Category Archives: Immigration

Anne Frank — Killed By US Immigration Policy

I saw this and was immediately saddened…

Anne Frank’s father tried to get to U.S. (emphasis added)

Anne Frank’s father tried to arrange U.S. visas for his family before they went into hiding, but his efforts were hampered when Allied and Axis countries tightened immigration policies, according to papers released Wednesday.

Otto Frank also sent desperate letters to friends and family in the U.S. pleading for help with immigration costs as the family tried to escape the Nazi-occupied Netherlands.

“I would not ask if conditions here would not force me to do all I can in time to be able to avoid worse,” Otto Frank wrote to his college friend Nathan Straus in April 1941. “It is for the sake of the children mainly that we have to care for. Our own fate is of less importance.”

The documents show how Frank tried to arrange for his family — wife Edith, daughters Margot and Anne and mother-in-law Rosa Hollander — to go to the U.S. or Cuba. He wrote to relatives, friends and officials between April 30, 1941, and Dec. 11, 1941, when Germany declared war on the U.S.

But immigration rules were changing under the Nazi regime and in the U.S. There were nearly 300,000 people on a waiting list for a U.S. immigration visa. Besides, since Frank had living relatives in Germany, he would have been unable to immigrate under U.S. policy at the time.

As you know, I’m in favor of almost completely open immigration. I don’t object to having some knowledge of who is coming in, but don’t think our current immigration quotas are very realistic. One of the cases I point out is that often people in other countries are desperately trying to get out of their home countries to avoid persecution, and it is flatly cruel to refuse them.

This puts that opinion into sharper perspective. Almost everyone in my generation read The Diary of Anne Frank as a requirement in school. As young children, we could barely begin to imagine the sheer terror of living in hiding, knowing that capture by the authorities meant death. At most, we were impressed with the idea “never again”. We made a promise to ourselves that we had learned our lesson.

But I don’t think our current immigration policies live up to that promise. Anne Frank could be alive today, if America hadn’t shut our doors. How many people now are desperately trying to get out from under the thumb of autocratic despots, only to be told by the United States that “we’re full”?

Freelance Hookers Rebuffed In Oz

There are few times one can talk about the economics and politics of cartels and licensing requirements, and still make it this fun:

Brothel owners accuse backpackers of selling sex in Australia

Foreign backpackers funding their Australian travels through illegal sex work are robbing the legitimate industry of profits and threatening clients’ health, a brothel lobbyist has warned.

Many young tourists to sun-soaked northeastern Queensland state were making a quick buck as black market prostitutes, undermining registered operators’ attempts to uphold health and safety standards, the Queensland Adult Business Association’s Nick Inskip claimed.

“Especially when you go up to northern Queensland, it’s not unusual for them to be working in the illegal escort industry,” Inskip said.

Having fewer overheads, they could often undercut the legal sex industry on price, making it harder for the state’s 23 legal brothels to make a profit, he said.

It sounds absurd when you hear it this way. But here in this country, pundits regularly rail against the “illegal invaders from the south taking our jobs”, and it seems perfectly acceptable to require that workers such as beauticians should be required to seek a state license.

I support relatively free immigration, and fight against government trade licensing requirements. For that reason, in the interest of ideological consistency, I also support (although don’t patronize) the rights of freelance hookers.

A Target For Tom Tancredo

Texas-based pizza chain accepts Mexican pesos

A Dallas-based pizza chain which caters to the Hispanic community is accepting the Mexican currency at all of its 59 U.S. stores starting on Monday, giving the greenback some unusual competition at the cash register.

“Unlike many other businesses for us it makes sense. Our stores are located in predominately Hispanic communities and so the majority of our customers are Hispanic,” said Andrew Gamm, director of brand development for Pizza Patron.

“We know that a large number of them travel back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico and consequently have some pesos left over in their pocket. The pizza business is extremely competitive and we thought this was a way to position ourselves in relation to our competitors,” he told Reuters.

Actually, this seems like an ingenious way to both attract attention to your chain, as well as capitalize on a market that is probably underexploited. In a situation like this, it doesn’t matter if they’re only doing 1% of their business in pesos, the brand loyalty it creates as it curries favor amongst Mexican immigrants could make it more than worth their while. They could even extend it further, and attempt to gain favor with libertarians by accepting the Liberty Dollar.

But it’s also a bit of a dangerous time to be doing it, with the rise in anti-immigrant rhetoric coming in the US.

But against the backdrop of rising anti-Hispanic tensions as America grapples with an estimated 10 to 12 million illegal immigrants, there are some who do not regard it as a harmless marketing gimmick.

