Longing for Concentration Camps

Of the more partisan blogs I read, I have always enjoyed Captains Quarters for being thoughtful and well-written.  Ed Morrissy is clearly as skeptical about open immigration as I am supportive of it, which  I am generally willing to put into the "intelligent people will disagree" category, until I found this bit a little frightening (emphasis added):

As I have written repeatedly over the past two years, we simply cannot
throw out 12 million people overnight, so some sort of guest-worker
program is inevitable, if for no other reason than to get an accurate
accounting of the aliens in our nation. Either that, or we will have to
herd people into concentration camps, a solution that will never pass
political muster even if were remotely possible logistically
. That
program could form a basis of a comprehensive immigration "reform", if
properly written.

Is the implication that his only real problems with American concentration camps for people born in Mexico are logistical?  When one typically says that an idea can't pass political muster, they generally are referring (with a wistful sigh) to what they consider a good idea that for whatever reason could not survive the legislative process.  Let's be clear: herding people into concentration camps based arbitrarily on their birth location is abhorrent, not logistically difficult. 

I haven't called myself conservative for over 20 years, but I thought that most good conservatives would agree with the following statement:

"Our fundamental rights, from speech to association to property, are not granted to us by any government, but belong to us as a fact of our human existence."

Do conservatives still believe this?  I know liberals gave up on it a while back - that is why I pay a transaction "privilege" tax in Arizona, which presumes that the ability to conduct commerce is a privilege that is granted by the government.  But I thought conservatives stood by this statement.  But if they still do, then on what basis can they argue that people not born within the US border somehow have lesser (or no) right to conduct commerce in this country, to buy and live in a home in this country, to sell their labor in this country, etc.?   The only rights or activities or privileges a country should be able to deny non-citizens are those rights and privileges that flow from the government and not from our basic humanity.  Which are.... none (update: OK, maybe one: Voting, since this is inherently tied up with government.  I have written before about why I think voting is one of our less important rights).

I understand there are good and valid concerns about government handouts and taxpayer-paid services flowing to recent immigrants, but to solve this narrow concern, "reform" discussion should be about setting minimum qualification standards for such services or handouts, and not about putting Mexicans in concentration camps.

Update:  A number of readers have scolded me for overreacting to the Morrissey quote, arguing that the quote is just dry understatement rather than any revelation of sinister plans.  Fine.  I have friends who are both legal and illegal immigrants her in Phoenix, as well as several who are in-between (i.e. are constantly battling to hang on to their visa status by their fingernails) so I have personal emotions in the game here that may make me overly sensitive.

I will admit to a huge blind spot:  I just cannot comprehend why Americans, none of whose families are native to this land, get so upset about high levels of immigration, beyond the public services issue.  And the more I think about this latter, the more I am convinced making everyone legal combined with some eligibility waiting periods (for voting, welfare, etc) would generate more tax revenue than it would consume.  In fact, high levels of immigration may be the only viable solution to the demographic bomb we have with social security and medicare.  (By the way, the public services issue is one reason the Democrats have, if possible, an even less viable position than Republicans.  Our Democratic governor has publicly supported continuing free government services to illegal immigrants but opposed allowing them to work.  This makes sense, how?)

I do understand there is "law and order" argument that goes "well, those folks are breaking the law, and we have got to have respect for the law."  Here's a proposal.  Everyone who has never knowingly violated the speed limit, never done a rolling stop at a stop sign, and never tried illegal narcotics in college are all welcome to make the argument to me about the need to strictly enforce every law on the books.  This same logic is used to send refugees escaping Cuba back to Cuba, and it sucks. 


  1. KipEsquire:

    Take the ubiquitous example of same-sex marriage amendments. The underlying premise of these (conservative-driven) acts is that rights are not at all "intrinsic" or "natural" or "inalienable," but rather to be determined exclusively by majority vote.

