Immigration is a major issue of our time. It is important that we think as clearly as we can about it.
1) First of all, we must insist on a distinction that many on the Left ignore, that between legal and illegal immigration. Libertarians also often elide the distinction. The elision is aided and abetted by the use of the obfuscatory term 'migrant' which manages to conflate two distinctions at once: that between immigrants and emigrants, and that between legal and illegal immigrants.
Language matters here as elsewhere and one must oppose the linguistic mischief of those who speak of 'undocumented workers' to hide the fact that the law is being broken. It is also important to point out that illegal entry is a violation of the criminal code. It is not a mere civil violation.
Legal and illegal immigration are separate, logically independent, issues. To oppose illegal immigration is not to oppose legal immigration. We assume, then, that no one should be allowed to enter illegally. But why exactly? What's wrong with illegal immigration? Aren't those who oppose it racists and xenophobes and nativists whose opinions are nothing but expressions of bigotry and hate? Aren't they deplorable people who cling to religion and guns? Doesn't everyone have a right to migrate wherever he wants?
2) The most general reason for not allowing illegal immigration is precisely because it is illegal. If the rule of law is to be upheld, then reasonable laws cannot be allowed to be violated with impunity simply because they are difficult to enforce or are being violated by huge numbers of people. Someone who questions the value of the rule of law is not someone it is wise to waste time debating.
But of course a practice's being illegal does not entail its being unjust or wrong or reasonably opposed. So we need to consider reasons why immigration controls are reasonable.
Reasons for opposing illegal immigration
3) There are several sound specific reasons for demanding that the Federal government exercise its legitimate, constitutionally grounded (see Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution) function of securing the national borders, and none of these reasons has anything to do with racism or xenophobia or nativism or any other derogatory epithet that slanderous leftists and libertarians want to attach to those of us who can think clearly about this issue.
There are reasons having to do with national security in an age of terrorism. There are reasons having to do with assimilation, national identity, and comity. How likely is it that illegals will assimilate if allowed to come in in great numbers, and how likely is social harmony among citizens and unassimilated illegals? There are considerations of fairness in respect of those who have entered the country legally by satisfying the requirements of so doing. Is it fair that they should be put through a lengthy process when others are allowed in illegally?
There are reasons having to do with the importation of contraband substances into the country. There are reasons having to to do with the sex trade and human trafficking generally. There are reasons having to do with increased crime. Last but not least, there are reasons pertaining to public health. With the concern over avian influenza, tuberculosis, ebola, and all sorts of tropical diseases, not to mention COVID-19, we have all the more reason to demand border control.
Borders are a body politic's immune system. Unregulated borders are deficient immune systems. Diseases that were once thought to have been eradicated have made a comeback north of the Rio Grande due to the unregulated influx of population. These diseases include tuberculosis, Chagas disease, leprosy, Dengue fever, polio, and malaria.
You will have noticed how liberals want to transform into public health issues problems that are manifestly not public but matters of private concern, obesity for example. But here we have an issue that is clearly a public health issue, one concerning which Federal involvement is justified, and what do our dear liberals do? They ignore it. Of course, the problem cannot be blamed solely on the Democrat Party. Republicans like G. W. Bush and John McCain are just as guilty. On immigration, Bush was clearly no conservative; he was a libertarian on this issue. A libertarian on some issues, a liberal on others, and a conservative on far too few. And now, with Joe Biden and his handlers in charge, things are immeasurably worse.
Illegal aliens do not constitute a race or ethnic group
4) Many liberals think that opposition to illegal immigration is anti-Hispanic. Not so. It is true that most of those who violate the nation's borders are Hispanic. But the opposition is not to Hispanics but to illegal entrants whether Hispanic or not. It is a contingent fact that Mexico is to the south of the U.S. If Turkey or Iran or Italy were to the south, the issue would be the same. And if Iran were to the south, and there were an influx of illegals, then then leftists would speak of anti-Persian bias.
A salient feature of liberals and leftists -- there isn't much difference nowadays -- is their willingness to 'play the race card,' to inject race into every issue. The issue of illegal immigration has nothing to do with race since illegal immigrants do not constitute a race. There is no such race as the race of 'illegal aliens.' Opposition to them, therefore, cannot be racist. Suppose England were to the south of the U. S. and Englishmen were streaming north. Would they be opposed because they are white? No, because they are illegal aliens.
