Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Rule of Law and Immigration

One of the arguments frequently that those against immigration reform make is that they are not against legal immigration, only its illegal form. Supporting immigration reform they argue, undermines the rule of law. However, supporting the rule of law is not an end in itself - we support the rule of law because of what it leads it to - greater liberty, greater prosperity. What the law tries to accomplish or protect matters just as much as the law itself, even more so when we are setting policy (i.e. see groundswell of support for Scooter Libby pardon even though it is clear that he is in technical violation of the law).

My contention is that with immigration, those who fall back on the rule of law argument are often using it as a fig leaf and what truly matters is how one feels about the immigration in general. If immigration is a good thing, then violating immigration laws is a victimless crime that harms nobody, even less offensive then a speeding ticket as speeding actually puts lives in danger. However, if immigration is a bad thing, or bad in certain circumstances, the offense cannot be forgiven lest it occur again.

What are the implications if I am correct? Well, the main argument we have been having is whether forgiving the rule of law's violation is a good idea or a bad idea. Such argument misses the point. What we need to ask ourselves is whether immigration is a good thing, a bad thing. A further question is whether we can improve immigration rules so that we can improve its effect on our country. At least those who made an attempt a "grand bargain" took a shot at answering these questions. I think they haven't gotten enough credit for their attempts, and I'll hopefully be back to defend them if the bill survives cloture today.

About the author (updated in July 2012): Elliot Fladen is an attorney practicing law in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Nothing in this blog is meant to constitute legal advice unless explicitly stated to the contrary.

No comments: