The cover article for the April 22, 2013 issue of The New American Magazine was entitled: “Permanent Amnesty, Temporary Border” (see article here). This article was, as the title itself easily reveals, opposed to the “problems” of “illegal immigration” and “open borders”. Seeing the inconsistencies philosophically underlying the fact that this article was coming from a magazine run by people who claim and typically are more consistent than most at defending Constitutional principles, this author took it upon himself to write a succinct rebuttal in the form of a letter to the editor.
This led to a series of e-mails with Kurt Williamsen, Associate Editor for The New American Magazine. As soon as an e-mail reply sent by Mr. Williamsen included the sentence “This debate has come to an end,” there seemed no reason to reply any further. It was concluded there was no convincing someone already convinced otherwise that “unrestrained” Immigration is a good thing and that it should be welcomed. Until Now.
The June 17,2013 issue of The New American Magazine, on “The Last Word” page, included a short article entitled: “Our Land Is Their Land?” by Kurt Williamsen (pg. 44 for those with the physical copy). On this page he includes a short quote from my original e-mail, mischaracterizes some of my most basic arguments, and includes some arguments that he uses as a rebuttal “[in] our defense”, all of which were rebutted at least somewhat in the e-mail correspondence. This article is an attempt by this author to set the record straight as far as he sees it.
However, before we begin, it should be made clear that this is in no way an attempt to denigrate the integrity of the intensions behind Kurt Williamsen, or any other person behind The New American Magazine. They are often a good resource for information and current events, and I certainly do not simultaneously credit that quality to an ironic lack of good intentions.
Yet, there comes a time when discussion and debate should be had, and issues should be reanalyzed from a more basic and principled point of view. And, therefore, this author is open to and proposes that there be a debate/discussion on this topic with Kurt Williamsen or anyone else associated with The New American Magazine who would feel so inclined. But whether in person, or via Skype or something similar, it would be even more conducive to the intellectual spirit that should drive such an occasion to include the ability for others to come and watch in person, and perhaps later on via a recording that is posted on Youtube.
Fundamental Natural Rights come from God and by virtue of humanity itself. Civil Government’s sole legitimate purpose is to protect those rights. Therefore, how can the respecting of those Rights be conditional upon the circumstance of who a person happened to be born to, or where they happened to be born?
The Declaration of Independence does not state that all “citizens” are created equal, but all of mankind. This understanding was enshrined in the Bill of Rights. It should be noticed that they do not state that the right of the “citizens” shall be secure, etc. (Fourth Amendment), or that No “citizen” shall be held to answer for a…crime, etc. (Fifth Amendment), but that the right of the people, and no person shall have their rights violated. (And they do use the word ‘citizen’ elsewhere in the Constitution, thus showing the deliberate nature of such a word choice.)
Even the Bible itself speaks of the Golden Rule being the basis of the entire Law. Treat others as you wish to be treated. This law often speaks of the “strangers” amongst Israel. In fact, the Old Testament record explicitly states that:
” Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the Lord.” (Lev. 24:22)
In fact, it is implied, and must be understood, that the Bill of Rights do not give, or grant any person any rights. They are simply paper guarantees instituted to protect persons from governmental intrusion. So how could this principle not extend toward legitimate governmental protection for the rights of immigrants themselves?
To immigrate, as defined in the 1828 Webster Dictionary, is simply “to remove into a country for the purpose of permanent residence.” It is simply an extension of the right to travel, or more simply, the right to move. Thus, it is a misnomer, a contradiction, and an impossibility for there to exist an “illegal immigrant” unless one accepts the faulty notion that one can possibly be “illegal” just by simply existing.
Now, that does not mean that everyone that lives within the jurisdiction of a specific government is somehow entitled to “naturalization,” or “citizenship,” or even more simply put, “club membership.” There is a difference between being an “alien” to the state, and simply being an “immigrant” who lives within the jurisdictional boundaries of that government. If you think of citizenship as “club membership,” it becomes even more clear. No one has a fundamental right to club membership. Nor does anyone have the right to force “club membership” on others, for any reason, let alone for merely living within their natural rights and simply not choosing to become a “citizen.”
The fundamental right to immigrate, travel, or move is, as has already been stated, from God. So when “cracking down on the border” would necessarily infringe on the rights with which God has endowed Man, the moral issue should hopefully become clear. In fact, as was even quoted from this author in the article by Kurt Williamsen: “So why should we support government intrusion upon the rights given by God? If that isn’t simultaneously blasphemy and tyranny, what is?”
