Acton Institute Powerblog

Immigration Reform, French-Style

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“As we look at how the immigration debate is unfolding, there are reasons to be concerned about the rule of law,” Jennifer Roback Morse writes. “The mass demonstrations of the past weeks reveal a much more sinister development: the arrival of French-style street politics in America.”

Read the complete commentary here.

Jonathan Spalink


  • Sebastian

    The rule of law has two components. The first is the quality of the law itself and the second its general application. Here the first factor is missing. The law is out of sync with the socio-economic realities. It’s like the laws ordering racial segregation or the ones imposing taxes on the colonists. The founding fathers revealed against the unjust British laws despite the anglo-saxon tradition. Congress has first to abandon populist rethoric and work on realistic solutions. Writing on a piece of paper that the issue will go away will only compound the problem.

  • nancy

    I endorse Dr. Morse’s article. To Sebastion: our immigation laws are not unjust; we have the right to control immigration. There is nothing wrong with the quality of these laws. The fault lies with the lawbreakers. Prosecute vigorously those who hire illegal aliens and end birthright citizenship for children of illegal aliens. Just these two changes would cause people to self deport or not come in the first place.

  • Clare Roberts

    I endorse Dr. Morse’s position and agree with Nancy. I am disheartened by the Senate’s decision to grant a path to citizenship (amnesty) for the people who have thumbed their noses at our laws. Do these illegal immigrants even want citizenship or just better economic oportunity? Can I break a law when it stands in the way of what I want? Do the laws of the United States mean so little? The socio-economic argument does not hold water as water always finds its own level and employment will work itself out given a chance and a willingness for Americans without jobs to move to places that have jobs. Realities can change but we have to give self deportation and laws that are already on the books a chance. I am sick at heart over political expediency and the unwillingness of our lawmakers to take the bull by the horns and insist on the enforcement of their own past legislation by the Executive branch of this government whether by the use of the police, the INS, the courts, the National Guard, the Army, new technology or whatever it takes to secure our borders, know where our visitors are, who they are, and when they are leaving. I have visited many third world countries where my entry is recorded and my exit checked off. Some even insist on seeing my airline ticket to leave before allowing me to enter. They have every right to track me while in their country, to see my Passport and visa at any time and to insist I respect the laws of their country and not ask their citizens to take responsibility for any food, housing, medical or educational needs I might have while visiting them. Why is the US different? It isn’t because we are more compassionate; it is because we lack the will to deal with the situation and even have the gall to pat ourselves on the back with praise for our pragmatism and sensitivity.

  • Sebastian

    The socio-economic problem is not people with lower income seeking more money. It is a country that signs a FTA with Mexico without considering the consequences for the labor markets. It is a country that has invaded countries and supported dictatorships in Central America for generations. It is US employers that knowingly hire and even send recruiting missions to bring the workers. The ones that come are mostly hopeless so they are not going to be deterred by more barriers. It will only act as a filter to select the temerary and the criminal.

    You can write a bill mandating whatever you want but the problem won’t go away. The British were outraged that the colonists didn’t want to pay taxes. They thought that they were subsidizing the colonies. The rebels were felons and traitors for the British. There are laws that just don’t work. If you knew how the immigration laws are drafted and implemented, you would realize that they have some serious quality problems. Some third world countries may have control over all the people and that’s called a police state. Here you can have representatives sponsoring absurdities such as the RealID bill. Do you think it will ever be effectively implemented? Do you think it will serve any purpose? There are 30 million visitors annually using foreign IDs in the US. They board planes and enter federal buildings. They don’t use drivers licenses but passports. Who is going to detect fraud in passports issued by 200 countries? Give me a break, you are only supporting more big government waste and irrational laws. Further, almost half of the people staying in the US without authorization came on a visa. The problem will simply be compounded by passing wasteful and incoherent measures to try affect human behavior.

  • SteveD

    ** I agree with the points Dr. Morse is making, but I think the greatest threat to our Constitution, stability, and prosperity is the collapse of consistent rule of law resulting from successive federal and state governments making a mockery of our borders, our immigration laws, and our labor laws. This has already led to the widespread corruption of our government at the state and federal levels. The vested interests favoring the status quo have bought influence in both major parties, and are using it to protect their financial constituency and attempt to woo their constituencies in certain states and districts (on the Republican side) and their bureaucratic and long term demographic constituency expansion interests (on the Democratic side). The status quo calls for sustainment of an enormous underclass of illegal aliens exploited by politicians and business owners, and thus indirectly by voters and consumers through de facto open borders but opposing both de jure open borders (the libertarian "solution") and vigorous enforcement of existing borders and immigration laws (the conservative "solution").
    ** I do not like "mass action politics," but they are part of the price of the democratization of society — something the Founders and Framers repeatedly warned against, especially after watching the horrific example of the French Revolution. Sadly, I don’t think there is anything "new" about "street politics" in America, of both the violent and non-violent kind. We had massive anti-war/anti-conscription riots in New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore during the War Between the States. We had violent protests against the emancipation and enfranchisement of African-Americans after the War ended. We had anti-war/anti-draft protests and riots before World War I — checked only by the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts and other statist measures by the Wilson Administration and its tame Congress. We have had veterans marches demanding benefits(sometimes legitmately, sometimes not), and labor marches and violent and non-violent labor union attacks on business owners and their property for over a century. More recently, we’ve had marches, protests, and occasional riots over wars and/or conscription, civil rights, abortion, homosexual rights, and now again, as was the case intermittently throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, pro- and anti- immigration protests and riots.
    ** Freer trade with Mexico and a freer economy in Mexico should reduce the pressure to emigrate to the US, but it will take more concerted and consistent effort to undo nearly eighty years of PRI-enforced fascism and protectionism, not to mention significant yet economically careful land reform, to give Mexico a chance to fully and gainfully employ its own population. The same is true for the people of Central America. The people of the Andean republics have an added reason to flee — Leninist insurgent/terrorists working with the drug cartels are waging war with deeply entrenched old-line landowners and business interests, while the mass of middle class and working class people live in fear for their lives and property as well as wondering how they can find and keep jobs and support themselves. US policies in the region have made the war worse, ambivalently backing the conservative interests (where they still exist) while the "drug war" increases the profitability of the drug trade and the narcotrafficantes’ need for insurgent protection.
    ** In short, the answer must be protect our sovereignty and borders — using monitored fences and armed force if necessary to make it clear that illegals are unwelcome, making English the official language of government, making the act of illegal presence or knowingly hiring/assisting an illegal a felony (effective six months from passage), and then put considerable high profile effort into enforcement. Once that is accomplished, we should see the illegals slowly but surely fade away. We can then reform our immigration laws to allow in those people without criminal records or chronic diseases, willing and able to work, and eager to learn English and seek naturalization — instead of the current self-perpetuating "family reunification" and "urgent needs" quota system. The Senate resolution on making English our national language and the Cornyn-Kyl-amended House Border Security and Immigration Reform legislation should be passed, signed into law, and enforced.

