I intensely disagree with some of this comment regarding illegal immigration and the laws surrounding it, but it is still thoughtful and provocative. I’ll be back at the end.
Here is slickwilly’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Quiz: Is This Question Easy?”
“But sometimes the law itself is evil.
Agreed, and a good observation. Laws are made by men, many times men with hidden agendas who stand to profit from those laws. What I think Glenn is getting at is that ‘illegal’ is seen as equal to ‘immoral,’ which many equate with ‘bad.’ Is it immoral to disobey a law? In the strict sense, by the definitions involved, I think so. In practice, I am not so certain. What if the ‘law’ is written by an un-elected bureaucrat who has no effective over site from lawful entities? When petty rules have the enforcement power of law, democracy falls into tyranny.
“Of course, immigration laws are a necessary evil. We have to have them. But we need to get more serious about whether the ones we have now are ethical, sensible, and productive.”
Many of the laws we have now benefit those in power, or those who paid them to make the law a certain way. This is generally bad for everybody else, taken as a whole. Immigration laws do not punish those who create the situation for corporate (and private) greed, and even when they do provide punishment for such as these they are not enforced. The first thing that must change is that this class starts suffering for their crimes by lawful enforcement and new laws to address that situation.
I will agree that MOST immigration laws (including ‘how one becomes a legal resident’) are unethical, nonsensible, and unproductive. To those, I will add unfair to all involved but those that crafted them.
Unfair to the legitimate immigrants who try to follow the byzantine process;
Unfair to the illegal immigrants, who are encouraged to come here for jobs that greedy businesses dangle before them simply to take advantage of them;
Unfair to the American worker, whose wages are depressed and whose rights are infringed by the situation;
Unfair to the middle class, who live with the economic problems produced by the current situation (taxes, personal danger, and higher prices, to name a few of those problems)
Unfair to States who must support the illegals with unfunded mandates;
Unfair to the hospital system who cannot turn anyone away for non pay, but must swallow those costs or pass them along in reduced care and higher prices for American citizens;
Unfair to the education system that must accommodate the children with no resources provided by their parents, children who often do not speak a common language with their classmates and some of whom carry diseases we have not seen before in the USA (or had eradicated such that we no longer have immunity and/or recognition of the symptoms: research how tuberculosis is making a come back in the heartland and where it came from)
Unfair to the children being sent here (illegally) for a ‘better life,’ only to be dropped into the cesspools of life in the shadows, or the sex worker trade, or into a life of crime to survive.
We cannot take everyone in the world who has a hard or threatened life elsewhere. This is simple economics. However, we can do better than we have at what we can and should be doing.
We just have to agree on what those things are.
1. The comment throws around “evil” far too loosely. We learn that many laws were wrong, unethical and unjust after long they have been passed; the sterilization of the mentally disabled, for example. “Evil” used in policy and legal debates is the equivalent of an ad hominem attack: it bypasses facts for characterizations. Unless laws are devised intentionally to pursue evil ends, like the Nuremberg Laws, using the description is facile and a cheap shot. Are laws permitting abortion on demand “evil”? Was the Dred Scot ruling “evil”? Was Korematsu an “evil” ruling? Is it eveil to take what one citizen has earned and give it to another citizen by edict? None of the lawmakers and officials involved in these and other laws believed they were facilitating evil, and as long as there can be an objective utilitarian debate, evil should not be invoked. Many laws turn out to be unethical.
2. Society’s survival requires that laws be obeyed. In a democratic system, the public has the power to change laws. One can ethically defy laws that one personally opposes as immoral, unethical or “evil,” but only if one accepts the law’s punishments for that defiance.
3. Calling immigration laws a “necessary evil” is an oxymoron. Immigration laws are necessary, period. Nations have to control their borders, property, budgets and culture, or they cease to exist as nations. Utopian visions of a land where anyone can come to live and thrive at their whim are a waste of time and distort important policy considerations. If something is truly necessary, it is not “evil.”
4. Current laws could and should be improved, but “unfair” is a too-subjective verdict. In particular, I don’t buy slick’s #1, “Unfair to the legitimate immigrants who try to follow the byzantine process.” as a fair characterization. This is like voting: coming here and becoming a citizen should not be so easy and effortless that it loses all significance and integrity. Becoming a US citizen should take dedication and effort, and those who desire it should be willing to make that effort.
5. #2 also annoys me. I don’t care what the “encouragement” is; illegal immigrants break the law, and know they are breaking the law. Nobody is forcing them. If a car dealer leaves his lot open and keys in all the car ignitions, and never reports when the cars are stolen, I still don’t steal his cars, and if I did, I could not say “he made me do it!”
6. Let’s see how the laws work when they are enforced. Until then, it is breaking the laws that requires attention, not the laws themselves.