≡ Menu

Your Paypez Plees

Lots of people are angry with me for not distinguishing “illegal” from “legal” immigrants. Although angering people is not my purpose – and I truly do not like doing it – I will continue to anger these people because for most of the purposes for which I write about immigration, this distinction is irrelevant both economically and ethically.

I myself couldn’t care less if someone has his or her official government papers. The unethical actions in our current regime are not those of peaceful people who come to the United States without the official permission of the U.S. government; the unethical actions are those of the U.S. government in restricting the migration of peaceful people simply because some arbitrary quota of immigrants ‘must’ not be exceeded.

We Americans rightly are appalled when we reflect on the practice from the past in Nazi-occupied and Soviet-occupied lands of government officials who demanded to see the papers of people who were guilty of nothing other than being suspected of following the wrong faith or of being in a part of the city or country to which their access was forbidden. We understand that this practice was both a seed and a fruit of intolerable totalitarianism.

And we celebrate when we encounter tales of – or imagine – those who were asked for their papers managing to dupe the government officials who demanded to see papers. None of us think “Oh my, that Jew is a dangerous criminal! He broke the law not only by being in a part of town to which his access is legally forbidden, but he also lied to the nice government man who is only enforcing the law!”

Yet most Americans today think it to be perfectly acceptable – even sweet and desirable – that government officials here demand to see the papers of people who are guilty of nothing other than being suspected of being in some location, or of working at some job, without the U.S. government’s express permission. It is the playing out of totalitarianism in our midst. But because “we” do it – and because our officials don’t speak in sinister German or Russian accents when they ask to see papers – we applaud, or at least play along with, our government’s obstruction of the movement, association, and work of peaceful people.


But for those readers who demand that I recognize the distinction between “legal” and “illegal” immigrants, here’s your opportunity to witness me doing so: “Illegal” immigrants, being largely ineligible for welfare-state handouts, are an even better economic bargain for American citizens than are “legal” immigrants and native-born Americans.

So I urge all of you who are bothered by the prospect of immigrants free-riding on the U.S. welfare state to celebrate those immigrants who come here “illegally.” Celebrate because most of these immigrants do manage to find employment here (“illegally,” of course, because they don’t have “zher papez”) – and, hence, are productive, even tax-paying, members of society – yet consume far fewer taxpayer resources than do “legal” immigrants who, in turn, consume fewer taxpayer resources than do native-born Americans.

(Request to readers: Somewhere Milton Friedman made this very point about “illegal” immigrants. Can anyone direct me to the source?)