Is Illegal Immigration Moral?

Big Don

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Is Illegal Immigration Moral?

By Victor Davis HansonNovember 27, 2010
Real Clear Politics/Tribune Media EXCERPT:
We know illegal immigration is no longer really unlawful, but is it moral?
Usually Americans debate the fiscal costs of illegal immigration. Supporters of open borders rightly remind us that illegal immigrants pay sales taxes. Often their payroll-tax contributions are not later tapped by Social Security payouts.
Opponents counter that illegal immigrants are more likely to end up on state assistance, are less likely to report cash income, and cost the state more through the duplicate issuing of services and documents in both English and Spanish. Such to-and-fro talking points are endless.
So is the debate over beneficiaries of illegal immigration. Are profit-minded employers villains who want cheap labor in lieu of hiring more expensive Americans? Or is the culprit a cynical Mexican government that counts on billions of dollars in remittances from its expatriate poor that it otherwise ignored?
Or is the engine that drives illegal immigration the American middle class? Why should millions of suburbanites assume that, like 18th-century French aristocrats, they should have imported labor to clean their homes, manicure their lawns and watch over their kids?
Or is the catalyst the self-interested professional Latino lobby in politics and academia that sees a steady stream of impoverished Latin American nationals as a permanent victimized constituency, empowering and showcasing elite self-appointed spokesmen such as themselves?
Or is the real advocate the Democratic Party that wishes to remake the electoral map of the American Southwest by ensuring larger future pools of natural supporters? Again, the debate over who benefits and why is never-ending.
But what is often left out of the equation is the moral dimension of illegal immigration. We see the issue too often reduced to caricature, involving a noble, impoverished victim without much free will and subject to cosmic forces of sinister oppression. But everyone makes free choices that affect others. So ponder the ethics of a guest arriving in a host country knowingly against its sovereign protocols and laws.
First, there is the larger effect on the sanctity of a legal system. If a guest ignores the law -- and thereby often must keep breaking more laws -- should citizens also have the right to similarly pick and choose which statutes they find worthy of honoring and which are too bothersome? Once it is deemed moral for the impoverished to cross a border without a passport, could not the same arguments of social justice be used for the poor of any status not to report earned income or even file a 1040 form?
Second, what is the effect of mass illegal immigration on impoverished U.S. citizens? Does anyone care? When 10 million to 15 million aliens are here illegally, where is the leverage for the American working poor to bargain with employers? If it is deemed ethical to grant in-state tuition discounts to illegal-immigrant students, is it equally ethical to charge three times as much for out-of-state, financially needy American students -- whose federal government usually offers billions to subsidize state colleges and universities? If foreign nationals are afforded more entitlements, are there fewer for U.S. citizens?
END EXCERPT
 

Sukerkin

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I have to say for me it is quite a simple question and answer.

Is illegal immigration a moral act? No it is not.

As ever, sometimes things are not clear cut, there being degrees of 'wrongdoing'.

If the illegal immigrant is truly escaping an evil end in their homeland (assuming that they hadn't brought it upon themselves), then, if official sanctuary is not available, a covert entry to another country is a less heinous option. Still not moral but forgiveable.
 
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Big Don

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I have to say for me it is quite a simple question and answer.

Is illegal immigration a moral act? No it is not.

As ever, sometimes things are not clear cut, there being degrees of 'wrongdoing'.

If the illegal immigrant is truly escaping an evil end in their homeland (assuming that they hadn't brought it upon themselves), then, if official sanctuary is not available, a covert entry to another country is a less heinous option. Still not moral but forgiveable.
Is "Wanting to make a better life for themselves" the same as "escaping an evil end?" because that is the lie/excuse most often used for illegal immigration here...
 

Sukerkin

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For me, circumventing the legal routes of immigration for such fiscal reasons is not moral, no. Of course this is easy for me to say as I live in a country people want to come to, not escape from (well, that's not uncomplicated either, as 'native' British people are leaving in high numbers as our country flounders).

If you're going to be imprisoned or otherwise maltreated through no fault of your own in your own country then that imperative to 'escape' makes the less-virtuous (I won't say immoral) choice to violate the laws of another country more forgiveable. It's still illegal after all.
 
