Saturday, January 19, 2008

Immigration vs. Citizenship

And speaking of discussing the immigration issue, whenever I get into these types of discussions with people, I find those who are not in favor of free immigration hold to many of the same fallacies and confusions surrounding the issues. One that I have been running into a lot lately is the confusion over immigration and citizenship.

Many of the proposals by the people running for President have, to one degree or another, a plan to give immigrants a more streamlined “path to citizenship”. The implication is that a person’s natural human rights are dependent upon the possession of a particular tribal membership card. People living and working here in the United States must either be full citizens, or have approval by the political class to do so. The plans for reform often center on the assumption that someone coming here to find a job, live, and make some kind of life here should be obligated to become full citizens.

But immigration is NOT synonymous with citizenship. The fact is many people come here to live and work and have a family, and have no desire to become citizens. They simply want to pursue happiness in their own right. Whether or not they become citizens is a whole separate issue.

But why is citizenship important? What does it get you? The right to vote? Why should anyone care whether someone has no interest in voting? Is this really so important that we should be willing to break up families, and deport people back to a life of poverty and oppression because they really don’t want to vote?

What about access to basic government services? Well, I thought the whole argument for taxes was to provide for the financing of services used by everyone in society. If someone has a job, and pays their taxes for certain services, then what does citizenship have to do with whether they can have access to what they paid for? It’s not clear to me that citizenship is crucial to deciding whether the fire department can come save your house from destruction.

Some more radical anti-individualists might counter that these types of people want to have it both ways – they want the benefits of citizenship, without having to submit to the citizenship process. They will define these benefits as the opportunity to prosper in “our country”. To these radicals, individual prosperity and opportunity aren’t results of employing oneself in socially productive ways, but instead spontaneous gifts from society. This is the same mentality that insists that “the rich” are obligated to “give back” to society that has made them so well off. They are reasoning backwards, as prosperity is society’s way of giving back to those individuals who work in positive, constructive, and socially valuable ways.

For me, I could not care less about issues of citizenship. It is a symbolic status that yields few real benefits in the grand scheme of things. If faced with the question whether an individual should be “allowed” to freely exercise his natural rights to life, liberty, and property to the benefit of himself and society, versus making the exercise of those rights contingent upon incorporating that guy into political society, I’ll choose the former.

2 Comments:

Blogger Cerebus said...

"But immigration is NOT synonymous with citizenship. The fact is many people come here to live and work and have a family, and have no desire to become citizens. They simply want to pursue happiness in their own right. Whether or not they become citizens is a whole separate issue."
Isn't that what Visas are all about? What about social services? Is there no benefit to citizenship?

3:51 PM  
Blogger Libertarian Jason said...

Cerebus -

Thanks for the comment.

IMO... A Visa is your permission slip to be here. Its what the State uses to give you and the Americans you would wish to do business with, permission to proceed. The idea that you need to ask the permission of anyone but the individual property owner to associate with you in a mutually voluntary manner is contrary to the concept of natural rights.

On Social Services...as I mentioned in my post... I would think that the connection between paying taxes and receiving services would be more critical to the argument. After all, if an immigrant pays taxes which are meant to finance a particular service, shouldn't he have a right (loosely used) to receive them? Isn't that one of the primary justifications for coercive taxation...that they pay for "vital services"?

-LJ

4:08 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home