Some insightful thoughts on immigration

Former LPSF member Anton Sherwood on immigration, 1/16/03 (from his website,

A decade ago, some of my friends were saying ``We can't allow easy immigration so long as there's a generous welfare-state.'' I didn't buy it then, and I don't like it now. Why take away what ought to be a right - the freedom of both migrant and native to do business with, or marry, whom they choose, and the migrant's freedom to live where they prefer - because some subset of the beneficiaries abuse what ought not to be a right? Is it moral to let the abolition of one wrong depend on the abolition of another? (If so, the cause of broad reform - even if everyone favors it - seems hopeless, because you'll never get consensus on the right order.)

I'm not wholly without sympathy for those (like my father, no xenophobe!) who fret that Our Culture, which we rightly value, could be lost in a flood of funny-thinking foreigners. I become a bit of a nationalist - let's call an entrenching device a shovel: segregationist - whenever I'm on public transport and meet a shoving flock of adults with no respect for queues, because they're always unassimilated greying Chinese.

But something precious has already been lost to the politicians' efforts to keep furners out, and the potential future damage along these lines is unlimited.

In the romantic America of the movies, one could change one's name, move to a new town, and start over, no questions asked. Now there are people in prison for innocently picking up an unapproved hitchhiker. Now, thanks to the Immigration Reform Act of 1986 (if memory serves), every employer is drafted into the border patrol, required to examine your Government-issued credentials.

As long as I'm bitching about anti-immigrationists, I'll briefly mention the legalists. They don't mind immigration, not a bit! They just can't abide scofflaws - people who waltz across the border without first knocking meekly at the door that says Closed: try again in ten years. Weirdly, some of the legalists call themselves libertarians; some, even a few whom I'd otherwise call anarchists, make a strained argument about trespassing on public streets, an act at which we do not ordinarily take offense.

Question to any legalists: Would you disapprove if I go try to live on the black market in some Communist state, or smuggle impious books into Iran? As if I had such nerve!