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Illegal Immigrants

Opponents of immigration keep mentioning the illegality of some immigrants as if that issue were decisive. They cheated, goes the argument—they jumped the line and we can’t reward cheaters. Jeff Jacoby explains why the line-jumping argument is irrelevant:

Illegal immigrants don’t steal across the Mexican border because they lack the patience to wait their turn in line. They do it because there is no line for them to wait in.  The great majority of immigrants who enter the United States lawfully qualify for visas because of family ties: They are lucky enough to be related to a US citizen.

For them, there is indeed a line — the waiting time for a family-based visa can take upward of 10 years.  A smaller number of legal immigrants are granted visas because they have advanced degrees or specialized skills and a job is waiting for them.

For most illegal immigrants, a legal option simply doesn’t exist. Under current law, a young Mexican or Salvadoran who wants to improve his life by moving to America and working hard at a useful job generally has just two options: (a) Enter illegally, or (b) stay out forever.  Several hundred thousand a year choose option (a).

Read the rest of it. It’s superb.

For me, an illegal immigrant who comes here to work is like a father speeding to the hospital to get his son medical care. When he arrives, the hospital could say:

I’m sorry, I wish we could take care of your kid, but you broke the law on the way over here. You were speeding. So we can’t give you medical care. That would reward criminals- people who break the law by speeding.

But what hospital would say that? Everyone speeds on the way to the hospital. Everyone understands that speeding, while always illegal, is only immoral when it endangers. And we pardon speeding under circumstances such as a sick child on the way to the hospital. Why do people want to keep out those who come here to work, legally or illegally? What does the legality have to do with it?

One listener to my commentary on immigration asked me if I locked my house. A prudent person, he argued, keeps out some types of people (criminals) while welcoming others (friends and painters, say). My co-blogger Don pointed out that the real analogy is that the anti-immigrant people want to put a lock on my house letting OTHERS control who comes in and out. I want to let in the house painter from Guatemala but the anti-immigrant people don’t want me to hire him.