Photo by Nitish Meena on Unsplash

The Philosophy of American Immigration

Immigration is completely divisive. Some are for it, some are against it but regardless of belief immigration has dominated the political landscape for years, and it was even one of the largest platforms that the Trump campaign stood on.

Years into his presidency Donald Trump continues to hold a harsh hand on immigration and its perceived flaws, “we have people coming into the country or trying to come in, we’re stopping a lot of them, but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are,” President Trump said in a 2018 White House press conference, “these aren’t people. These are animals.”

The Republican base shares many of those beliefs but what exactly does it matter? Political philosopher Jose Jorge Mendoza wrote in his 2016 book, The Moral and Political Philosophy of Immigration: Liberty, Security, and Equality, that, “immigration is the most pressing issue that moral and political philosophers have to grapple with today since this is the issue around which revolves the conflict over the competing moral and political commitments of security, liberty, and equality.”

People are proud of America and what it stands for and that’s why they argue for closed borders, to protect the American culture from disintegrating, a political philosopher from the University of Warwick, David Miller, in a 2005 article titled Immigration: The Case for Limits, argues just that. Miller explains, “the public culture of their country is something that people have an interest in controlling: they want to be able to shape the way that their nation develops, including the values that are contained in the public culture. They may not, of course, succeed: valued cultural features can be eroded by economic and other forces that evade political control. But they may certainly have good reason to try, and in particular to try to maintain cultural continuity over time, so that they can see themselves as the bearers of an identifiable cultural tradition that stretches backward historically.” Miller has a few principles, one of which is of the strong cosmopolitan versus the weak one. A strong cosmopolitan, according to Miller is a leader that will foster change and direct people to treat all others the same way they would their compatriots, whereas a weak cosmopolitan shares the belief that all people are equal but also believes that compatriots should garner special consideration. Miller believes that a strong cosmopolitan would foster too much change and that people would not be receptive to it.

“Being American is red, white and blue and being free. It doesn’t matter what language you speak; if you’re born in America, you’re still American. No matter what you look like, no matter what,” said Sebastien de la Cruz, known for the backlash he received for singing the national anthem at an NBA finals game in a mariachi outfit.

Immigration has provided benefits in America, like work ethic and hardworking people, according to Marina Banchetti, the chair of the Philosophy Department at Florida Atlantic University Banchetti explains her view, “my perspective is more personal since I immigrated to this country [from France originally] with my parents when I was of high school age,” she continues, “my parents brought with them many good skills and a very strong work ethic, which they passed on to me. So I believe we’ve made and continue to make a positive contribution to this country.”

“Suppose a farmer from the United States wanted to hire workers from Mexico. The government would have no right to prohibit him from doing this. To prevent the Mexicans from coming would violate the rights of both the American farmer and the Mexican workers to engage in voluntary transactions,” said Joseph Carens, professor of political science at the University of Toronto argues that limiting immigration can infringe upon individual rights. He follows a libertarian school of thinking arguing that the American government trying to infringe upon the rights of someone within the government’s jurisdiction is contradictory to the idea posed by the American government of unlimited rights within the United States borders.

Some of those that argue against immigration pose the idea of security risks brought about by strangers within the nation’s borders but political theorist Chandran Kukathas, Head of the Department of Government at the London School of Economics, where he holds the Chair in Political Theory, tries to counter that. He poses that even completely eliminating legal immigration there will still be risks, as someone so dedicated to a cause, like trying to insight terror would not care about legal restrictions, and even without immigration at all, there is still the risk of tourists and travelers and other non-permanent residents.

In 2017, a proponent of far-right immigration policies, senior advisor to President Trump, Stephen Miller, in an exchange with CNN’s Jim Acosta, said, “[Immigration has] ebbed and flowed” throughout American history and asked how many immigrants the U.S. had to accept annually to “meet Jim Acosta’s definition of the Statue of Liberty law of the land.” When asked about the previous American tenants of immigration and open border sentiment.

A journalist just trying to get by. Everywhere to find me.

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