The approach to illegal immigration in the media, politics, and among voices expressed by visitors to my website as well, can be compared to a discussion regarding what is better to eliminate a headache, brain surgery or an aspirin. Unless we find out what causes the headache, we would not know.
Similarly, unless we name the real reason for illegal immigration, discussing remedies is pointless. Many Americans believe that it is within their constitutional right to hire whomever they please, including foreigners. Other Americans believe that when foreigners are employed in America, some Americans lose their jobs, and consequently their well-being suffers.
Both these points of view can be questioned and often they are. The federal government has constitutional powers over foreign trade, and this power can be interpreted to cover hiring foreigners by American employers as well. Similarly, in some instances Americans do lose jobs when foreigners are hired. However, when foreigners work at lower wages, an additional value is created; i.e. one that partially benefits Americans in the lower costs of goods and services, and also is partially reinvested into the economy, creating new jobs.
The current immigration law does not work. We can endlessly discuss if the law is bad or if people who do not respect this law behave badly. One of the ways to overcome this obstacle is by returning to the very basic concepts that this country was founded upon.
Freedom of the individual to pursue happiness is an overriding principle. This freedom should be limited only if the freedoms of other individuals are endangered. For instance, when Mr. Smith fires his compatriot Mr. Jones and hires Mr. Gonzalez from Mexico, can Mr. Jones claim that his freedom has been endangered? Can it be claimed if, in order to regain comparable employment, Mr. Jones would be forced to relocate or would need to learn new skills?
Let us assume that the well-being of Mr. Jones is a justifiable cause to limit the freedoms of Mr. Smith. This assumption makes sense, as statistically there are more Joneses than Smiths; therefore, if the case came to a democratic vote, these arguments (or Joneses) would prevail.
Furthermore, let us assume that the Joneses voted for a law forbidding the Smiths from hiring foreigners. The Smiths consider this an infringement of their elementary freedoms, and do not feel morally obligated to obey this law. Similarly, Mr. Gonzalez is not interested in obeying this law, either. Together, they could go into various creative arrangements to circumvent the law. The only countermeasures that the Joneses have would be in giving extra powers to the executive branch of the government. More police would need to be hired and they should have more authority to monitor the activities of citizens. However, the Joneses are not too eager to follow this path either, as bigger government means higher taxes. Furthermore, the Joneses realize that the policing powers once gained by the government can be easily turned against them in the next case. Consequently, the Joneses – despite voting for the law forbidding the Smiths from hiring foreigners – would never give the government enough powers to execute this law effectively. Does it sound familiar?
Illegal immigrants become handy in this situation, as turning attention to them allows us to avoid facing the real conflict of interests between the Smiths and the Joneses. Tough law enforcement policies are easier to advocate when they are targeting foreigners, not citizens. However, Mr. Gonzalez would not be crossing the border illegally if Mr. Smith is not offering a job. Consequently, all the social problems associated with illegal immigration are side effects of the unresolved conflict of interest between the Smiths and the Joneses.
Bluntly speaking, we do not have a problem of illegal immigration. We have a fundamental disagreement between Americans on what it means to be an American here and now.
The immigration mess is a result of the flaws in our current political system. We will not mend it by throwing immigrants out of the country or blocking new ones from coming.
After we agree on the dispute between the Smiths and the Joneses, then we would be able to discuss how to deal with Gonzalezes that crossed the border illegally and now are trapped in this faulty system.