"But aren't some of those who oppose illegal immigration racists?" That may be so, but it is irrelevant. That one takes the right stance for the wrong reason does not negate the fact that one has taken the right stance. One only wishes they would take the right stance for the right reasons. Even if everyone who opposed illegal immigration were a foaming-at-the-mouth redneck of a racist, that would not detract one iota of cogency from the cogent arguments against allowing illegal immigration. To think otherwise is to embrace the Genetic Fallacy.
5) The rule of law is a precious thing. It is one of the supports of a civilized life. The toleration of mass breaking of reasonable and just laws undermines the rule of law.
6) Part of the problem is that we let liberals get away with obfuscatory rhetoric, such as 'undocumented worker.' The term does not have the same extension as 'illegal alien.' I discuss this in a separate post.
7) How long can a welfare state survive with open borders? Think about it. The trend in the USA for a long time now has been towards bigger and bigger government, more and more 'entitlements.' It is obviously impossible for purely fiscal reasons to provide cradle-to-grave security for everyone who wants to come here. So something has to give. Either you strip the government down to its essential functions or you control the borders. The first has no real chance of happening. Quixotic is the quest of strict constructionists and libertarians who call for it. Rather than tilting at windmills, they should work with reasonable conservatives to limit and eventually stop the expansion of government. Think of what a roll-back to a government in accordance with a strictly construed constitution would look like. For one thing, the social security system would have to be eliminated. That won't happen. Libertarians are 'losertarian' dreamers. They should wake up and realize that politics is a practical business and should aim at the possible. By the way, the pursuit of impossible dreams is common to both libertarians and leftists.
'Liberal' arguments for border control
8) Even though contemporary liberals show little or no understanding for the above arguments, there are actually what might be called 'liberal' arguments for controlling the borders:
A. The Labor Argument. To give credit where credit is due, it was not the conservatives of old who championed the working man, agitated for the 40 hour work week, demanded safe working conditions, etc., but the liberals of those days. They can be proud of this. But it is not only consistent with their concern for workers that they oppose illegal immigration, but demanded by their concern. For when the labor market is flooded with people who will work for low wages, the bargaining power of the U.S. worker is diminished. Liberals should therefore oppose the unregulated influx of cheap labor, and they should oppose it precisely because of their concern for U. S. workers.
By the way, it is simply false to say, as Bush, McCain and other pandering politicians have said, that U.S. workers will not pick lettuce, clean hotel rooms, and the like. Of course they will if they are paid a decent wage. People who won't work for $5 an hour will work for $20. But they won't be able to command $20 if there is a limitless supply of indigentes who will accept $5-10.
B. The Environmental Argument. Although there are 'green' conservatives, concern for the natural environment, and its preservation and protection from industrial exploitation, is more a liberal than a conservative issue. (By the way, I'm a 'green' conservative.) So liberals ought to be concerned about the environmental degradation caused by hordes of illegals crossing the border. It is not just that they degrade the lands they physically cross, it is that people whose main concern is economic survival are not likely to be concerned about environmental protection. They are unlikely to become Sierra Club members or to make contributions to the Nature Conservancy. Love of nature comes more easily to middle class white collar workers for whom nature is a scene of recreation than for those who must wrest a livelihood from it by hard toil.
C. The Population Argument. This is closely related to, but distinct from, the Environmental Argument. To the extent that liberals are concerned about the negative effects of explosive population increase, they should worry about an unchecked influx of people whose women have a high birth-rate.
D. The Social Services Argument. Liberals believe in a vast panoply of social services provided by government and thus funded by taxation. But the quality of these services must degrade as the number of people who demand them rises. To take but one example, laws requiring hospitals to treat those in dire need whether or not they have a means of paying are reasonable and humane -- or at least that can be argued with some show of plausibility. But such laws are reasonably enacted and reasonably enforced only in a context of social order. Without border control, not only will the burden placed on hospitals become unbearable, but the justification for the federal government's imposition of these laws on hospitals will evaporate. According to one source, California hospitals are closing their doors. "Anchor babies" born to illegal aliens instantly qualify as citizens for welfare benefits and have caused enormous rises in Medicaid costs and stipends under Supplemental Security Income and Disability Income.
The point is that you can be a good liberal and oppose illegal immigration. You can oppose it even if you don't care about increased crime, terrorism, drug smuggling, human trafficking, disease, national identity, national sovereignty, assimilation, the rule of law, or fairness to those who have immigrated legally. But a 'good liberal' who is not concerned with these things is a sorry human being.