Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

The Right to Migrate

Posted by Jerry on March 10, 2008

The right to migrate–that is, to move from one nation or society to another–is a derivative of the right to liberty and the right to own property wherever it is possible. Ultimately, all of these are derived from an individual’s right to his own life. Objectivism upholds a policy of open immigration for America–and not impractically so. It is impossible for a moral principle to be impractical in reality.

The Objective Standard–an Objectivist journal of culture and politics–has a new article on how the moral right to immigrate is not only consonant with individual rights but also fully and consistently practicable in reality. People wrongly associate issues like illegal immigration, over-population, competition in jobs and wages, cultural erosion, and so on as challenges to open immigration. What they do not realize is that these problems arise precisely because the U.S. government rampantly violates human rights by not permitting open immigration and instead legislating arbitrary immigration quotas and ethnic lotteries. 

The article in the Objective Standard explains in detail how current immigration policies give birth to greater security concerns and rights violations than a moral and objective immigration policy. Here is a particularly striking excerpt from the opening paragraphs of the article:

Morally speaking, if a person rationally judges that immigrating to America would be good for his life, he should immigrate; a rational morality holds that one should always act on one’s best judgment. But does a foreigner have a right to move to America? And should America welcome him? Yes, he does—and yes, she should.

And here’s another juicy bit from the article:

America’s border is not properly a barrier for the purpose of keeping foreigners out; it is properly a boundary designating the area in which the U.S. government must protect rights.

8 Responses to “The Right to Migrate”

  1. evanescent said

    America’s border is not properly a barrier for the purpose of keeping foreigners out; it is properly a boundary designating the area in which the U.S. government must protect rights.

    I really like that. It’s a great way of thinking about what a country really is and what a government is actually for. It’s also quite different to how almost everyone I know thinks. In England, even the “liberals” who fancy themselves as open-minded are against immigration. But on the whole, those who are against immigration I know are just racists.

  2. evanescent said

    Hey Ergo, what happened to your fixed home page?

  3. Ergo said

    I decided to have it go under construction for some time. I had for very long wanted to get rid of it entirely because it entailed having readers to click around more than is necessary to read my posts. Now, I’ll just fix up the page a little and place it as one of the optional pages on my tab above.

  4. Ergo said

    There is one point of fundamental disagreement I have with Craig Biddle’s otherwise excellent article. In the section titled “We Americans have a right to our culture, which immigrants erode”, Biddle states the following:

    “An official national language is necessary for the purpose of clarity and consistency in government documents and legal proceedings. In America, that language obviously should be English, the language on which the country was built.”

    I fundamentally disagree, and I am rather surprised that Biddle states this obvious violation of Objectivist principles unexamined in his article. There can and *should* be no official national language for America. The principle of free speech dictates that if any non-English language evolves as the dominant one among a nation’s people, then it should be free and permitted to be used in all matters–official, governmental, professional, and private. An official national language implies that the government is permitted to codify into law the language of a group of people who largely speak it at one given time. This is not the role of the government nor its legitimate duty. The organic nature of the market and of society should dictate the dominant language spoken.

    More disturbingly, an official national language implies that the government has the legal right to demand that business contracts, court proceedings, subpoenas, and other legal duties be conducted only in the official national language. This can also mean that citizens who primarily speak other languages would be forced (through governmental compulsion) to deal with the government only in that official language. This would mean that private business owners would need to draw up their contracts in the official national language, lest their contracts be considered invalid or unaccommodated.

    The government’s job is not to dictate what language a citizen should speak when he or she comes to it for legal recourse, but to provide the citizen with all the necessary rights-protection he or she needs; if this means having to accommodate the language of the citizen, then it is the government’s duty. This is the only reason it exists in the first place!

  5. Tim R said

    Ergo, are you sure Craig was really implying that a government should dictate the language citizen’s should speak?

    I thought he was simply saying that for the sake of efficiency and clarity within government departments, communication should be in one language.
    In regard to legal documents, the first preference would be english, but they could still issue documents in other languages and use translators in court. I think it’s a non sequitor to assume that an official government language would imply an official national language, or that it could potentially lead to legal documents been restricted to English.

    What I would agree he is implying is that if you want to work for the US government, you’d have to speak english.

