I frequently hear conservatives emphasize the fact that illegal immigrants are in fact illegal and breaking the law. They also say things like “this is a nation of laws” and “I’m not against immigration, I’m just against illegal immigration” and “What is it about ‘illegal’ that they don’t understand?”.
These conservatives are bypassing the real issues at hand. The question is not, “Is illegal immigration illegal and breaking the law?”. Of course it is. The relevant question is, “Is the law that blocks immigration a just or unjust law, and *should* we have this law in the first place?”. Another relevant question is, “If the law is unjust, is it also unjust and immoral to enforce unjust laws?”. Also, we must remember that the question of whether or not a person should follow the immigration laws is a separate question from whether or not it’s morally right and just to have said laws and enforce said laws. So, even if you think the Mexicans or whoever else should follow our (unjust) immigration laws, this does not demonstrate that the laws are just and right. The purpose of this post is not necessarily to convince you that immigration restrictions are unjust. I make those arguments elsewhere in other posts. My purpose here is to emphasize that it is not enough to merely say “it’s illegal” and “we’re a nation of laws” and “we’re only deporting illegal immigrants”, as if these phrases justify the govt’s enforcement actions. Conservatives must focus on arguments of justice if they wish to even attempt to adhere to good reasoning.
So, let’s consider a hypothetical example. What if the govt passed a law that says, “All people, citizens or not, in the US with red hair are not allowed to have a job and work for money unless they have a special permission slip (permit) granted by the govt.” And, this same law has a clause within it that says, “Only 5% of redheads shall be granted permits”, leaving most red heads in the position where they cannot legally work. Then, what if we see that some non-permitted red heads are actually secretly working and getting income from employers who would like to hire them. These disorderly anarchistic criminals, as conservatives might call them, would be breaking the law. The police would be looking for them, ready to kidnap them and confine them in a cage (jail) by force, doing harm to the redhead and their family. Conservatives would start saying, “What is it about ‘illegal’ that they don’t understand?”. They might also say, “I’m not against redheads working for a living, I’m just opposed to illegal redheads working”. Of course, the logical person would reply, “If so, then why not just grant permits to all redheads so that they all can work legally?”. Now, surely you would see how ridiculous and unjust this law is. Just because it’s a law doesn’t mean that it *should* be law or that it’s a good and just law. This hypothetical redhead law would be unjust and an immoral use of govt force and violence. Also, it would be unjust to enforce this law even if it did exist.
If these redheads were Christians, they might even be obliged to obey the law because the Bible tells Christians to obey all laws even if they are unjust and wrong, out of self-denial and to suffer unjust persecution by govt. But, this requirement to submit and endure unjust suffering under unjust laws does not imply that the law itself is just and right, and does not imply that it is just for the govt to have the law and enforce it. So, conservatives must grapple with the more important questions that I outlined above, instead of bypassing them with the trivial saying of “it’s illegal”.
Conservatives say that they are in favor of “legal” immigration. If this were true, then they would have no problem legalizing immigration. Do they not know that the US places arbitrary limits on the number of immigrants that can come from each country. The number of people that wish to enter far exceeds the number that govt allows, which is why people come illegally. The US govt is not denying them on the particularized basis of known disease or criminal records, but is denying them in aggregate solely based on numerical limits to keep immigration levels down. The only reason most immigration is illegal is because the govt has simply made it illegal to reduce immigration. It would easily become legal if the govt just legalized it. So, if conservatives are ok with legal immigration, they should have no problem with lifting the numerical limits and allowing immigrants to come in legally in larger numbers. This is what I meant in my analogy of the redheads in that the govt only grants permits to a small fraction of red heads. If you are ok with legal red heads, you should advocate that more redheads get legal permits.
Lastly, I understand the conservatives’ concern about public funds being used to aid immigrants who are poor. I’m against all wealth redistribution by force. Although the numbers don’t actually work out and they don’t actually cause a net burden on the govt’s budget (especially in the long term), I appreciate their concerns and share them to a degree. In this case, the solution is easy: We can simply have a law that forbids immigrants from receiving govt aid for life, and they would have to sign a waiver as a condition of entry. That way, they can come legally, but they won’t be allowed to receive govt aid. You can even deny them citizenship so that they can’t vote “incorrectly”. What matters is allowing them to enter and work and live here if they wish.