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If you're going to be imprisoned or otherwise maltreated through no fault of your own in your own country then that imperative to 'escape' makes the less-virtuous (I won't say immoral) choice to violate the laws of another country more forgiveable. It's still illegal after all.
I agree, that is not, however the cause of the vast majority of illegal immigration here in the US, where we are told illegals are simply 'hard working people, trying to improve their lot in life and doing jobs Americans won't do'
John McCain, that douchebag, went so far as to say white people wouldn't pick lettuce in Arizona even if paid $50 an hour for the 2 month season. Which was another of the reasons the actual conservatives in the Republican party never liked him as a candidate...
 

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First, there is the larger effect on the sanctity of a legal system. If a guest ignores the law -- and thereby often must keep breaking more laws -- should citizens also have the right to similarly pick and choose which statutes they find worthy of honoring and which are too bothersome? Once it is deemed moral for the impoverished to cross a border without a passport, could not the same arguments of social justice be used for the poor of any status not to report earned income or even file a 1040 form?

Illegal immigration is illegal. To characterize it as 'moral' or 'immoral' requires a common yardstick by which to judge such things. None exists. Case in point; there are good, decent, law-abiding, and honest citizens on BOTH SIDES of the 'right to life' debate. Is abortion therefore moral or immoral? Ask both sides and you get two different answers. There is no absolute (unless you are a staunch member of one or the other).

Second, what is the effect of mass illegal immigration on impoverished U.S. citizens? Does anyone care? When 10 million to 15 million aliens are here illegally, where is the leverage for the American working poor to bargain with employers? If it is deemed ethical to grant in-state tuition discounts to illegal-immigrant students, is it equally ethical to charge three times as much for out-of-state, financially needy American students -- whose federal government usually offers billions to subsidize state colleges and universities? If foreign nationals are afforded more entitlements, are there fewer for U.S. citizens?
END EXCERPT

That is two questions, not one. The first (what is the effect on impoverished US citizens) is a good question. I cannot imagine it does them any good whatsoever. The second (is it ethical to grant in-state tuition to illegal aliens) is a question for the state, not the federal government. People who argue vehemently for State's Rights often turn Federalist when the state in question doesn't play by the rules they think it ought. Don't like how California determines who is a resident and who is not for tuition purposes? Go have a chat with California.

However, I've never argued the ethical, legal, or moral right of illegal aliens to cross our borders with impunity. It's a crime, albeit a minor one. It has an effect on our economy (good, bad, or indifferent, it clearly affects it). It should concern us.

However, I feel it is of far less importance than recognizing two things. First, that our border security is more important than the illegal aliens that have been hear for generations now and which are not going away, and second, that we should reform our immigration laws to reflect the reality that people want the things that illegal aliens provide us. That's all. Secure the borders by drastically reducing the number of people who come across illegally and then focusing law enforcement attention on those few who will still be crossing illegally after all the (former) illegal workers are coming across with nice legal work visas.

I don't care even one tiny bit about the ethics or morals of the situation. It's immoral what they do? Aw. Put on your big girl panties and get over it.
 

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You make some good points, Bill (and is it my imagination or have you not been about for a bit?).

I do think it is an interesting approach in the OP article tho' to take the focus away from the merely practical and pragmatic and ask the quite important question of the moral aspects of illegality.

After all, most things are illegal because they are considered either dangerous to the general public or immoral (not fitting the accepted codes of morality of the society). There are also things that are legal that are amoral ... but that's a whole other discussion :).
 

Bill Mattocks

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You make some good points, Bill (and is it my imagination or have you not been about for a bit?).

Too true. I have been entertaining.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/wigwam/sets/72157625312041307/

I do have other interests too, ya' know...
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I do think it is an interesting approach in the OP article tho' to take the focus away from the merely practical and pragmatic and ask the quite important question of the moral aspects of illegality.

I'm a bit more cynical. I doubt the sincerity of the question, given the source. I think it's just another way of yakking up the same old hairball.

After all, most things are illegal because they are considered either dangerous to the general public or immoral (not fitting the accepted codes of morality of the society). There are also things that are legal that are amoral ... but that's a whole other discussion :).