    More generally, who really believes that conservatives embrace the constitutional paradigm of "enumerated powers and unenumerated rights" anymore? Any constitutional power, once granted, is now deemed plenary (e.g., the commerce power, the commander-in-chief power), while individual rights are subject to however many exceptions are considered "reasonable" (e.g., the Fourth Amendment). Entire chunks of the Constitution (e.g., the Ninth Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment Privileges or Immunities Clause, and most recently the "public use" limitation of the eminent domain power) have simply been declared nullities.

    In short, what was once "the libertarian wing" of the conservative movement isn't even a libertarian feather anymore.

  2. Craig L:

    Marriage is not "a right that flows from basic humanity". It is an incentive offered by the government, which recognizes that a family (consisting of man, wife, and kids) is the most stable societal unit. Gay marriage offers nothing to society, and thus is not promoted by the government.

  3. Chris Fritz:

    I'm a libertarian-leaning conservative, myself. In the past year, I've looked at all the problems I have with illegal immigration. Almost everyone single one of them is at its base a problem of a social program existing, some form of "you get something for free; don't worry, tax-paying citizens will cover the cost for you".

    Remove social programs (or reform them, perhaps making them available to tax-payers?), and perhaps switch over to something like FairTax, and that would resolve most of my issues. From there, my only issues would be: 1) Learn English, and 2) This is not an extension of Mexico, so don't treat it as one.

    I'll continue to believe in Michael Savage's "borders, language, culture", though. We practically don't have borders, in every city I've lived in (California, Arizona), everything is bilingual, and I'm seeing on TV protesters waving Mexican flags through the streets of southern California, saying, "They took this land from us, and we're TAKING IT BACK!"

    I'd like to know if libertarians generally would support anyone from any country in the world flying to America and being a citizen, no waiting in line for legalization. I'm sure that's not a luxury only to be extended to Mexicans and Canadians. (I already know no libertarian would support anyone from another country moving to America and living off of welfare and other social programs. We already have enough Americans using up tax dollars doing that.)

  4. TJIT:

    Back to the original topic.......

    I think most conservatives would agree with your sentiment. The problem is the US does not have enough resources to act as a safety relief valve for the corrupt, non functioning governments from Mexico and points South. Mexico is rich in natural resources and human talent. If Mexico had a functioning poitical system their economy would be strong enough to supply good jobs for their citizens.

    Currently everybody likes to pretend their own opinions on the the immigration problem are correct.

    conservatives like to pretend that it would be easy to seal the border and remove illegal immigrants from the US

    libertarians like to pretend that illegal immigration has no impact on the functioning of schools and hospitals

    liberals like to pretend the abundance of illegal immigrants who work cheap have no impact on wages for the poor

    I note that every time the feds try and fix the problem it gets worse. The amount of illegal immigrants ballooned after the first attempt to fix the problem and I am afraid this go around will provide the same results. If you reward a certain behavior you are going to get more of it. US citizenship is a big reward, giving citizenship to illegal immigrants guarantees you will have more illegal immigration in the future. Furthermore, every fix so far has resulted in more hoops for US citizens to jump through. I9 forms the last time and the real ID act this time. Frankly, I don't want to be in a position of US citizens having to get permission from the federal government to have a job. But that is where we are at and it is probably going to get worse going forward.

    On last point. I know a number of people who have become citizens following the naturaliztion process for legal immigration. It is an expensive, nasty, frustrating process. Giving citizenship to illegal immigrants is a slap in the face to those who have followed the rules and gained citizenship by applying for it.

  5. BobH:

    In regard to the idea that our rights are inherent and are not bestowed by government, I'm in absolute agreement -- theoretically.

    However, before I'm a libertarian, I'm a pragmatist. Our country (and our freedoms) cannot survive just throwing open the gates.

    A recent poll showed that something like 40% of Filipinos would like to leave their country if they could. Guess what country they'd like to move to? Forty percent is about 35 million people -- what would be the effect of 35 million people moving in?

    And that's just the Philippines. Can we take in 100 million people? 300 million? At some point of course, people would stop coming, because the US would no longer be more desirable than where they were, but how many would it take to reach that point?

