The topic of whether foreigners can immigrate to the US, despite the country being founded by immigrants, remains highly controversial. Some provide justifications for the absence of such a right, while others maintain that it exists. Although both can be defended using a humanistic approach, the permissive position appears more acceptable. First of all, one should not ignore the historical importance of immigration for the country.
Imploring the government to restrict immigration seems hypocritical, considering that only a small part of the population can claim nativity; if anyone has a moral right to ban immigrants, it is the indigenous people. On the other hand, the country had periods of bans and quotas for certain regions (Kershnar 141). However, if one reflects on those attempts, racism as a potential reason behind them cannot be ignored. Even the recent ban on Muslim immigrants can be interpreted as such, making other possible justifications appear poorly developed due to the country’s unique racial dynamics.
Thinkers offer various reasons for excluding immigrants, most of which are based on the idea that they restrict the rights of the existing citizens. For instance, a persisting argument is that immigration will decrease the amount of public property (Kershnar 145). Its definition can vary from such services as Medicaid to roads and guns as a self-protection device. However, the point of view ignores the situation of inequality, which makes some public property inaccessible to a significant part of the population. Furthermore, not everyone is eligible for Medicaid and gun ownership, and immigrants may find it especially challenging to use such services.
Even if they somehow manage to apply for an initiative targeting low-income communities, the country will prioritize its citizens (Huemer 445). While the nationalist approach seems right, as the state is obliged to support them, it should not come at the expense of foreigners (Huemer 446). One may also want to consider that disadvantaged people from other countries are in a worse position than their American counterparts, and the reason could be linked with the US’s international hegemony.
When discussing immigration, the opponents may operate various rights to explain why the US should ban it. For instance, Kershnar makes references to the rights to liberty and equal opportunities, both of which appear insufficient (147, 152).
However, the right of free movement, which suggests that immigration is a permissible act, is completely ignored. As far as the alternative to the right of equal opportunity is concerned, which implies democracy promotion and the transfer of resources, it appears extremely flawed (Kershnar 147). First of all, forcefully converting a country into a democratic one is likely to result in a war or a series of sanctions, which will affect the population. Then, the resources will be transferred to the government rather than the citizens, and it is unclear whether the former will distribute them fairly. Allowing select immigrants who are willing to make sacrifices by leaving the country appears a more sensible and less wasteful solution.
A common metaphor of a private club is often present in arguments regarding immigration, although it does not fully account for a country’s properties. While some elements are shared between the two, adding new members (immigrants) is unlikely to cause significant changes (Kershnar 143). Moreover, one has to join a club beforehand, while citizens do not decide where they will be born (Huemer 445). Thus, some may want to leave the American club, and others feel uncomfortable in theirs. While no special arrangement exists among the countries, the state of affairs tacitly implies that free movement is a solution to the natural discomfort (Kershnar 153).
Immigrants are also fewer in numbers than the native population, and they may choose to interact with a select group without any intentions to alter the fixed order (Huemer 446). Altogether, a country is not a private club and should admit aliens while letting its citizens reconsider their allegiance.
Some believe that immigrants will aggravate the situation for workers by occupying their jobs. While the argument appears sensible, it operates on the understanding that people leave their countries mostly for economic reasons and that a wide range of occupations will be readily available to them. The first point is not entirely wrong, as working a low-wage job in the US might be more profitable than a respectable occupation in a developing country, but a foreigner could seek protection.
For instance, a person may choose to flee to the US after being persecuted in the native state due to its image as the land of democracy. Such branding is appealing and makes many consider the destination as an option; perhaps, it is responsible for the issue in the first place. However, such concepts as the American Dream and the land of opportunities appear to work if one is a full-fledged citizen. If the government willingly promotes those ideas, it should take responsibility for misguiding the people for whom the US might be the last resort.
Regardless of the reasons to immigrate to the US, one should still find a job to survive. Contrary to the belief that immigrants will leave Americans unemployed, only select industries are suitable for them (Huemer 440). The country may disregard one’s previous education, making them ineligible to apply for many occupations. Thus, they are likely to join a field that does not require a high school diploma or a degree, which is relatively small (Huemer 440).
Meanwhile, they will pay taxes, no matter how insignificant the sum may be, and eventually, it will have positively impact the entire country (Huemer 442). As for social benefits, the US may not be obliged to offer them to residents (compared to citizens), meaning no financial losses will occur. Therefore, it appears that allowing immigrants is economically viable and detrimental to a small portion of American workers, who still retain more opportunities.
Immigration serves as a rich source of culture and diversity, which are valued in the US. However, some hold the opinion that instead of complementing the American culture, immigrants will disrupt it (Huemer 447). Therefore, the right to immigrate should be restricted to preserve the country’s uniqueness and heritage (Huemer 447). The suggestion is based on the idea that the American culture is a pure phenomenon remaining in a pristine and threatened state (Huemer 447).
The position appears flawed, ignoring the existing variety and disregarding its robustness and worldwide presence (Huemer 448). Rather than promoting fearmongering, the US should embrace more influences by allowing immigrants to thrive and contribute to the melting pot culture. Their numbers will never be large enough to flood the country, but even a few representatives can be transformative (Huemer 451). Overall, allowing immigrants will enrich the American culture and bring more benefits than gatekeeping them.
According to immigration opponents, the only situation where it is possible is when the US caused harm to a potential immigrant. It can happen due to an all-things-considered policy or an agent’s unjust actions (Kershnar 155). For instance, an unprovoked aggressive war would be a trigger for a right to immigrate (Kershnar 155). While the idea is admirable, it still implies many barriers. For example, the US is unlikely to admit Iraqi citizens because the government may believe that the war was justified due to the September 11 attacks.
As for the countries that served as unfortunate battlefields in the Cold War, the excuse would be that much time has passed or that only those who were alive during the events are eligible. Moreover, accepting immigrants for such a reason presupposes that the US will admit some of its war crimes, which is an unlikely scenario due to other consequences. Thus, instead of creating additional barriers to immigration, one should consider American involvement in other countries’ affairs and allow immigrants from them unless they pose a threat.
All non-natives would be admitted to the US indiscriminately in a perfect world, but some are justified to be excluded. The main argument supporting immigration is based on the idea that restricting it is a violation of human rights, made possible through allowing harm to occur to potential immigrants (Huemer 434). The reasoning supposes that they are ordinary people hoping for a better life, so banning them may seem immoral, especially when other options are exhausted.
However, if an immigrant imposed on the rights of others or wishes to do so by entering the US, the situation is different. In such a case, an individual ban (or a group one, if a terrorist organization is involved) appears justified because those people may harm American citizens without being threatened themselves. In conclusion, exceptions exist, but they should not be used to bar entire nations from entering the country.
Huemer, Michael. “Is There a Right to Immigrate.” Social Theory and Practice, vol. 36, no. 3, 2010, pp. 429-461.
Kershnar, Stephen. “There Is No Moral Right to Immigrate to the United States.” Public Affairs Quarterly, vol. 14, no. 2, 2000, pp. 141-158.