Thursday, May 25, 2006

Column on Illegal Immigration

Immigration Fracas

Tibor R. Machan

Not all topics on which I sound off have a directly personal dimension
for me?say, when I defend the right to smoke medical marijuana or to
publish pornography or to earn huge CEO bonuses. But immigration does.

On September 9th, 1956, I arrived by boat in New York harbor, from
Europe. I had lived there for three years after I left Hungary and
illegally entered first Austria, and then Germany. I was a refugee from
communism, smuggled out from such a regime by a professional.

The illegal part of it was due to the fact that my parents had determined
that my staying in Hungary would spell doom for me, given how outspoken I
was beginning to be, at 12, 11 and 14, in opposition to the ruling regime.
I had already been thrown out of gymnasium and reassigned to technical
school because of having asked counter-revolutionary questions in a class
on Marxism. So it was better to risk being shot at the Iron Curtain than
trying to kowtow to the commies, which I didn?t appear to have in me.

But to leave Germany to come to America didn?t involve escaping a life
threatening political regime. So doing it illegal was out of the question.
Instead, my father and his family, including I, the newcomer, jumped
through the rather extensive bureaucratic loops so as to obtain our visas
and board the General Langfit, the ship that was to carry us stateside. He
needed to obtain proof of his prospects for employment in this country as
one of the requirements for coming here. He did find a job in Cleveland,
Ohio, where there had been a huge Hungarian émigré community, and
immediately after we arrived at New York harbor, we took a bus to that
city and got ourselves situated.

Was this the right way how to enter a new country? Was it how one ought
to immigrate into a free society?

Roughly, yes. Immigration should be a matter of changing countries
without doing any harm to anyone, including those who already live in the
new one, but also those one is leaving behind. Had my family been in
extensive debt, or had we been criminals fleeing Germany without doing
time for our crime?provided the crime had been something that violated the
rights of others, not some victimless nonsense?we would not have had the
right to leave. Nor would we have had the right to come to America if it
meant imposing burdens on the citizens here, say, by going on welfare,
using ?free? education or any other services. In the first place, actually
no one ought to receive such services without paying for it. Moreover, we
didn?t pay any taxes from which such ?free? services are supported.

So, as you can imagine, although that was nearly 50 years ago, the
current fracas over illegal immigration quickly called it all back to
mind. And when I am asked, well, what should be the policy by which people
can immigrate into America, I have little trouble recalling how I got
here, legally: if you have a job lined up and will not be a burden to
others?including those you left behind?you should be welcome. Otherwise
you are an criminal intruder or fugitive or both.

Illegal immigration is, of course, largely the result of cumbersome
bureaucratic measures required to enter the country legally. Most of those
who end up coming here, legally or illegally, tend to find work, except
for those who are unlucky enough to seek it from employers who are bent on
reporting them to the INS. And the employers are, of course, legally bound
to do just that. So it is a mess, nowhere as neat as it was in the case of
my and my family?s immigration. For people to take part in huge marches to
protest the various immigration policy measures being contemplated could
make sense if the motivation were to move those policies closer to
matching the principles of just immigration sketched above. Sadly, these
days much of the marching about tends to be a tribal gesture, having
little to do with justice. (For example, Mexico?s immigration policies are
far more bureaucratic and cumbersome than those of the USA.)

If some sound thinking went into straightening out America?s immigration
policies, most of the illegals would not be illegals at all but would
simply be folks seeking a better life by means of hard work and loyalty to
the principles of a free country.

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