Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Civic Stakes of Immigration Reform

At NRO, I look at some of the broader possible effects of the White House efforts at immigration reform.  The Obama immigration agenda may undermine American aspirations toward civic equality:
The kind of “comprehensive immigration reform” that enamors some in the upper echelons of both parties might be called bad-faith open borders, which is a distorted hybrid of the United States’ tradition of ordered borders and of the transnationalist aim of entirely open borders. Lacking the principled clarity of open borders, bad-faith open borders holds that immigration laws should remain on the books but that they should be enforced only marginally, thereby inculcating a sense of disregard for the law. Bad-faith open-borders policy encourages an increase in illegal immigration. We could see the demand for an increased number of guest-workers as a feature of bad-faith open borders: Rather than the free flow of people who have full rights to citizenship and freedom to move within the U.S. economy, guest-worker programs provide a supply of immigrants who have neither total freedom in the marketplace nor political enfranchisement. Guest-worker programs pretend to be free-market activities when, in actuality, they pervert the market... 
Bad-faith open borders has significant long-term implications for the structure of the body politic. It threatens one of the great aspirations of the American republic: the notion that all have equal access to the civil sphere. As with many other aims, this aspiration has not always been realized. But it has persisted as a guiding light for the American experiment, and many of the great victories of the Republic have been about defending and advancing this notion of equal access. According to this aspiration, even the hardest labor has profound dignity and in no way demeans the laborer. In the public square, we meet as equals — not as master and serf but as citizen and citizen. Neither wealth nor power gives one a special moral priority in this aspirational vision. All may differ in their talents and places in life, but all are alike in essential human dignity. Part of this vision is that a rising tide lifts all boats and that opportunity should not be the preserve of the few but the birthright of the many. This aspiration aims for a republic both diverse and unified, at once enriched by difference and by equality.

Read the rest here.

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