The protection of God-given Rights should always trump the attempt to enforce arbitrary man-made distinctions. Rights are from God, and the border is a man-made legal fiction. And a group such as the John Birch Society should realize that an end, even with any attempt to rationalize, should never be perceived as justifying an immoral means. The founders made this clear as well. Why else have a Constitution to specifically restrict government intrusion into the rights of man!Many people do not realize that the word “immigration” doesn’t appear in the Constitution. This is because the founders understood that government has no role in immigration! That right is left to the people in whom it truly belongs. It is up to the sovereign individuals to exercise their rights, including the right to immigrate, in a manner that they feel is most conducive to their own happiness. (Of course, assuming they allow others the same right in the process). In fact, one of the grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence states:
” – He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither…”
Immigration is a Natural Right. Naturalization, or the process by which you become a citizen, with citizenship’s added civil rights/duties, is a civil privilege. The difference should be clear. One is a Right that comes from God. One is a privilege based on your choosing to further participate in civil society. To confuse the two is to convolute the actual issues at hand.
Now, to directly quote this author’s original letter to the editor, it stated:
“And for those who truly believe in free markets and limited government, it should seem ironic to then simultaneously champion major government regulations as being a solution, even if they are based on quotas determined by ‘expert statisticians.’ (And honestly, I was a little shocked to read of “OUR job markets” as a reason for doing so in a magazine that is typically very good at battling any sort of collectivist mentality.”
For those who truly support free markets, where goods freely cross borders without burdensome economic regulations and protectionism, how could there be simultaneous support for closed borders when it comes to the people? If there is an obvious benefit to the free flow of goods and services, how could this principle turn to a negative when it comes to the people? And why would the founders, who intended the Commerce Clause to ensure free enterprise and free flow of goods and services across state lines, intend the same government to restrict that free flow when it comes to other states (nations) that are not part of the Union?
In fact, in the foundational document written by Samuel Adams in 1772, entitled The Rights of the Colonists, it states that “[a]ll men have a right to remain in a state of nature as long as they please; and in case of intolerable oppression, civil or religious, to leave the society they belong to, and enter into another.”
And this is without even pointing out the painfully ironic inconsistency of simultaneously claiming that immigrants in this country are both 1) Stealing “our” jobs and crowding “our” job markets, (as if anyone has a right to a job provided by someone else, or has a right to control a job market they didn’t create) and 2) Are only coming to these united States for the excessive welfare programs. Which one is it? Are they working too hard, or “all” entirely too lazy?? There is more painful irony in recognizing that “club membership” is not a right, while using the argument that immigrants are crowding “our” job markets, as if “club membership” could then turn around and magically become a “right” for other people when it comes to a non-governmental entity.
Immigrants are people. People desire freedom. Why, through the agency of government, do people such as those who agree with this article desire so strongly to infringe on that freedom?
A Quick Note on Sovereignty
A society, or a nation does not exist outside of the individual members that make it up. Thus, National sovereignty does not exist outside the individual sovereignties that make up the society so represented. Thus, as was stated in this author’s original letter to the editor:
“the real threat to ‘national sovereignty’ is more along the lines of the enforcement of statutes on Americans from groups not directly accountable to the individual members themselves, from which that ‘national sovereignty’ is derived. Yet, ironically, the measures championed for ‘cracking down on illegal immigration’ are often the very measures that would infringe on the rights of sovereign individuals throughout these united States.”
This video is a previous attempt at succinctly explaining the principle of sovereignty, from which this argument is extended.
Mischaracterizations and Rebuttals
1) The obvious limit to the Right of Travel as denoted by simply understanding every rights’ corresponding Duty
Kurt Williamsen stated in the article in response to his view of this author’s argument that: “While, we do believe the Bill of Rights protects all individuals’ rights in their dealing with the U.S. government …that belief doesn’t go so far as to mean that anyone can do anything he or she wants to do.”
This, dear readers, is a straw man. Even the title of this page is a mischaracterization of my basic premise. “Our land is Their Land” assumes that I am speaking of anyone having the right to travel anywhere, regardless of context. This is simply not the case.
Every fundamental natural Right has a fundamental natural Duty. They are two sides of the same coin. The right to live assumes the responsibility to allow everyone else the exercise of that same right.
A Fundamental Natural Right is only a right which everyone can simultaneously claim and/or exercise without forcing another to serve their needs, goals or purposes.
A Fundamental Natural Duty is only a duty which one owes everyone else simultaneously because no one else owes them a service towards their own needs, goals or purposes.
These Rights/Duties are UNALIENABLE, and Governments sole legitimate purpose is to secure and protect these.
This principle of Rights/Duties has been championed on this website multiple times, and cannot be emphasized enough (see here, here, here, and here). In fact, you could say that the founding of America came through the realization of the duty owed to other people to “alter or abolish” the government that is infringing on their rights.
So, that being said, and that being understood, how could anyone claim that a Right to Travel would extend to travel “to any other place on Earth unhindered.” This is not been the claim of this author, yet this was exactly the argument attributed to him by The New American.