  • Tom Schofield

    Extreme diplomatic and economic pressure should be put on Mexico, and countries to the south, to create economic opportunities in their own countries. The continuing invasion of the U.S. by waves of illegal immigrants amounts to an act of economic warfare against the United States by feckless and corrupt governments south of the Rio Grande – aided and abetted here by a fifth column of venal politicians. Illegal immigration is not, strictly speaking, our problem. At worst, we are quilty of maintaining an "attractive nuisnace". The crux of the problem lies with the perpetually corrupt third world sink holes to our south. As Dr. Morse points out, our rush to become more like those benighted areas is hardly a solution.

  • Jeff Crowe

    What is missing here is a concentration on the human dignity of all people. Our nation’s immigration laws are not laws that protect life liberty or property. They do not encourage and promote the individual freedom to give and receive love that is the center of the Gospel message. Instead they clearly put the needs and wants of one group ahead of another. This implies Mexicans have less human dignity which is false. Denying people the right to free interaction is wrong.

  • John Crowe

    I would like to argue that Dr. Morse’s argument is a neocon one that is hiding behind the concept of “rule of law”. Yes the rule of law is critical to a stable and just society. The foundation of that law however has to be based in the Truth of who we are as a people. If the law does not reflect our reality then it has no authority and therefore actually moves us away from a stable and just society. I would argue that the biggest reason that our society has advanced as far as it has is that the basic foundation of our law is the concept of natural rights. These rights have been discussed by church philosophers as well as our founding fathers. Among them is the sacred uniqueness of each individual, the truth that we have free will and the truth that we are owners of ourselves and that which comes from our productivity. As an example allow me to quote from the beginning of the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights governments are instituted among Men, deriving there just powers from the consent of the governed…
    The majority of the immigration law that is on the books and is being proposed is an affront to those concepts. The argument to limit immigration is to tell the citizens of this country who they can associate with, what they can do with their property and how they have to go about using the talents and material resources that they have been given. To tell the people of other countries that they cannot participate in society, that they cannot be productive accept on our terms is to take away the most basic of property rights. The right to their vary selves and their labor. Our immigration law is a form of protectionist legislation that limits the majority for the benefit of the few.
    As long as I have been a supporter of the Acton Institute the arguments that they have put forth have been based on the freedom of individuals and the productivity and empowerment of free markets. Limiting what people can do and where they can live goes against those themes.
    In regard to the argument of that the mass demonstrations are a sign that our society is out of control I think that Dr. Morse would have a hard time supporting it from any historical viewpoint. Putting down demonstrations has long been a favored activity of the world’s worst tyrants. The history of what is now the basis for our law mainly flows out of demonstration and the checking of authoritarian rule. As examples; the Magna Carta, the Mayflower Compact, the Boston tea party, the whiskey rebellion, the Declaration of Independence and the Civil rights movement. To conclude let me continue in my quote of the Declaration of Independence that I started above. …that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles…

    John Crowe

  • technologynow

    STOP THE INVASION!Brought to you by the people that prove to you the THINGS THAT ILEGAL ALIENS DON"T WANT YOU TO KNOW! Pay attention every body.This is the part where the so called HUMAN RIGHTS people who have NEVER met me,never spoke to me,Don’t Know if I even vote,man wemon white black whatever but come ready with there labes.Sit back and enjoy the hypocracy.Thet can’t resist

  • joseph sullins

    If one law is’nt inforced,doe’s that make all laws un-inforcable?

  • joseph sullins

    How many of our,almost 300million are actualy legal citizens? What country has the most influence on the number of illeggal entries into the United States.Why can’t we inforce laws already inplace to deal with this matter?

  • technologynow

    Jefff Crowe needs to get out more often and see the real world.WAKE UP!The so called human rights people are the same very ones that turn a blind eye to the victums of illegal aliens.And where are the self proclaimed tre ehuggers while Mexicans thrash our environment at the border.By the way,with the word neo cons shows your lack of definition of the word and your para noid YA HOO mentality.The truth is out there but people like you denie reality for reasons I would not care to guess.WAKE UP!STOP THE INVASION