Thursday, 10 April 2014

Why Should Illegal Immigration Be A Problem?

Law Professor Ilya Somin recently discussed perceptions of legislation and associated possibilities to justify illegal immigration. Bascially, irrespective of whether there is a strong, weak or a non-existant presumption in favour of obeying legislation, the squalor of the world's poor makes their violating immigration restrictions easily justifiable. Anyone who reads Somin's argument would, I believe, find it very difficult to argue against illegal immigration simply because it is illegal.
I don't know, but I suspect that much opposition to immigration is not based on its illegality. I also suspect that part of the unspoken case against immigration from poor countries is the fact that, at least in the short run, the number of poor people in the vicinity of current citizens would go up, and many current citizens do not like to look at poor folks. Perhaps this objection is sometimes rephrased as a fear of losing national identity, or culture.

If part of the case against immigration is unspoken, one would expect the arguments which are used to be rather insincere. If so, they should be easier to beat, but beating them will not necessarily do anything to address the true reason for opposition to immigration. If, for instance, one argues the risk of losing culture or identity, the easy response is that an individual can choose any identity or culture he wants, and that it might be a bit much to demand to control the national origin of one's neighbours.

If someone offers as an argument against illegal immigration the idea that they would get on welfare programmes, the easy retort to the stated argument would be that one could make welfare benefits conditional on citizenship, or on having lived in the country for at least five years, or something like that.

But if the unstated argument really is that it is unpleasant to look at poor people, pointing out that one can choose one's culture or restricting eligibility for welfare payments will accomplish very little in the case for open borders.

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