No, Immigration is Neither a Right nor an Obligation

On January 11th, President Trump reportedly made comments during a White House meeting regarding immigration reform. The comments have sparked new dialogue around the issue, creating more tension and dwindling chances of bipartisan legislation to fix the broken U.S. immigration system.

The alleged “shithole countries” remark has especially created conversation around the central issue in the immigration crisis. Some have called the remark racist, others asserted that perhaps it simply embodies the sentiments of many Americans. Others, including senators Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin, have said that its implications are a threat to our form of government. However, none of these opinions really cut to the crux of the issue. How should immigration be tackled? Is it a right? Privilege? Moral obligation?

When discussing any type of policy proposal or principle, our gaze should naturally gravitate to the U.S. Constitution, since it is the supreme law of the land. Moreover, it’s the holder of answers to how public policy is to be enacted regarding foreign affairs, social issues, economics, and really everything else. Unfortunately, the current political tendency is to look at issues from the perspective of whatever form of so-called moral high ground is popular at the moment. They’ll slap on a pithy phrase to justify that policy, makes themselves feel all warm, fuzzy, tolerant, accepting, and loving of America. However, you’ll notice that justification, as with any illogical policy, is quite empty and detrimental to American society as a whole.

The Constitution speaks of immigration in two distinct places. The first is Article 1, Section 8. The second is Amendment 14. Article 1, Section 8, which mentions it in a simple phrase, delegating power to Congress to “establish a uniform rule of naturalization.” In other words, granting Congress the authority to determine immigration policy. In Amendment 14, it specifies the rights of and the grounds for citizenship. Neither of these places annotate or even imply that immigration is a natural right, and here is where the conversation today seems to be trending.

Let’s first clarify that immigration has been a great boon to American society. Diversity is beneficial because different people of different backgrounds and different skillsets can benefit each other in various ways, and this tradeoff has largely contributed to the success of America as a whole. However, this is the imperative thing to understand when viewing immigration. The United States is under no obligation to accept any immigrant from any nation, ever. Not one, at any time. Our “melting pot” and “diversity” ideas are all well and good, but let’s not let them trend into this ridiculous notion that somehow, immigrating to the U.S. is a natural right. Immigration should always be merit-based. No one can help where they’re born, but the cards dealt by their Creator do not guarantee a right to move as they please, especially without the capacity to offer something in return. The melting pot idea subsists and produces success because its members contribute to each other. The economy grows, inventions positively affect the whole, people unite around common interests and enrich the human experience. However, if one does not have something to offer the nation that he seeks to join, nor seems to have any desire to contribute to its success, then his entry can and should be denied. Simply living and breathing does not grant one this privilege. Of course, certain case scenarios are understandably difficult. In those cases exceptions can be made, but this is not to say that those exceptions are how we are to handle every single case, despite some wishing for it to be that way.

The law is rarely silent. In times like these, it’s imperative that we look to it rather than figureheads, and craft policy based upon how it guides us, rather than those who wield the axis of power.


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