Saturday, April 16, 2005

Immigrant policy and liberty

Immigration policy in the U.S. has been ineffective and is in need of reform. But, as Mark Krikorian argues an immigrant policy should also be instituted. Link to article here
The American people, in every survey taken, say they prefer less immigration and tighter controls-and with good reason, given the economic, fiscal, social, and political problems caused by mass immigration. At the same time, we can be proud of the fact that we are at least xenophobic society in human history, making Americans out of people from every corner of the earth. This recognizes two parts of any approach to this issue: immigration policy and immigrant policy. The first governs the conditions we place on admission of newcomers, the second governs how we treat them once they’re here. Thus the answer: a meta-policy that combines low immigration and no-nonsense enforcement with an enthusiastic embrace of lawfully admitted newcomers. In other words, a pro-immigrant policy of low immigration-fewer immigrants but a warmer welcome.

Immigrant policy sounds a lot like Americanization policy to me. The practice of Americanization however has been attacked and immigrants, who before the 1960s were subject to Americanization programs, are instead encouraged to retain their country of origin’s cultural heritage and values. Such promotion widens the gap between immigrants and Americans and serves to undermine the values this nation was built on. Immigrant policy on the other hand serves to promote American culture and values in immigrants, thereby aligning immigrant’s culture and values with those of American’s.

However, I think that immigrant policy may violate personal liberty. If this is true, how then do immigrants integrate into American society and absorb its culture and values? Or should we ignore the issue of liberty for immigrants until after they have been Americanized and are citizens?


Larry Eubanks said...

I'm not sure how to answer at this point.

I think the answer may follow by starting at the beginning. Current citizens are parties to our "social contract." It would seem to be our right to say who can be additional parties to the contract, i.e., citizens. Would there be any problem with a law that says to be a naturalized citizen a person has to first speak english?

Tateum Bowers said...

I agree that as citizens it is our right to determine who we allow to join us under our “social contract.” And I don’t think there is anything wrong with requiring proficient English speaking skills, as to become a naturalized citizen that is a requirement. But the Spanish speaking population continues to boom, increasingly wins the right to special educational programs, and is successfully becoming the second language of the U.S. for all practical purposes. So I don’t think the policy is working.

I guess my question is how could such a policy be enacted to be effective given the huge numbers of Spanish speaking people in the U.S.?

Larry Eubanks said...

Maybe there is a stereotype that is incorrect, and if corrected, maybe political debate on this issue would be pointed in a better direction.

Congress and the President have not tried to stop illegal immigration from the south. One reason given is that these aliens will work jobs our fellow Americans will not work. Perhaps. But, if this were the case, then why would only certain areas of the country now have such large populations of illegal immigrants? Why wouldn't the illegal immigrants be more widely dispersed.

I'm thinking that the stereotype is not correct, and if not, then perhaps those who support looking the other way could be encouraged to support public policy that made a greater effort at securing the border and that spoke to the concern you raise.

Jason said...

Tateum in her original post asked a particularly important question: "Or should we ignore the issue of liberty for immigrants until after they have been Americanized and are citizens?" This question takes on significant meaning in light of the global war on terrorism and the detainment of "enemy combatants." (Although, the half-truths surrounding the liberty of Guantanamo Bay detainees are more a misinterpretation of international law, than our constitution). As Tateum might suspect, my predisposition towards everything American, would lead me to answer with an unequivocal yes.

The U.S. Constitution preamble reads: "We the People the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity ..." Which people? Americans. To whom are the blessings of liberty, enshrined by this Constitution, given too? To ourselves - Americans - and our descendants. The Constitution goes further than "penumbras emanating" and explicitly states the benefactors of American liberty. For this reason, it would be ludicrous to argue one's liberty or constitutional rights are being violated when they are asked to go through a process by which they are integrated into American society. To say otherwise, would be well...un-American.