    Again -- in theory you're right, but I guess I don't want to live in a perfectly libertarian America.

  6. Max Lybbert:

    I consider myself more conservative than libertarian. I'm also in favor of revamping the border control system because what we have is seriously a joke. I support a guest worker program, tripling (or quadrupling) the quota on legal immigrants from Mexico and other countries (we assimilate far more than our current quota each year, so it's delusional to keep the quota artificially low), and cracking down on employers of illegal immigrants (including the jailing of people who knowingly hire illegal immigrants [10 days the first time, can be served on weekends, 20 and 30 days thereafter], but that would apply to the person in charge of the hiring, which could be the owner or could be a low-level manager).

    Why jailing? Because it'll get more action than hefty fines. There's no need to deport 12 million people when you can convince them to leave on their own. Make it harder to get hired without proper documentation and you'll have gone very far to convincing them to go home. Couple that with a limited-term guest worker program, and you'll have gone very far to convincing them to go home eventually without being draconian today.

    Howeever, I also agree with Jane Galt and TJIC ( http://tjic.com/blog/2006/03/29/immigration/ ):

    /* most of my ancestors were carpetbaggers who came here for the same reason as the Korean guy who sells you your coffee in the morning: to excape desperate poverty at home. They were greeted by pretty much the same nativist paranoia now directed at Latin American immigrants (though I haven’t heard anyone suggest that Mexicans are part of a Papist conspiracy to rule America), and for the same reasons…

    The three-quarters of my forebears who were Irish probably didn’t speak English when they got here, and showed no particular interest in learning how to do so. Cramming themselves into tenements ten or more to a room, they were willing to work longer hours for lower pay than native-born Americans.Having brought a rich, and very foreign, culture with them, they clustered in urban areas so that they could preserve it, including a drinking culture that horrified the Protestants then flocking to temperance reform. None of them showed much propensity for assimilating; they established their own churches, schools, social organizations, and businesses, allowing their descendants to live in a little parallel Irish world that kept them out of the mainstream.

    And the world did not end. In fact, the Irish assimilated just fine, and the economy chugged along with all these imported poor people.

    Oh, and marriage isn't bestowed by the government. If people belong to a religion that permits gay marriages, they can get married. But that doesn't mean the government must give them the same tax breaks or policy advantages that it gives heterosexual marriages, just as the government is not required to give a straight couples the same tax breaks or policy advantages it gives married couples. The government is free to define what it means by "marriage" when it's bestowing those advantages.

  7. eddie:

    Max: I'm glad to hear someone in these discussions (which I've been seeing breaking out all over) mention the notion of increasing the quotas. You suggest raising the quotas to allow more legal migration and cracking down further on illegal migration. I applaud this idea... but you do understand that if we increase the quota high enough, there won't be any illegal immigration to crack down on, right?

    The reason people enter the country illegally is because enough people got here ahead of them that the quota was filled. Raise the quota and people will stop sneaking across the border and buying fake ID cards - they'll come in the front door, show their real IDs, obtain proper documentation, and be fully legal.

    Illegal immigration ended with the stroke of a pen.

    But then, people aren't really opposed to *illegal* immigration. They're opposed to immigration *period*. The issue of legality is a smokescreen to cover the fact that we are keeping out people with as much right to be here as anyone else in the country or the world - the rights of people don't come from governments and don't depend on where you were born.

  8. BobH:

    I disagree, Eddie. Like Max, I support increased legal immigration. It doesn't advance your position to demonize those who disagree with you as xenophobes.

  9. Alina:

    I don't have to drag out the my forefathers were immigrants argument. I immigrated from the then USSR in 1977. I did not just hop on a plane and came to US. I waited to get correct paperwork and permission and status.

    My problem with illegal immigration is this:

    1) Some people follow the rules, some people don't. The people who don't shouldn't be rewarded. And yes, I have broken the speed limit. And if caught, I would not have expected it to be changed so that I would no longer be considered breaking the law.

    2) I have a hard enough time with welfare for citizens and would end it if I could. I have no interest in offering it to anyone who shows up and asks for it. Because they will. Believe me, many of them will be my relatives.

    3) It is simply much easier for a Mexican or a Canadian to sneak illegally into the US than it is for an Asian, an African or a European. This law says that Mexican and Canadian immigrants are more valuable and/or more needy than any others. It creats a de facto quota system by abolishing one.

    That said, I have no problem with open immigration as long as the immigrants were self-supporting and paying taxes. I have big problems with those who are not, legal and illegal.

  10. Max Lybbert:

    /* You suggest raising the quotas to allow more legal migration and cracking down further on illegal migration. I applaud this idea... but you do understand that if we increase the quota high enough, there won't be any illegal immigration to crack down on, right?

    That's partly true, and partly why I'd raise that limit. There are people who can't get in to the country legally. Once upon a time, people with leprosy or other contagious diseases were not allowed through the gates. If you're not a threat to the country (and being poor is not a threat to the country), then I see no reason to keep you out. Especially since we *are* assimilating far more people than the official figures suggest.

    Even so, I'd still want to keep out felons, and I'm sure felons would still try to get in. So I'd like to have borders, and to patrol those borders, and to keep some people from crossing those borders, but I don't see our current system as anything to take seriously. Our current system keeps out too many people who aren't dangerous, so they try to get accross illegally. That leads us to think that since 90% of the guys crossing aren't threats, then there's no threat coming accross; and we accept illegal immigration because we're sure somehow that we're getting an advantage out of these poor saps, and nobody really wants to do anything (sorry, that rambled).

  11. Brian:

    OK, here's my 2 cents.

    Let's approach the problem with some creativity.

    We establish a "freedom" zone about 20 mi.(maybe larger/smaller) paralleling the U.S./Mexican border in which we have the U.S. INS setup stations. Anyone can register at the station to work in the U.S. at registered employers in the U.S. Employers can register on the internet. Hourly pay can be determined between the worker and the employer but each hour will be registered in the employee's name. They will recieve a 100% matching amount back at the station in Mexico and be paid in pesos. The matching funds will be shared by U.S. and Mexican gov't. To register an employee must live in the "freedom" zone. "Freedom" zone workers could undercut "non-freedom" zone workers which would eventually force all illegals to register.

    The zone will become a mecca for investors and enterprizing business. I think it would depress wages in the U.S. at the low end of the scale in the short run but over time as the standard of living rose in the "freedom" zone the workers would be less likely to want to work over the border.

    The zone could be enlarged over time or extinquished as some economic goals were met.

    It would be important to guard against corruption which is why I would think the U.S. should run the matching pay system. By using the internet and fingerprint id it could be fool-proof.

  12. JohnDewey:


    I applaud you for following the rules, and I'm glad that you are here.

    It is a porous 2,000 mile border that allowed 12 million illegal immigrants into this country. If the USSR had shared a poruous 2,000 mile border with the U.S. in 1977, do you think every immigrant from Russia or Latvia or Georgia would have waited to get the correct paperwork and permissions? Maybe. I don't know. But suppose that jobs in the USSR were almost non-existent, and those few available paid a pittance.

    Before branding the illegals as criminals, we should consider the choice they faced:

    1. They could wait years on the chance they could get in legally, working for $3 a day while they remained in the queue. They could have sat around patiently while their children complained of hunger and suffered for lack of medical care. Or,

    2. By simply eluding a few patrols, they could enter the U.S. and immediately receive a 1,000 to 2,000 percent increase in wages. The jobs were there for the taking. Employers were eager to hire them. Their Mexican government was encouraging them to go.

    What parent would not have taken that risk?

    It is easy for us to talk about respect for the law. But that respect will fade fast for even the best of us if faced with hunger and severe poverty.

  13. Alina:


    But if we make a humanitarian, emotional argument, then we should be airlifting people from Africa by the thousands. As I said in my earlier post, this presumes that Mexicans are more worthy of US largess than anyone else, and that isn't fair either.

    And furthermore, does it mean that anyone already in America who feels desperate, jobless, devoid of medical care and hungry and commits a crime is, by the same defintion, not a criminal, either?

  14. JohnDewey:

    "And furthermore, does it mean that anyone already in America who feels desperate, jobless, devoid of medical care and hungry and commits a crime is, by the same defintion, not a criminal, either?"

    Sorry, Alina, but I just cannot use the term "criminal" when the offense is crossing a border to work hard at a job willingly offerred. That's just not the same offense as robbery or burglary.

    I don't think anyone believes the Mexican immigrants are more worthy than those from anywhere else. They're just luckier because they live next door to the strongest economy and one of the most free nations on the planet.

    The humanitarian argument I made was simply a request that we not fault these people for what they did. IMO, we do owe them respect because they have worked at these jobs within our borders for years. They helped build our economy.

    Please consider one other factor that makes Mexicans different from all other prospective immigrants. Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California were all part of Mexico for twice as long as they have been part of the U.S. These were conquered regions just as Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania were conquered nations. Spanish was the "offical" language of these states for over 300 years. (Note: The U.S. itself did not directly conquer Texas. U.S. immigrants crossed illegally into Spanish Texas and later, with U.S. government assistance, gained their independence.)

    Just as some in the Baltic states never felt they should have been dominated by the Russians, some Mexicans and Mexican-Americans do not believe they should be dominated by the culture of the U.S. They should not be required to adopt the language and all the customs of the Anglos.

    I'm not arguing that today's U.S. citizens should feel guilty about the conquest of the Southwest states 150 years ago. But we should not be so quick about insisting on total assimilation.

  15. goy:

    John - I think the reason you don't see illegal entry as a crime is that you don't take into account the fact that it doesn't stop with simply taking a job willingly offered. Illegal immigrants stay here, they breed here, they commit crimes here, they take up space in prisons, hospitals, soup kitchens and schools here, they attract their families here and they by and large don't pay taxes or put their earnings back into the economy here. None of this says they're less human than American citizens. They're not. What they're also not is any more worthy than those who make the time and effort to follow the law. They should be deported, not rewarded.

    Breaking the law is breaking the law. Don't like it? Petition for a change in the law, don't expect special pleading to exonerate you if you're caught breaking it. U.S. citizens can't avail themselves of this kind of sophistry to avoid the legal consequences of their actions - why should non-citizens be free to do so?

    Regarding the notion of 'refugees', this is a false analogy, isn't it. Illegal immigrants stealing across the border in the dark are not escaping from a virtual gulag in Cuba, they are for the most part looking for either a handout or a better deal, not freedom from the persecution and conditions under a communist regime.

    Regarding assimilation, Rick Moran has an excellent post that speaks to this issue ( http://tinyurl.com/lbsf9 ). It underscores the necessity of obeisance to culture required when one expects to avail one's self of guarantees, protections, social programs, better economy, better health care and other benefits of living in the U.S.

  16. JohnDewey:

    "Illegal immigrants stay here, they breed here, they commit crimes here, they take up space in prisons, hospitals, soup kitchens and schools here, they attract their families here and they by and large don't pay taxes or put their earnings back into the economy here."

    I've had to endure this argument all week on two other blogs, so I apologize if I seem bothered by it.

    Do you have any evidence that illegal immigrants are paying less taxes or receiving more government services than U.S. citizens at the same income levels? Do you have any evidence to show that illegal immigrants - not Hispanics - are committing any more crimes than the general population (excluding illegal entry)?

    I'll address the school issue tomorrow, for I feel it's just not valid.

    Would it be too difficult to say "they have children here" rather than "they breed here"? To me, it just sounds very disrespectful to use that term when referring to fellow human beings. I'm just suggesting that your arguments might be easier received if you did show respect.

  17. goy:

    John, most likely you've had to endure the argument because it is pervasive, well-founded and logical. Proving the negative is a fool's errand. When we can find proof that illegals pay taxes, and how much, let's talk. But if you're looking for "proof" of illegal activity, I don't think you're going to find it except among those who've been caught at it. Illegal immigrants, for the most part, are going to be paid cash under the table, since IRCA defines employment of an illegal immigrant as a federal crime. I'm sure you've heard of an I9 form and I'm sure you know why we use them.