Morality and the public good (and hence, laws) have been loosely affiliated with each other since dot, more or less. In a society that derives its authority to govern from the consent of the governed, one would expect that although the two bear a more-than-passing resemblance to each other, one cannot argue the 'morality' of a situation with respect to whether or not it ought to be legal; merely over how one may choose to feel about it. It is (ironically) in societies that are government by religious law in which morality (as given by the particular religion) and the law of the land are indistinguishable.

I always find it a bit amusing to watch those who decry 'Sharia Law' go on about how immoral this or that is, and how therefore it ought to have a stop put to it. Yes, Imam, tell me more.
 
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Big Don

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I'm a bit more cynical. I doubt the sincerity of the question, given the source. I think it's just another way of yakking up the same old hairball.
How wonderful. What a unique way to dodge the actual question, attack the person, not the words...
 

Bill Mattocks

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How wonderful. What a unique way to dodge the actual question, attack the person, not the words...

OK, let me make it more clear. Do I think that crossing the border illegally for work is moral or immoral? I think it is immoral. I also think it is irrelevant to any discussion of border security, which is what I care about.
 

granfire

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Immoral?
No. Having relations outside of marriage is immoral.
Crossing boarders without propper documentation is illegal.

Is it illegal to want a better life for yourself and your family?
No, it is not even immoral.

Now, on the other side of the fence - literally - the matter of legality and morality arises:
Is it either or to hire illegals?
You bet your Gi bottoms it is as immoral as it is illegal.

And yet, as cynic realist, I don't see the need for the illegal workforce diminish any time soon.

because the white population does not care to pick lettuce, and the non-white part of the population does not, either.
See here is the problem: If you want to produce agricultural products to a price the average American can afford you can't pay much above minimum wage. It's as simple as that. There are costs you can't control on the farm, like the price of gas or pesticites. Or the latest round of Monsanto's licensing follies.

And just to put my opinion in perspective: I used to work in the agricultural sector, in a grunt's position. The native workforce was something you didn't wish on your worst enemy, the truck load of 'Mexicans' worked their butts off, surpassing the best of the natives my miles.
The thing is, it's called the American Dream, not the US American dream...from the Artic to Terra de Fuego, it's America...
 

billc

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I was listening to Rush the other day, a while ago, and someone called in and said that in Europe they use machines to harvest almost all of their crops since they do not have the cheap labor available that the U.S. does. He said they use machines for all the crops that we would use manual labor to harvest. Does anyone know anything about this?
 

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Like other posters have said, immoral or moral is a smokescreen to the actual problem and the solutions to the problem. To answer the question though, nothing is black and white when it comes to illegal immigration. Which is worse morally, crossing a border illegally to find work to feed your family or obeying the law and watching them starve? We do need to get control of illegal immigration and change some of the laws regarding immigration. Villifying those who are immigrating illegally does absolutley nothing towards those goals. Maybe I'm just wierd in that I can have compassion for people and still see the need to limit illegal activity by those same people.

I find it interesting that many articles attack the illegal immigrants, but hardly ever attack those driving illegal immigration. If there is no work for illegals, they would not be here. Also, for the middle class people I know, they don't have the money to hire anyone, much less illegals to take care of thier lawn, thier children, or thier housecleaning. So with the middle class statement, the article lost credability for me.
 

granfire

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I was listening to Rush the other day, a while ago, and someone called in and said that in Europe they use machines to harvest almost all of their crops since they do not have the cheap labor available that the U.S. does. He said they use machines for all the crops that we would use manual labor to harvest. Does anyone know anything about this?

everything that can be harvested by machine is being mechanized in the US as well. After all a fleet of machines with a handful of operators is still cheaper than an army of migrant workers. There are just some things you can't pick by machine. Either the crop is too fragile or there are several stages of readiness on the plant.

However, labor laws are different in Europe, making it relatively easy to hire seasonal work.
 

elder999

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Grapes, strawberries, tomatoes, apples,pears,avocados,oranges,peaches-pretty much an ything that grolws on trees- carrots, asparagus, lettuce, cabbage, kale and a myriad of other things all must be harvested by hand, for a variety of reasons.



As for the issue of "morality" two weeks ago, it was "immoral" for a Catholic to use a coondom. While the Holy Father didn' declare it to be mooral; he did say that condom use was more moral than transmitting AIDS or having an. Abortion.

