Is Illegal Immigration Illegal?


Of course it is; it’s a crime, right?

Of course not, people have a right to a better life. And no human is illegal, right?

While being in the U.S. illegally is labeled as a crime, it’s not a big one. It is not a felony, simply a misdemeanor; like leaving the scene of an accident or driving without insurance.

Pause for definitions:

  • Undocumented: I am undocumented if I have a valid driver’s license and vehicle registration, but drive without them in my possession.
  • Illegal: I am illegal if I never obtained a license or registration, and drive anyway.

But is an illegal action that has occurred without consequence tens of millions of times over the last few decades really a crime? In many jurisdictions, spitting on the sidewalk is a misdemeanor. In other jurisdictions, adultery is a crime. There are tons of other examples; the point is that when a law is ignored by both the “perpetrators” and law enforcement, it’s like the law does not exist. Nobody cares. And if anyone does care, no one does anything.

We can–and should–take this one important step further. Take any law that is on the books and has historically been widely ignored by everybody–it is violated openly and often, and never punished–and add powerful incentives to violate this ignored law. What would you have then? You’d have a widely disregarded law with powerful groups offering nearly irresistible incentives to violate this law.

You’d have the present state of immigrations laws in the U.S. Right here in America.

People come across the Southern border quite easily. If caught, they are simply released, and often re-cross the same day. Visa holders overstay their allotted time with no one checking up. Some employers look the other way because they need a ready supply of workers who are willing to do unattractive work for marginal pay. Certain political groups look away because they know the majority of these people will vote their way, legally or otherwise. Can anyone fault those who sneak across looking for something–anything–better than what they had? These people are crossing a deliberately porous border, attracted by purposefully attractive incentives. The employers and politicians have created what is in effect an open border policy, essentially making legal the action of crossing the border without papers–and allowing residency without any further processing. Didn’t all that just make illegal immigration legal?

The elephant in this room is the question of who wants and who does not want open borders. None of the conversations about the effectiveness of physical barriers, breaking up families, amnesty, so-called anchor babies, the cost/benefits of illegal immigration, etc, make any sense until we understand where we are on the question of open borders. Like, please don’t get into this discussion with me until you tell me where you stand: are you for or against open borders? We want truth in advertising, how about truth in discussions and disagreements?

Let’s look at the controversy over the effectiveness of border barriers. Of course they can be highly effective; the only question is, “Do you want them to be?” The USSR proved that the Berlin Wall was painfully effective in keeping people, even those desperate for freedom, in East Berlin against their will. And Israel built a wall that has all but eliminated suicide bombings. The U.S. can do both of them one better by building a higher-tech wall, supplemented with electronic listening devices and massive manpower. The “Walls don’t work” argument is either born of true ignorance or, more likely, it is a smokescreen for a sub rosa support of open borders. Similarly, none of the other discussions about illegal immigration make any sense until the open border question is asked and answered.

But let’s go back to the question, “Is illegal immigration illegal?” Until and unless we as a nation make the clear and unequivocal decision that we don’t want open borders, and work to effectively control our borders, my answer is, “No, illegal immigration is not illegal.” Does this seem like a contradiction? It does to me. And that’s because our immigration policy is itself a contradiction: on one hand we say it is a crime to be here without permission and documentation; on the other hand we not only make it ridiculously easy, we incentivise it.

How about you? Do you want open borders? I’d love to hear your answer–and why.
Will Luden, writing from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs

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12 Responses

  1. Charlie Reply

    There are several issues here. First, I believe that our national security depends on controlling who is in the country. This may not have been as big a deal pre-9/11, but this is one of the few inarguable functions of a national government. There should be enforceable, enforced laws to deal with this.
    Second, our current immigration laws are unenforceable, even if there were a wall, just as prohibition and many other laws have been over history. The economic reality is that America needs workers, if only to produce in America what they could do overseas. The result is a subculture of de facto criminals who operate outside the law because they are afraid of law enforcement. They can’t report crimes for fear of deportation. They don’t have driver’s licenses or insurance. Their employers can underpay them and withhold benefits without fear of reprisal. They can be blackmailed into supporting illegal enterprises like the drug trade.
    I believe that much of the support for those who are taking the hard line against immigration reform comes from those enterprises who benefit from the current situation, primarily those who play wink-wink with the traffickers.
    As I said above, with unemployment approaching the practical minimum, we need foreign workers to man our factories or to fill in at the entry levels while Americans do the “big” stuff. Back in the day, it seems to me that there was a program called “braceros” where seasonal workers came in, did their jobs, and went home a little richer (or less poor). It is not an intractable problem.
    We need the law fixed so it matches economic reality. Cut the crap about amnesty. As a Christian nation we should believe in grace. Admit that it was a bad law and that the results were bad, and start from today. Delaying only makes it worse.

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