“This is America, We speak English and our currency is the U.S. dollar. I will no longer visit your restaurant due to your demonstrated inability to assimilate into the culture of this country,” said one irate former customer in an e-mail sent to Pizza Patron on Monday morning.

Given that they operate in Tom Tancredo’s home state of Colorado (among others), I wouldn’t be surprised to see him try to craft legislation to fight these guys. A company like this is trying to out-compete in a tough industry by offering services their competitors haven’t yet thought of. And yet they’ll catch hell from political and media demagogues looking to work average Americans into a lather over the “invaders from the south”.

The War On (Some) Drugs Immigrants

Thinking today about the questions of immigration that Doug brought up yesterday, and something stuck in my head. We’re fighting the a “War On (Some) Immigrants” (also known as the fight against illegal immigrants), and the tactics and rhetoric is oddly similar to the War On (Some) Drugs. And of course, neither war is winnable. I see a few similarities:

  • Both illegal immigration and drug use are victimless crimes. Both have an appearance of having a victim, of course. In the example of drugs, the victims are the users themselves and those who are hurt in the users’ attempts to get money to pay their drug habit. In the example of illegal immigration, the victims are “the taxpayers” and the people whose jobs have been “stolen” by illegal immigrants.
  • Immigration and drugs are both very attractive behaviors to the person engaging in them. And because they’re highly attractive behaviors, they’re unlikely to stop. To a poor, industrious person from Mexico, the chance to come to the US and work for $6 an hour is a boon. As someone who’s made the difficult choice to leave his home and his parents and move to another part of the country, emigrating ones home country for another must be an even more enormously difficult choice. Yet to escape from the situation they’re in, they’ll do whatever it takes to get here. To a drug user, the lure of the high is enough to get them to do what they need to do to feed the fix. To escape from whatever pain they’re running from in their life, they’ll do whatever it takes to get high.
  • Focus is placed on the effects of making the behavior illegal as if it is inherent to the behavior itself. The complaints, say, that illegals are driving unlicensed and without insurance is largely because they’re forced underground. If they were legal immigrants, they would likely have licenses and insurance. The complaints that they work underneath the minimum wage or don’t pay taxes (both of which are largely false, IMHO) are due to the fact that they must work underground. If they could work legally, I’m sure they and their employers would much rather operate in the open, rather than beneath the radar. The same arguments are used in the Drug war, where the violence of the black market and the lengths to which addicts will go to pay for the inflated price of drugs are blamed on drugs, not on the prohibition of drugs, which is the true cause of the violence.
  • The war on Drugs or Immigrants is prosecuted arbitrarily and unfairly. Alcohol, which is a far more dangerous drug than marijuana, is legal, while marijuana is not. Some drugs which can alleviate pain and induce euphoria are legal but controlled by prescription, but other drugs that can alleviate pain but aren’t backed by pharmaceutical companies are illegal. Likewise, our immigration policies are arbitrary. If you’re from a country from which we have few immigrants, you can probably get here fairly easily (like my sister-in-law, an Australian who came here to marry my brother). If you’re one of the lucky ones to get in under the “quota”, you can get in. But if not, you’re “illegal” for no reason other than not being one of the lucky ones who was within the quota. If you’re an educated professional worker and you get a tech company to sponsor your H-1B, you can legally come here and work. If you’re an educated professional worker and you desire to come here and work part-time until you find a tech job yourself, you’re not allowed to.
  • The rhetoric keeps getting towards “increasing the penalties” Mandatory minimum sentences for drug use and dealing keep getting longer. The government’s right to seize property keeps growing. The use of paramilitary-style raids keeps widening. And yet people still use and sell drugs. What’s the answer of the government? “Fight harder and make the penalties stiffer!” Illegal immigration is a wide and growing problem. They tried to cut the ability for illegals to drive and have licenses. They’re trying to increase the penalties for employers who knowingly (or more commonly unknowingly, due to falsified documents) employ illegals, and to make it illegal to rent a home or apartment to an illegal immigrant. In GA, they decided to put taxes on any money sent overseas, in order to punish illegals for sending money to their home country for their families to use. We’re starting to see heavier INS “raids” to find the lawbreakers. And yet people are still immigrating here illegally. What’s the answer of the government? “Fight harder and make the penalties stiffer!”

At some point you have to ask whether these issues are being brought up for the same reason, since it’s obvious neither one is working. The War on Drugs is quite obviously prosecuted in order for government to increase power, to increase the number of jobs they can give to police, and exploit a “them” with little sympathy in the wider population (i.e. drug users) for their own purposes. Could the fight against illegal immigration be a ruse to give government more control over our economy, more tentacles into hiring and employment practices, all while exploiting a “them” with little sympathy in the wider population (i.e. illegal immigrants who speak Spanish) for their own purposes?