Even the Pope recognizes that "morals" are NOT absolute. It is, after. All, an age old dilemna: is it immoral to steal food to feed your children, or even more immoral to; let them starve? Because. That's what we're talking about here; peope stealing. To feed. Their families.

Sure, if they came into the country to smugglle drugs or rape children, it'sclearly immoral. To feedtheir families? I dunno. My dad said that one of thebest tests of morality was something like. WWID?,as in "whaat would I do? "

So, in order to provide. A halfway decent living to your family, you have to illegally cross the border. What would YOU do?
 
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Big Don

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Which is worse morally, crossing a border illegally to find work to feed your family or obeying the law and watching them starve?
It is still illegal, and immoral, it is just sympathetic.
Villifying those who are immigrating illegally does absolutley nothing towards those goals.
Of course, neither does lionizing them.
I find it interesting that many articles attack the illegal immigrants, but hardly ever attack those driving illegal immigration.
Like, Mexico's government?
If there is no work for illegals, they would not be here.
Well, there are women everywhere, yet, relatively few rapists, so the idea that if the bait isn't here they won't be is kind of flawed, imho.
 

granfire

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It is still illegal, and immoral, it is just sympathetic.Of course, neither does lionizing them. Like, Mexico's government?
Well, there are women everywhere, yet, relatively few rapists, so the idea that if the bait isn't here they won't be is kind of flawed, imho.


somehow many of your pearls of wisdom got lost in the quote feature.
However, I would like to point out that Morality or lack there of is not to equate with legality. though the first influences that latter, we can, I think agree that there is a wide gap between what is legal and moral in many cases.

You are also under the misconception that all short, dark skinned people who perform manual work under illegal conditions do indeed hail from only Mexico. Many come from far further South. I think the Mexican government has many flaws that are probbaly not linked to illegals from Central America though naturally there is the windfall from the immediate proximity.

And comparing the opportunity to earn money for a better life to the criminal act of rape just because the opportunity is there with that many women present...next thing you try to tell us the Burka prevents violence against women...
 

Bill Mattocks

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So, in order to provide. A halfway decent living to your family, you have to illegally cross the border. What would YOU do?

It is an excellent question, and one which those who are opposed to illegal immigration will generally not answer.

When I have posed the question, the answer I usually get is a side-step; "Well, I would never put my family in that situation." Or, "Well, they had no business having kids to begin with if they could not feed them." Or, "Well, their own government should be looking into these situations, it's not our problem to solve." All of which may be true to varying degrees, but none of which answer the question.

Just answer the damned question. Hypothetically, you are the head of family X, and you live in Country Y. You have tried diligently to find work, but you have not found any. Your family is living off of very little, and you fear the worst if you do not take action. Across the border in Country Z, there is work.

There are legal ways to cross the border and work; but you have applied and been on the list for several years now; there is a 20,000 worker maximum, so they have a lottery every year, and your number has not yet come up.

It is dangerous to cross the border, and it is illegal according to the laws of Country Z. The work is hard, the pay is low; but it is work and it is pay. A friend who has been there before offers to guide you into Country Z and take you to where the work is.

You consider yourself a moral person, a good person, a law-abiding person. However, you see your family with no money, little food, living in squalor, and with no opportunity to change that situation, despite the fact that you vote in your local and national elections and try to make change happen within your own country. You love your country and have no particular desire to leave and go to a country where you are not wanted by many, despised by many, and subject to arrest and deportation, not to mention predation violent criminals.

Do you go or not? Don't equivocate. Yes or no.

If 'no', fair enough. I can certainly understand why you would suggest that no one else should come to the USA illegally in search of work either.

If 'yes'...

For my part, to answer my own question...yes, I would cross the border to Country Z. I would consider what I was doing to be wrong, both morally and legally. I would do it anyway. There are things I consider more important than my sense of morality and my desire to obey the law, and one of those things is feeding my family.
 

granfire

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The biggest immorality is that many who vehemently oppose immigration are often caught as benefactors of the ill gotten gains of illegal work.

Who was the latest bigwig from DC? naturally, it wasn't his fault, it was a subcontractor....:BSmeter:
 
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