    However, in Australia (a place that I would hope is one of the most free countries in the world) we have a recently introduced a citizenship test that I think does violate migration rights. This test attempts to force people to speak a basic level of English. Quoting from the relevant government website:
    “It is expected that most people will have the basic English literacy skills necessary to complete the citizenship test without assistance ……. To be eligible for assistance, you will need to have completed at least 400 hours of English language tuition under the Adult Migrant English Programme (AMEP), and be assessed by the AMEP provider as not having the English language reading skills necessary to complete the test unassisted”.

  6. Ergo said

    Tim,

    I am eager to have my interpretation corrected. But I can’t see how I am mistaken. You said, “it’s a non sequitor to assume that an official government language would imply an official national language.”

    But it’s not! It’s not a non sequitor because I actually use the exact words that Craig uses. Read his words carefully. I quote, “An official national language is necessary…” He does not say “official government language”, as you said. And I don’t have any reason to believe that your connotation is what Craig intended. It is a very bad choice of words at best.

    What’s more, he says that such an “official national language” is *necessary*, and goes on to use the word *should*–implying “ought to”–a prescription. Thus, combining the whole meaning of his sentence, he is in effect saying “the official national language ought to be English.” As a reason for this necessary prescription, Craig points to the fact that English was “the language on which the country was built.” However, this is not a reason proper. It is merely a fact of historic tradition. It creates no compulsion by itself to maintain English as the national language. Moreover, I reject the whole notion of an “official national language.” It is simply not within the legitimate duties of the government to institute anything as such.

    I don’t believe I am being uncharitable to Craig’s words. Those are his exact words and their most reasonable interpretations.

    With regard to immigrants being asked to have a basic knowledge of the English language, I am against such a practice as well, on grounds of principle. The right to liberty (i.e., the right to mobility in this context) is not preconditioned upon the language spoken by the immigrant. No rights are premised upon some language. Rights are universal. To institute the criterion of language as a precondition for your rights being respected and materialized is as good as denying you your rights entirely!

    I propose that non-English speaking immigrants be given all their necessary documentation, vows, and immigration lessons in a language they are comfortable with. The cost of offering documentations, vows, and other material in a language that is not the dominant one (i.e., in a non-English language) will have to be borne by the immigrant. This is a fair trade in exchange of values for values. No values should be acquired unearned. If the immigrant is unable to pay for the translation or translator at that moment, some deferred payment scheme, loan, credit, or other means can be worked out by the immigrant and a private creditor. This area could prove to be a thriving business for foreign-language speaking entrepreneurs!

  7. Tim R said

    Fair enough. My interpretation definitely appears a bit shaky.

    I wonder how much thought Craig has given this particular issue (national language). Perhaps if challenged he would agree with your position, or could explain his thoughts in more detail.

    Personally, I also can’t see a valid reason why government should define a national language.

    I should say that overall, I thought Craig’s article was a very good one.

    My parents were migrants who were heavily restricted in what they could take from their parent country (Rhodesia/Zimbabwe). They had to give up their pensions, life savings and many belongings due to severe migration restrictions and the later collapse of the Zimbabwean economy. So needless to say, I’ve been a supporter of open immigration policies for a long time.

  8. mrcfunds said

    Take Back Our Country Song

    Hi,

    Can you please place a link on your website / or blog; to this Take Back Our Country Song it’s a patriotic song that is very inspiring, and truthful. I wrote this song after being fed up with what I see happening in my neighborhood and to our country daily on the news.

    I am just an ordinary citizen that went away to serve at age 19. And I am sick and tired of the lies and chaos our ELECTED SELLOUT OFFICIALS has put this country into. So I wanted to do my part, as a soldier of the USANG, I wrote this song and put it on this video.

    My state Louisiana was hit hard by hurricane Katrina and hundreds of illegal aliens moved into our community took away jobs that we Americans were ready to do, and now crime has gone thru the roof. I am sick and tired of these people in my neighborhood and hanging out on our street corners. WE MUST DO SOMETHING TO PUT A STOP TO THIS!

    Please check out my video Take Back Our Country Song on YouTube.com here’s the link. And FORWARD it to everyone on your email list. This is my way of fighting back and giving back to my country.

    Please, I served my country in the US Army National Guards, and I hate what’s happening to our country. We must do all we can to Take Her Back!

    Thank you,
    Richie Collins
    http://FalseArguments.net

    Take Back Our Country

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