It seems to me that a lot of politicians and the media are engaging in pure demagoguery of this issue because they know they can strike a nerve with a lot of voters. It’s working pretty well, too. But I think it’s one more case of politicians and media working for their own interests, not the interests of the country.

Where Should Libertarians Stand On Immigration ?

Over at The QandO Blog, Dale Franks expresses skepticism about the traditional libertarian view on immigration, which typically doesn’t go very far beyond the idea that there should be few, if any, restrictions on people who wish to come to the United States. In short, Dale argues that an open-borders philosophy doesn’t make sense in the present world, where the American welfare state means that immigrants, legal or otherwise, will become eligible for a host of taxpayer-funded benefits. Instead of simply wishing the welfare state away, Franks proposes the following:

[I]f your ultimate goal is to eradicate the welfare state at some time in the future, allowing unrestricted immigration in the present is self-defeating. If you wish to create a more libertarian state in the US, then you must prioritize immigration accordingly.

The first concern should be to vigorously enforce our current immmigration laws, to prevent the entry of immigrants who, once incorporated into our polity, will resist the libertarianization of society. Once society is appropriately libertarian, then immigration can be addressed in a more…uh…liberal manner. Before you can have open borders, you must eliminate the ability of immigrants to seek rent from the state. Once you have done that, you can open up immigration substantially, with some reasonable assurance that the type of immigrants that are drawn to the country will not try to capitalize on government largess that no longer exists.

I agree that we don’t want a world where people come to this country and end up becoming a drain on society. But is that always the case ? I don’t think so. Recent studies, for example, have shown that immigrants have been a driving force behind the growth of the technology industry:

About 25 percent of the technology and engineering companies launched in the past decade had at least one foreign-born founder, according to a study released yesterday that throws new information into the debate over foreign workers who arrive in the United States on specialty visas.

The report, based on telephone surveys with 2,054 companies and projections by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and at Duke University, found that immigrants — mostly from India and China — helped start hundreds of companies with estimated sales of nearly $50 billion. It was written by a former technology executive who was an immigrant himself.

This is something that’s been true throughout American history. Immigrants from Europe contributed greatly to the Industrial Revolution and the growth of American industry in the Early 20th Century. And the same thing is happening today. I agree that the welfare state needs to be dealt with, but to base the right of human beings to seek a new life on a political project that is likely to take decades to accomplish doesn’t make sense to me.

Franks also argues that libertarians mistakenly focus only on the economic aspects of immigration, and forget it’s impact on culture:

Many libertarians seem to assume—wrongly—that immigrants are homo economicus, motivated solely by financial concerns, divorced from the political or cultural traditions of their home countries. Of course, this is completely untrue. Immigrants bring with them a fair amount of political and cultural baggage from which they must be weaned through assimilation into American traditions. One only has to look at the almost nightly depredations of unassimilated Muslim immigrants in France to see what the eventual results are of failing to appropriately assimilate immigrants into the host society.

Immigrants are not simply fungible, predictable economic units. They are people, who bring to the table far more than a simple desire to find work. Failure to recognize that leads, it seems to me, to libertarians assuming that any potential cultural or political inclinations among immigrants are irrelevant. That is most certainly not the case. If it were, the La Raza types who call for the return of “Aztlan” to Mexico wouldn’t exist.

Well, I don’t disagree necessarily. Immigrants do bring with them much more than just their work skills. They bring their culture as well. American culture, though, has continually changed, adapted, and adopted, the cultural traits of its immigrants. We celebrate St. Patrick’s Day even though most of us aren’t Irish. We eat Italian food, buy Christmas trees (originally a German custom), and, more recently, eat Asian, Mexican, and Indian food. These are just some of the small ways that immigrants have changed and energized the United States throughout it’s history. I, for one, welcome it.

In the same way that immigrants change America, though, America has changed immigrants. It may take a generation, or two, or three, but assimilation does occur. It’s happened here in the Northern Virginia area with the multitudes of Asian immigrants from Korea and Vietnam whose children are now attending high school, playing football, and going to the prom. And, it’s even happening with the children of Hispanic immigrants in the South.

My co-contributer here at The Liberty Papers, Brad Warbiany, wrote about this issue back in May and put it best in this closing paragraph:

Immigration is a thorny issue. But when we stand around and say “we don’t want you here”, I have to break ranks. When they say “these immigrants are damaging our economy”, I have to break ranks. I don’t have all the answers as to how to fix the problem, but I know that I refuse to close our country to people who want to live the American Dream. We have to enforce our laws, but when our laws are contrary to the very fabric of America, those laws need to change.

That, I think, is where libertarians, or anyone who believes in freedom should stand on this issue.

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