The immigration meme

Yesterday afternoon I was listening to the radio and heard a suggestion that I’d call idiotic, if it weren’t so unfair to idiots. It seems to have started to gain steam with the cast of “Hamilton” calling out then VP-elect Mike Pence a couple of months ago. While that incident was at least thoughtful, what sprang from it was not: “Immigrants have a right to be here.”

My problem with this is not that it’s a false statement. Rather, it is an unqualified statement. This renders it so vague as to not actually represent the issue that it seeks to address. On the one hand, immigrants literally built our society, our institutions, and produce a lot of tangible things from food we eat to products we use to the buildings we work and live in. On the other hand, millions of people skirt the immigration process, displacing citizens and legal residents out of jobs and using programs and resources that were meant to help them. Reducing the issue to a statement that can be used to attack opponents of illegal immigration regardless of whether they agree or disagree is deceitful and malicious.

Of course legal immigrants have a right to be here. Illegal immigrants don’t have that right, however, even though this could be thought of as a “natural” right. Other natural rights are also limited. For example, we aren’t free to say anything we want in any context we choose, or to carry a gun into a sports stadium. There are some exceptions with guns, of course, but those exceptions are always encumbered by legal requirements and restrictions. The same is true in this case.

Is the immigration system broken? I don’t know. I’m willing to concede that it probably is, and if it is, we should fix it. And how do we fix it? Again, I don’t know; but I do know that we can’t fix it by simply declaring all the so-called “undocumented” people to be legal immigrants. This simply makes it a bigger problem for some future government to solve. It hasn’t ever actually worked out for government debt at any level (local, state, or national). It won’t work with immigration, either.

Let’s stop propagating mindless memes and, if we are truly passionate about immigration, to get involved in something other than insignificant Twitter tirades or feel-good public protests. An activist doesn’t pledge support for causes, but instead gets in the trenches and works for them.

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