Decriminalize Immigration

The idea of “illegal” immigration is a silly notion. It’s akin to an “illegal” vacation. Immigration is simply the act of moving from Location A to Location B. Why should permission be required to exercise this right? Up until 1882 (with passage of the non-euphemistically named “Chinese Exclusion Act”) anyone was permitted entry. Immigration laws were tightened further until 1921 when the Temporary Quota Act set “national quotas” and permanently criminalized immigration. And thus a legal harmless act was made “illegal” by arbitrary government fiat.

The RIGHT to immigrate (or emigrate) is distinct from the PRIVLEGE of citizenship. The basic idea is “you’re welcome to come and work and live here and support yourself but don’t expect handouts from the government… if you want a handout then you must become a citizen.” If immigration were properly viewed in this manner it would solve the issue of an overburdened social safety system. If only citizens can utilize the social institutions then you remove all incentives for those with parasitic intentions from immigrating. We would, however, have to change the antiquated citizenship laws that confer citizenship to those born on US soil. Citizenship should be a privilege reserved for those that meet the established criteria or the children of a US citizen.

The most common justification for restricting immigration is that they ‘steal’ jobs from Americans. Hogwash. They are doing the jobs that nobody wants. And when nobody does them, they don’t get done. For example, my family has been buying peaches from a fruit stand on Hwy 441 for several years and we have gotten to know the owners quite well. This past spring Governor Deal signed into law Bill 87 (which enacts severe penalties and mandates in order to curb illegal immigration). So this was the first growing season after that bill passed and recently one of the owners, Amy Bishop, remarked to us that the lack of immigrants had severely affected their business. There are simply not enough pickers. Food is rotting in the fields. The peach harvest was greatly diminished in both quality and quantity. She stated “I’ve thrown away more peaches this year then in 15 years, we lost, at our cost, over a 6 week span over $2000 just on peaches” (due to low quality from lack of tending and higher prices due to diminished supply).

“I’ve thrown away more peaches this year then in 15 years, we lost, at our cost, over a 6 week span over $2000 just on peaches”

With high unemployment you’d think the growers would have people lining up to work. Apparently not. When unemployment compensation can last 2 years it disincentivizes the unemployed to find work when such work might only equal or barely exceed what they already collect for doing nothing at all. Some say the wages for such “menial” jobs are too low to attract Americans to work them. Funny, the immigrants seem to get by just fine. Nevertheless, if the pay is “too low”, then I don’t understand the argument that jobs are being stolen? Stolen from the people that don’t want them?

Many immigrants fill a niche in our economy, the niche of the menial jobs that the native born don’t want. This has been true since this country was founded. The first generation is willing to do the hard work so that their children won’t have to. Removing the immigrants simply leaves those jobs undone, driving up prices. If we don’t want immigrants “mooching” off our big social safety net we need to either make the net smaller or require proof of citizenship for those wishing to partake in a government handout.