Immigration, Loyalty, and Economy


Free market liberal arguments on behalf of Open Borders are pretty familiar by now; hence Neal Peirce’s recent article “It’s Time To Cool The Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric” contains nothing surprising.  More noteworthy are the thoughts of Robert Salyer, whose response to Peirce appeared in The State Journal of Frankfort:

Neal Peirce of the Washington Post Writers Group loves to beat the tub of philo-immigration. Unfortunately what he advocates is really only a form of betrayal. Betrayal is the antithesis of loyalty, and loyalty is first and foremost loyalty to a people. Not to treat them as fungible and replaceable as persons, as communities.

To treat one’s neighbour no different than a stranger out of self interest, as Mr. Peirce appears to counsel, is to betray one’s neighbour. Treason is not at root to oppose foreign wars; it is more fundamentally to encourage domestic invasion.  Criticising anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona and Alabama, Mr. Peirce wrote last week, “[t]his is 1 America, 2011.”

No, it is not.

At one level, there is the obvious distinction between the citizen population, and not the citizen population. One’s neighbour, and not one’s neighbour.

More importantly though, these are 50 States, each with distinctive demographic communities entitled to loyalty and protection. True, the U.S. Constitution puts the issue of immigration firmly in U.S. government hands. However, as Constitutional scholars have perennially argued, there is such a thing as a “living Constitution.” It has in the past transferred power from the States to the U.S. government for “necessary and proper” reasons. There is no reason that this does not work both ways. A living Constitution can transfer power to the States when the U.S. government will not, or cannot, protect the State communities as they are. As such, Alabamans who valued their distinct historical and personal communities above the local manufacturer/agri-business’ bottom line acted “to instil fear in immigrant communities.” In the face of Mr. Peirce’s hand-wringing.

While Mr. Peirce’s logic is often sympathetic and articulate, it is also incomplete. If the economic system here requires immigrants to do the work, or conversely requires shipping the jobs overseas, “to invigorate our economy,” such an argument only means that the system won’t function without paying less for labour. This in turn should really mean that something is wrong with the system. Last time anyone checked, the unemployment rate here was pretty significant.

Mr. Peirce trots out a litany of aliens who make a mint in coming here… while the native population’s children are left to occupy Wall Street unemployed. If this land does not possess the native skills, education, and drive to get the land working again, how about tackling that as a problem to be fixed rather than sidestepped? If this land really just needs more labour, why not encourage the community to have more children?

When Mr. Peirce shills for finance capitalism, and cries “America,” does he mean the American people? Or is he referring to “America,” the economic institution? Do we get an economy that serves the people? Or do we look, as Mr. Peirce looks, to get the right people to serve the economy?

That the preservation of one’s identity, history, and people takes precedence over prosperity – or rather, that it defines what prosperity is – should be obvious. Opponents of Open Borders usually grasp this, even if they are unable or afraid to articulate it too well.  Yet what is recognized only rarely — as in the preceding commentary — is the extent to which finance capitalism itself is implicated in the ongoing abolition of border, nation, and loyalty.  It is futile to resist the Marxist-Lennonist dream while simultaneously defending the consumeristic and narcissistic ethos of laissez-faire.

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