    Last report was that there are some 12M illegal immigrants currently living in the U.S. Kindly do the math. Unless they're all using forged documents to receive welfare and/or social security, they are employed and their employers are not generally inviting federal penalties on themselves and risking deportation for their employees by reporting their illegal income. In the rare cases where illegals file using an ITIN - which requires a forged ID to procure if you're not a legal resident, and compounds the crime they're committing - the low wage level will typically result in a partial or complete refund, or worse; because of the low wage level, ITIN filings can also be used to get EIC which. Ironically (unless you live in Bizarro World), this results in the illegal immigrant being **paid** by the federal government (i.e., we legal resident and citizen taxpayers) for entering the country and working here illegally. Again, this is an unconscionable slap in the face to both legal immigrants and citizens alike - this behavior should not be rewarded with amnesty.

    No one has claimed that illegal immigrants receive *more* govt. services than U.S. citizens, irrespective of income level, which is impossible to verify other than as an estimate (see above). Likewise, no one is claiming that illegals commit *more* crimes per capita. The point is that any illegal use of services and any increase in the prison population (see http://tinyurl.com/ahjkg ) attributable to illegal immigrants is a problem that can be corrected by enforcing existing immigration laws and securing the U.S. borders.

    As for schools, any additional burden put on the state due to illegal resident students can likewise be addressed by enforcing existing immigration laws and securing U.S. borders.

    Sorry to upset any delicate sensibilities with the term "breed", that wasn't my intent. But it's accurate nevertheless - especially in this context. U.S. citizens also breed, albeit at a lower rate than the ethnic and racial groups that comprise the majority of illegal immigrants in the U.S.

  18. Jay:

    No. I don't think most conservatives - or most people in general - believe that statement at all anymore. I'm not even sure every libertarian does.

  19. JohnDewey:

    Studies by both conservatives and liberals have provided important insights about the immigrant population:

    - the late conservative economist Julian Simon calculated that native U.S. citizens receive more in government benefits than do immigrants;

    - a Cato Institute study found that immigrants paid 48% as much in taxes as the average American family, but received only 32% as much in government benefits;

    - the Urban Institute estimated in the mid-90's that immigrants contributed $30 billion more in taxes than they receive each year, a number that has no doubt risen since then;

    - Rachel M. Friedberg of Brown University and Jennifer Hunt of Yale University determined that immigrants create many more jobs than they fill;

    - economists Paul Krugman and Elise S. Brezis concluded that immigrant expenditures in the U.S. encourage investment and, over time, increase the number of jobs in the U.S.;

    - the National Academy of Sciences determined that immigrants provide a net economic benefit to the U.S.

    Mexican immigrants, both legal and illegal, have proven to be exceptionally hard workers. We have all benefitted from their hard labor and from the resulting increase in GDP.

  20. rox_publius:

    A summary of the arguments I find persuasive on this topic:

    1. We clearly need to up the quota system from the 10,000 or so legal immigrants we currently provide for from mexico.

    2. Granting citizenship outright to those in the country now is a slap in the face to those who have followed proper procedures to come here legally or are following them and have not yet arrived.

    no one has reconciled these two points into an effective policy that i can see. i hear loudly from camp xenophobe and camp amnesty, but no one solving the issue to my satisfaction.

  21. Max Lybbert:

    Quick solution to the "illegals get public services" question:

    Step 1: Triple the quota for legal immigrants so that more of these guys will become legal.

    Step 2: Change the law so that naturalized citizens cannot receive welfare benefits for the first two years.

    Step 3: Actually enforce laws meant to prevent illegals to get welfare benefits, with penalties that actually make sense. Create documents that are more expensive to forge so that social workers will be duped less often. Make welfare fraud a deportable offense.

    In short, take a big carrot, huge stick approach.