[Reprinted from Forbes Online, 3/4/2013]
What has happened to America? When did the land of the free become “You can’t land here”? Did we fight a Civil War to end slavery, in order then to put a wall around the country and keep “undesirables” out? Did we fight against Nazism in order to make our own class of “untermenschen,” and to have petty tyrants demand: “Where are your papers?!”
Freedom of travel is a right. It is a right possessed by every human being, not just by Americans. The Mexican government or the French government has no right to stop you from entering Mexico or France, and our government has no right to stop a Mexican or Frenchman from entering America.
The country does not belong to the government. It does not belong to the majority. Land belongs to individual, private owners, and only they have the right to invite or bar others from coming on their land.
The government has no more right to lock people out than to lock them in. The same principle damning the Berlin Wall damns walls erected to keep people out.
It is said we need to “secure our borders,” but that phrase is pure spin. To secure them against what? Nannies, engineers, carpenters, and waiters?
What about terrorists? The answer to terrorism is not to cower down in a bunker-America. The answer to terrorism is decisive military strikes against our enemies, especially Iran, to punish or end the regimes that sponsor terrorism. Make the rogue regimes worry about securing their borders.
If the laws restricting entry are dead wrong, what are we to think of those “illegals” who have disobeyed these laws? Everyone seems to think that entering the country without the government’s permission is a serious offense, that the illegals should at the least be “sent to the back of the line,” that their law-breaking forever stains them with dishonor. But the law is wrong. The stain of dishonor is not on the illegals but on the illegalizers.
The illegals came here because they value America. They broke an unjust law in order to live a free, better, richer life. In the vast majority of cases, obeying anti-immigration laws would mean never getting to live here. It’s a life sentence.
Breaking bad laws to build a better life is not dishonorable; it is admirable, provided breaking the law involves no use of force. Coming here in defiance of unjust laws is a peaceful act; it is just the avoidance of the force our government would initiate against them. It is certainly wrong to wield private force; it is wrong to take the law into one’s own hand. But these are not involved in illegal immigration.
There is no moral requirement to martyr oneself to any form of obedience to others-neither to their opinions nor to the disgraceful, rights-violating laws they pass.
An “illegal” immigrant is, in principle, like a Jew in Nazi Germany who refused to wear the yellow star. Yes, I grant you that ours is not a barbarous dictatorship like the Nazi regime, and in the name of objectivity, there is a certain deference due to legality and lawfulness as such. But not at the price of wasting one’s life in Senegal, Haiti, or even Greece, instead of America.
The principle established at the Nuremberg war-crimes trials was that a monstrous act cannot be excused by saying that one was merely obeying the law-“just following orders.” Basic morality trumps the merely legal. The corollary is that one cannot be condemned for disobeying a monstrous law merely on the grounds that “those are the rules,” “the nation decided, so just follow orders.” A monstrous law should neither be obeyed nor enforced. It must be repealed.
It is not enough to give “illegals” amnesty. These long-oppressed individuals deserve an official apology from our government.