In fact, how could someone turn around and justify infringing on someone else’s ability to travel on land that they don’t own, simply because of their club membership, or lack thereof? If you don’t own land, how could you claim, as the title implies, that “we” own land? If you don’t own public land, or even have a specific piece of “ownership” thereof, then how could you accurately use the word “ours” to begin with?
To own something simply boils down to the right to control its use, assuming it is used in a way that doesn’t palpably infringe on anyone else’s rights. So, once again, in the case of “public land,” how could their possibly be the attribute of it being “our” land, absent your ownership thereof, to say nothing of everyone else’s similar position? If you, as an individual, do not own and control the use of a specific piece of land, how could you legitimately delegate/extend/vest that non-existent authority in a civil government??
The rebuttal by Kurt Williamsen included this statement:
“In regard to one’s right to travel where one pleases, that right must necessarily be viewed alongside property rights, and the personal ownership of goods – without which there really aren’t individual rights. One must ask: Do all people have a right to walk into the vault of any bank or into anyone’s home unimpeded? The answer is obviously no. If someone answers yes, how can it be said that anyone has rights?”
If anyone at The New American happens to own public highways or any other public land, they should actively regulate it to their hearts’ content (assuming no palpable harm to other people’s rights). But if they do not, how could they via their agents in government (to say nothing of how this example is not valid in this context). This author is going to assume that this bank from Mr. Williamsen’s example was owned by a person, or persons, and that the money in that vault was also owned by a person, or persons. This would be a crime. This would be a crime regardless of the criminal’s citizenship.
Of course if a crime has occurred on land, legitimate government action can be done in defense of one’s rights, by the person being harmed and/or their agents in government, regardless of whether that land is owned by someone, some persons, or no one. At that point, it matters not who owns the land. Murder is not any more justifiable if done in the secrecy of one’s own basement.
But simply traveling on land no one owns, to a land where you are not a naturalized citizen does not palpably infringe on anyone else’s rights. It is not a crime. In fact, to simply say that the extension of one’s right to immigrate is criminal would necessarily have to extend to the logical extreme of claiming that some are acting criminally for simply breathing and living. The enforcement of this bogus concept of “crime” would also, ironically, be a government acting contrary to its purpose for existing. (To see an article outlining the Principle of Corpus Delicti behind a Free Society, see here)
2) Immigrants don’t have to “ALL” be an economic benefit to be considered “worthy” of the protection of their Rights by Civil Government
It was never claimed that “all” immigrants, as was attributed to this author, are an economic benefit. In fact, that argument is moot in the paradigm of the proper role of government. If immigrants, as sovereign individuals, must demonstrate “economic benefit” to others, with their own subjective standards and prejudices, to be persons whose rights should be protected by government, how could this standard not be extended to even naturalized individuals?? In fact, how could this not be extended to future generations as well?
A subjective standard for “economic benefit” is no substitute for the Natural Law concerning the unalienable rights of humankind, and the proper role of civil government in relation to those rights.
3) Borders are not an extension of Property Rights
The article that is being rebutted had the attitude that the term “legal fiction” was at best, crazy and irrational. This is reaffirmed by the e-mail correspondence in which Mr. Williamsen stated this author was “merely ignoring the obvious, denying the effects of your assertions, and merely coming up with ‘legal fictions’ to try to fill the holes”.
The reason the author claims that borders “don’t tangibly exist,” and can’t be literally “erased at all,” is because…that is actually the case, is it not? Think about it. If you travel (no pun intended) down to the border between Arizona and Mexico, you will not see a white or yellow line there as you see on a map. The legal border is not tangible and is merely a line that sets apart matters of jurisdicton. It is a legal fiction. Jurisdiction is essentially the extent of the applicability and reach of a civil authority.
Mr. Williamsen continues: “If the cultural group residing on the land doesn’t ‘own’ it, how can ‘private land’ come about – whom does one acquire land from? If one contends, as the letter writer did, that no one owns this land – it’s ‘public land’ – then anyone and everyone should have the right to claim any unoccupied ‘public land,’ meaning that soon all land would be private property not open to immigration without the permission of the individual landholders. Ironic, no?”
The flaw should be apparent with the reasoning heretofore laid out in this article. Where is the law in nature that states you have to acquire property from another person, or group of people? Think about it. What about the first person to discover an unoccupied land? Did he/she need to seek out a non-existent owner to “mix his labor” with the earth and claim land as their own? And how would this extend to “money” itself as a commodity?
