
Elections

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More
U.S.

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More