The United States is a constitutional, capitalistic, republican democracy. And the degree of uniqueness to which we implement these characteristics set us apart from the rest of the world. First, to allow immigrants across the border irrespective of law will only encourage the undermining of American sovereignty and will further dilute our political culture. Second, affording immigrants and especially illegal immigrants, the rights granted to the citizens of this nation, in effect, make any rights we receive meaningless. Contrary to liberal myth, the Constitution does prescribe to whom these rights will be afforded.

As Professor Eubanks eluded, it's not that the policy is not working, it's that the policy is not enforced. The Bush administration for whatever reason - I believe it's political maneuvering - has failed miserably to enforce the borders.

Larry Eubanks said...

Jason writes: ". . .affording immigrants and especially illegal immigrants, the rights granted to the citizens of this nation, in effect, make any rights we receive meaningless."

I think it is inaccurate to describe individual rights as being "granted to." The Constitution was written from a perspective of the role and purpose of government that does not take it to be the case that government grants individual rights. The perspective is well expressed by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence: "WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights . . . .That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed. . . ." On this perspective, individuals are born with certain unalienable rights, and these individuals institute or create governments to make these rights secure. Such a government does not grant rights to individuals that are then used to institute government. Rather, the individuals grant some power to government with respect to their individual rights so that government can act to protect these individual rights from harm by others.

This is also the reason our Constitution GRANTS EXPRESSED POWERS to Congress. Congress is not supposed to have the power (or the right let's say) to act in a way not expressly granted by the Constitution. We The People only grant certain powers to government vis a vis our individual rights that are unalienable.

With respect to immigration issues, it seems to me we want to recognize that We The People created or "instituted" our government. It is like a social compact. Now that it is formed we citizens decide (through our republican system of political economy)who we will allowed to join us in that compact. That doesn't mean those we don't allow to join aren't born with certain unalienable rights. It just means that if we choose not to include them in our compact, they will simply have to find others with whom they can institute a government to secure their liberties.

scribo said...

Larry Eubanks notes that "we citizens decide ... who we will allow to join us in that compact." And Jason comments that "the Bush administration has ... failed to enforce the border."
Are the rules defining the process of becoming a part of the American compact not being adhered to for some--but not all--groups? Are there changes that are needed to improve the rules? Or is Jason right, the rules are there, just not being enforced by those we've entrusted to be our government? If so, what is the rational response to not enforcing the rules?

Larry Eubanks said...

Saying "We The People" decide is a description of the principle implied by the conceptual framework. "We The People" gave Congress the power to "establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization" (Article 1, Section 8). The Executive Branch administers this law (or rule) as it does every other law. Often the Executive Branch does not admininster laws as Congress would like it to. Whether the law is about an environmental matter or immigration, the nature and degree of enforcement (given scarcity of budget) is a choice within the power of the Executive, and in any area of the law, when these two branches disagree about enforcement or administration, the issues are worked out (or not) between 2 "co-equal" branches of government.

With respect to the current politics, it has been suggested in the comments that President Bush has failed to enforce the border. That seems accurate to me. However, I think the same choices, approximately, would have been made had Senator Kerry become President. Would you agree with me that neither political party acts as though it wants to make any serious effort to end illigal immigration on our southern border? It also seems to me that of our representatives in Washington, those publicly concerned about stopping illegal immigration are Republicans.

I've noted in another post that there is disagreement with respect to whether the illigal immigrants are, on net, harmful or beneficial. It seems many believe the country's economic success is benefitted by immigrants whether legal or illegal. I suspect this would explain much of the reason that neither party seriously supports efforts to close our southern border.

Also, I think our daily politics often neglects Congress, and to the detriment of good public policy choices. For the case at hand, the law clearly defines what illegal immigration is. But to enforce the law, choices have to be made about how to allocate the budget to all of government's many activities. While Congressional power is different from Executive power, Congress makes the appropriations. If Congress made larger appropriations for immigration enforcement, it would be much more difficult for the President to make the choices that have been made. Perhaps, in a sense, Congress and the President are sort of "colluding" because neither party has made it a matter of their platform to close the southern border.