Finally leaving some immigrants alone

Politicians and the mainstream media haven't seemed to discuss immigration policy much since the 2008 campaigns for federal offices, when they made it a prominent and seemingly critical issue. Recently, however, President Obama issued an executive order outlining a new deportation policy less aggressive towards some young, undocumented immigrants that meet his criteria.

Although some oppose a U.S. president doing an end-run around the law by unilaterally making policy outside the legislative process, it can be well-argued that most everything the federal government does (in all three branches) is unconstitutional. At least in this case, for a stark change, it's to the benefit of human rights. It's also quite an about-face as, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Obama administration has deported record-high numbers of undocumented immigrants, about 1.2 million individuals.

When a foreigner crosses the American border he or she coerces no one and violates no one's rights. It is rather preventing the peaceful individual from freely traveling and trading with us that is the violation of rights. How it is that we've come to have the current Mexican-American border, particularly, is also an historical lesson in the intrusion on human rights.

Individuals and organizations ought not be restricted from trading freely, regardless of their nationalities. I'm relieved for the approximately 800,000 individuals who will not be assaulted and deported (for now), separated from loved-ones and consigned to poverty, by government actors, because of this policy.

Not only do we not have the right to restrict others, but why would we want to keep foreigners out? The free exchange of value for value is mutually beneficial. Cooperation, not conflict, promotes peace, freedom, and economic welfare.

Ironically, when Americans use force to protect themselves from the competition of foreigners, it hurts the citizen rather than protecting him or her. Immigrants, while working to improve their own well-being, enrich us (via their comparative advantage) rather than detract from our wealth. Most produce more than they consume. As total output increases industry grows and so does the demand for labor. Contrary to popular beliefs, immigration improves employment rates and wages. Self-supporting immigrants are a benefit rather than the liability some portray them to be. When there were no limits on our immigration, our standard of living rose dramatically and was unparalleled across of the world.

The right to immigrate is a freedom of opportunity, however, not entitlements. We should not be forced to subsidize anyone's relocation and livelihood here. This policy would be unlikely to deter many ambitious persons from immigrating here. More likely, they would soon be enjoying a better standard of living, have a better work ethic and be more entrepreneurial, provide themselves with inexpensive high-deductible catastrophic health insurance (if new laws don't criminalize it), and voluntarily care for other immigrants who may truly be in need of assistance.

There are some concerns regarding Obama's policy, however. What risks are there for individuals who expose themselves and their parents as "illegal" to the government should this order be reversed by Obama or his successors? How well can workers and employers plan without knowing how long this policy will be in place? Would employers eagerly hire and train workers who may be deported with a change in the political winds?

The most confounding question is why from a free society would we try to bar those most ambitious, independent, courageous, and freedom-seeking? These are the people we should encourage to move here, as all boats will rise along with them. Everyone should be able to live freely and enjoy the prosperity only a free society can produce.

Marc Guttman lives in East Lyme. He is an emergency physician and editor of two books and recently announced his candidacy for state Senate in the 20th District on the Libertarian Party line.

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