Illegal Immigration Is Not The Problem

Our Government Programs Are the Problem.

“Calling an illegal alien an ‘undocumented immigrant’ is like calling a drug dealer an ‘unlicensed pharmacist'” — anonymous email

The rhetoric is crazy.  The kind of emotion generated with the immigration debate is very strong and passionate.  There seems to be very little sense of balance or recognition of the severity of the “crime”.  Some people talk about illegal immigration as if it is the coming of the Anti-Christ and the very face of Satan himself.  Hogwash.  Illegal immigration is simply a failure to follow the rules and is by and large a victimless crime.  No one is hurt, robbed, maimed, raped, defrauded, or otherwise harmed by the flow of illegal immigrants in and of themselves.  The problem is not with the immigrants it is government regulations and welfare policy that is the problem.

The statutory “crime” committed by many of the illegal aliens in the United States is found under 8 USC 1325, “Improper Entry by an Alien”.  It carries criminal and civil penalties.  The first offense carries a penalty of fines and up to six months in jail.  Civil penalties are between $50 and $250 for each offense.  If this were a state crime, it would land squarely within the range of misdemeanor crimes.  Something that is more than a little sad is that the Great State of Utah cares more about enforcing immigration law than the United States of America does.

How does Utah law and penalties line up with the civil penalties for illegal immigration?  In Utah, you can be fined $50 or more for: driving ONE mile per hour over the speed limit, littering, imroper passing, tinted windows (too dark), allowing an unlicensed person to drive, defacing a driver’s license, HOV lane violations, improper turns, driving too slow, handicapped parking violations, people under 17 driving past curfew, no proof of insurance, underage tobacco possession, fishing without a license, catching fish over the limit, unlawful possession of toxic shot (shotguns), no evidence of sex/species attached to carcass, camping more than 14 days in a restricted area, tresspass on Division of Wildlife Resource lands, failure to wear enough hunter orange, hauling an OHV without registration, no registration card on an OHV, failure to display registration on an OHV, and many other things.  These are all fairly minor infractions that do not carry a significant social stigma with them and certainly would not typically result in time behind bars.

When we talk about crime there are two basic categories of crime, mala in se and mala prohibitum.  Mala in se crimes are morally and ethically wrong like murder, theft, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, manslaughter, fraud, embezzlement, etc….  Mala Prohibitum crimes are wrong because society regulates the behavior.  Things like parking tickets, speeding, not having a business license, not filing your taxes on time, driving without a license, weight regulations for over the road trucks, and . . . improper entry by an alien.  The illegal aliens in the country violated a regulatory statute and committed an offence against regulations.  The crime is not that they came here, it is that they crossed the border improperly.

Some people think that the solution should be to send them all back and then to come back in the way they are supposed to.  Go and apply for a work visa, a green card, or other authorization to come here.  That sounds good in the absract, but what other misdemeanor crime do we have in the United States where you force a person who is entrenched with their family, is gainfully employed, has no other criminal history, and then force them to move away for an undetermined amout of time?  Mass deportation is both inhumane and makes no sense.  It would be like every time you were caught in a traffic moving violation you were forced to return to wherever you started your trip, wait several hours, and try again but this time follow the rules.

The immigration system is broken.  According to the State Department’s own monthly visa reports, immigrants from Mexico sponsored by their own families have between a 10 and 15 year wait in line already because of statutory limitations on the number of immigrants that can come in to the country each year.  Mexico has the longest waiting times followed by the Phillippines, India, and China.  There is simply no feasible way for people to comply with the laws to enter the country properly in a timely manner.  When the system is broken the people rise up to form a new system that meets their needs, rightly or wrongly.

A similar thing happens with markets for any good or service.  When the regular markets stop working or are over regulated, black markets rise up so that the people can still get what they want whatever the cost.  Because the market of legal immigration is so broken and completely failing to meet the needs of the people who so desperatly want to come to the United States for a better life a black market of illegal immigration has formed and is doing quite well.  We need to improve the market for legal immigration if we want to have any hope of solving the illegal immigration problem.  So how do we fix it?

Letting the people already here gain some kind of legal status without deportation is one idea.  The idea is often sharply criticized as  “amnesty”, “rewarding criminal behavior”, or even “coddling criminals”.  The vast majority of these people are decent, family oriented people who really are just looking for a better way of life for their families.  They come here to work and be productive members of society.  They have not actually harmed any person at all, there is no victim of their crime.  What is the problem?

These amnesty programs and ideas are fair and equitable because of the way the United States has treated illegal immigration for about the last 100 years.  It has been treated as seriously as jaywalking or moderate speeding where the main rule is — just don’t get caught.  For decades illegal immigration has gone on and it has been no big deal.  What makes sense about suddenly deciding it is a big deal so now all of you people who moved here and thought it was not such a big deal have to leave your homes and families to try and come back again in another 10 to 20 years?  Where is the common sense or fairness in such an approach?  There is no sense to it other than some kind of revenge motive.  It does not make anyone whole or better off to forcibly move millions of people back south of the border just becuase we woke up one day and decided now is the time to get serious.

The real problem of illegal immigration (and there is one) has to do with over regulation of the market, tax policy, and social services.  By law if a state offers welfare, public schooling, or other public services to citizens it must also offer the same services to illegal aliens.  Combining this problem with the tax benefits to employers who hire illegal immigrants and then do not pay payroll taxes, social security, or medicare taxes, we have a group that is considered to be double dipping — they do not pay taxes but collect all of the benefits of our tax dollars.  Aside from the dollars and cents of the matter, each and every employee is supposed to have a tax ID number of some sort which then leads to problems of identity theft, at least of social security numbers.  Pretty much all of these problems would go away if the regulatory and welfare state also went away.

Focusing on illegal immigrants as the problem misses the mark.  The governmental and regulatory framework we live under right now makes the illegal immigrant issue an odious problem we need to solve.  The solution is to change the framework we have, not to move millions of people out of the country.