Harry Binswanger writes:
Things are different in wartime, or when an epidemic breaks out in a certain region, of course, but what about peacetime? What about now, when millions of Mexicans, South Americans, Chinese, Canadians, etc. are seeking entry into the U.S.? What about the overwhelming majority, who are not criminals, not terrorists, and not carriers of some plague? By what moral principle can they be inspected, harrassed, or excluded? Majority vote? No single individual has the right to stop another and “inspect” him to see if he is “acceptable,” so no majority—which is simply a number of individuals—has that right either.
In the absence of specific evidence against him, nothing can justify subjecting an immigrant to coercive interference.
I’m very afraid that the actual reason for limiting immigration is xenophobia, which is simply a polite word for racial bigotry.
First of all, when Binswanger says,
No single individual has the right to stop another and “inspect” him to see if he is “acceptable,” so no majority—which is simply a number of individuals—has that right either.
Would he actually carry that through and say that you have no right to prevent anyone from entering your home? Is his position that there should be no screening anywhere for any reason?
Because clearly, if you have the right to stop and inspect someone before they enter your own property and decide if they are acceptable, then a group (simply a number of individuals, as he points out) has such a right as well, as delegated from the individuals.
In the case of a proper limited government, established by contractual agreement amongst all its citizens who delegate their rights, this is precisely the case. This is why, if you do grant the right of the individual to screen the people he allows onto his property, then there must be a right for the country to screen the people it allows across its borders as well, without it being a coercive violation of individual rights. I’ve covered this argument elsewhere.
What I want to focus on here is another part of what he said:
“What about now, when millions of Mexicans, South Americans, Chinese, Canadians, etc. are seeking entry into the U.S.?”
Binswanger is excluding criminals, terrorists, and people with plagues, and he’s specified he’s not talking about granting citizenship or voting rights – he’s just talking about border crossing, doing business, taking up residence, and so on.
The question is, as a country, are there other reasons that we might want to exclude people? Obviously there can be some economic benefit from their business and residence and so on, so what else can this be about – is it just racism?
Judging the people who want to come here
We can come up with a whole list of criteria on which you may want to judge someone before allowing them into your home (or into your community, or into your country), none of which have to do with race:
- Are they reasonable, rational people?
- Are they honest?
- Do they respect individual rights and personal boundaries ?
- Do they understand the nature of rights and jurisdiction?
- Do they understand contractual agreements?
- Do they understand the system of government and laws?
- Do they have respect for rules and laws?
- Do they believe in resolving disputes peacefully through communication rather than through violence?
- Do they reject corruption, bribery, and special treatment?
- Do they believe in the special value and dignity of human life and property? (I think there’s a serious question as to whether the lack of reverence for the sacredness of human life belies claims of peace and respect for rights)
- Do they believe in loving and taking care of the people around them, and of their surroundings?
- Do they have good cultural aesthetic values (cleanliness, politeness, modesty)?
- Are they benevolent, expecting the best of people, and committed to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty?
- Do they value hard work?
- To what extent will they participate in and build up the economy and the community? Do they intend to be fully involved, or will their interests and resources continue to mainly be directed elsewhere?
- Do they have good taste? (they may not be voting in politics but they are voting in the market and influencing prices and availability of products and direction companies take)
- Do they speak the language – are they able to communicate clearly with people in the society?
- Do they have knowledge of the culture and history, including customs and symbols?
And the list goes on. To quote from, Objectivism and an Immigration Policy of Self-Interest for America Today by Dr. Ed Powell:
“Rejection of aggression, long time horizons, self-responsibility, and the recognition of reciprocity lead to productivity, savings, sexual restraint, close family ties, a focus on education, a rejection of welfare benefits, and law-abidingness. These are critical personal characteristics of any intended immigrant to the United States.
Questions abound that we could ask about people entering the country – having nothing to do with race or skin color.
These kinds of judgments about people entering the country are a matter of self-protection and self-interest going beyond just politics or economics. These principles should inform all of your relationship choices. You want people in your life who are honest, hard-working, rights-respecting, effectively-communicating, benevolent, and so on, for friends, neighbors, romantic partners, and employers/employees.
When you are talking about allowing people into your home, your community, your country – places where you not only have the right, but the responsibility to exercise your best and most careful judgment – every consideration about their character, their beliefs, and the potential values and risks that they could bring should be a part of your decision.