As far as anyone and everyone having a “right” to claim any unoccupied ‘public land’ as their own…it seems as if Mr. Williamsen is unaware of the term: Homesteading. Sure, governments will use their force to deny people the ability to do this, and some societies will prefer the benefits of extensive recognition of “public land” over the costs, but this does not mean that this is at all illogical or impractical. If so, how did the Homesteading in American history not lead to such chaos as is to be implied by the rebutting attitude of the article. To say that land has to be owned by “this” person or “that” person is an “A or B” fallacy that misses other options in reality.
Then there is Mr. Williamsen’s assertion that “without the enforcement of borders, a culture will necessarily eventually cease to exist.” This statement, as bold as it is, is absent any reasoning as to why this would or could be the case. This author is left wondering if that is because there is none to be found.
If American culture was dependent upon its borders, how did its’ “culture,” as vague as the term is, survive so many border changes? And for someone who believes in the influence of Biblical principles on the founding of America, I am waiting for a response as to how there could be any connection between that and the precise coordinates of the boundaries agreed upon between the states, and the united States and the rest of the world. Was there more or less Biblical impact and “cultural” harmony following the territorial negotiations of John Quincy Adams?
4) “WE” need to determine, what??
Following the articles mischaracterization that this author stated “all” immigrants are an economic benefit, it states:
“So we merely need to determine if it is wise to let in any and all immigrants who want to come here, and the answer is no for several reasons…”
So where does this authority come from to allow the people with this view to infringe on the rights of other people, regardless of “club membership,” via their agents in government? Who is the “WE” that he keeps referring to? This is, ironically, in a publication that simultaneously claims to oppose collectivism, relying on a collectivist notion that has no reliance on the individual right, which is the obvious limit to legitimate government action.
Mr. Williamsen then lists some reasons as to why “WE” “need” to determine why it is not “wise” to allow other human beings to exercise their own God-given Rights. Here are a few of them:
1 ) “because of government rules that regulate and burden businesses, there can never be enough jobs for all willing immigrants”…”we would not have the infrastructure”
Would this not apply as much to future generations as it would to immigrants themselves? Why would the market not naturally adjust to the influx of workers and or desired services? Wouldn’t the market that produced the infrastructure to begin with adjust to the difference in usage and demand? Perhaps in the future the Club of Rome and the Sierra Club will champion this very same argument in promoting global depopulation…
2) “Immigrants take more in government handouts than they provide in payments”
Is this argument not a de facto argument supporting government “handouts” at all? They are mixing their issues here. Is this about Welfare or about Immigration?
Suppose that this author and the reader opened a gym, and called it the City of America, and we bestowed different distinct benefits for those that sign up for gym membership. Now, lets say that we as a board decide to allow these benefits to people regardless of whether they are members! Who would blame those who take the benefits?
Instead of finding the root of the problem by looking in the mirror, some people seem to be merely looking for scapegoats! They are making immigrants the scapegoats for their own problems. Even if you include the specifics of these “Comprehensive Economic Studies” that show that “immigrants take more” than they “give,” would that very same standard somehow not include naturalized citizens as well? Do naturalized citizens typically pay more in than they take out?
In terms of taxation as a general topic, the last this author checked, gas stations and grocery stores don’t typically check for citizenship when they charge excise taxes associated with their services. Excise taxes were the form of taxation championed by the Founders, and they should be the form we should continue to champion. An immigrant would pay many of these just as much as anyone else economically patronizing various services in society.
3) And last, but not least, he argues “all cultures have enemies who are willing to attack its members, causing death and destruction, and so it is a moral imperative of government to protect vulnerable members from aggressors.”
This author is struggling to find any relevance in this argument at all. How would culture impact any decision to fight actual crime in society? Why would it matter? Would punishment for murder be less grievous if the murderer claimed to be Christian, as opposed to Moslem? Is this statement assuming that cultures of immigrants are typically opposed to that of constitutional values? If so, why would they come here in the first place? The personal experience of the author with various immigrants to this country shows the exact opposite to be the case.
Even if there was a specific “culture” that should be prominently promoted, why would government be the proper vehicle? Did Jefferson just forget to include “promoting correct culture” in his succinct statement on the proper role of government, as found in the Declaration of Independence. To “secure these rights” and “promote correct culture”…?? Shouldn’t a cultural war – if one is to be had at all – (as perceived by anyone) be solely left to persuasion and other voluntary means?
When Mr. Williamsen explains how he, or anyone else can “culturally” own anything let alone the entire land of the united States, perhaps there will be more points to debate in the future. But, certainly, as is shown by a correct understanding of the founding principles, the so-called “American ideals” are not a culture as much as an understanding; the understanding of the universal desire for freedom and the Rights of Man. These principles are not just for show around the Fourth of July. They mean something, and apply just as much to people who choose not to become “members” of the “club.”
As far as the economics of Immigration are concerned, here is a short and effective video concerning the common myths regarding the alleged “costs” of immigration: