Day By Day

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Moral Argument for Giuliani

This weekend "She Who Must Not Be Named" and I traveled up to Hazelton, PA. A friend of ours from that town just got married and his family was holding a party in his honor. It was a great time. I got to see people I hadn't seen for twenty years. Spent a lot of time reminiscing about when we were young. Good weather, good people, good times -- that sort of thing.

Hazelton has been in the news a lot lately because of its attempts to exclude illegal immigrants. Currently the town is being sued by the ACLU. My friend had warned me not to bring the subject up because people's feelings were running high, but then he decided to discuss it himself. He showed me the latest edition of the local paper featuring a recent homicide and listed the several killings that had already taken place this year. Reading the accounts it was clear that gangs were fighting a turf war over control of the local drug trade.

That kind of thing didn't happen in small town Pennsylvania before the recent influx of low-income Blacks and Hispanics. Friends of mine from my hometown, which I haven't visited in years, tell me that the same thing is happening there. They, too, are rabid restrictionists. I hear similar complaints from people I know in Reading, near where I currently live. The immigration debate is not a theoretical thing for people in small town Pennsylvania. It is their lives and those of their children that are at stake.

I personally do not have to deal with the aggravation and fear these people encounter every day. My perspective is thus detached. I note that the free circulation of labor and capital is economically efficient and supports economic growth. I further note that for the immigrants and their families the move to small towns holds the promise of a better life than they would otherwise have known and that remittances from immigrants to their relatives at home are an important resource for local communities outside our borders. I note that the laws restricting immigration are unrealistic and can only be enforced at tremendous humanitarian and economic costs. I have supported President Bush's attempts to find a humane solution to the current problems. But none of this matters to long-time residents whose quality of life is rapidly deteriorating. They don't want to hear that economic decline long antedated the influx of immigrants and, in fact, created the conditions (low cost housing and low wage jobs) that attracted newcomers into the community. They want to restore the peaceful communities of yesteryear.

And, in fact, they have a point -- a serious one.

Orrin Judd prints excerpts from an article by Mirko Bagaric that asserts:

The best way to ameliorate third world poverty is by massively increasing migration to the west. Left to their own devices many people would gravitate to life sustaining resources, leading to a rough equilibrium between the world’s resources and its population.

That’s not to suggest that Africa would empty overnight into the western world. Some of its citizens are too destitute to hobble to a more plentiful border. Some will not want to come, in any event. But huge numbers will follow the yellow brick road to prosperity in the west.

There is one fundamental obstacle to western nations relaxing border controls: racism. Discrimination on the basis of race is the lynchpin of the whole of western migration policy.

Read the whole thing here.

To this argument, so often expressed by opponents of immigration restriction, Judd replies:

There is exactly one moral basis for excluding prospective immigrants: that they are personally at odds with the rules by which a society governs itself and the ideals upon which the political regime is founded. So long as a person wants to conform to those ideas they ought to be welcomed.
Read it here.

That is precisely the argument my friend was making when he displayed those horrific accounts of local killings. The simple and irreducible fact is that many of the newcomers have refused to live by the rules that long governed community relations in Hazelton and made it safe.

Many of the people I met at the party were the sons and daughters, or perhaps the grandchildren, of immigrants who had met similar resistance when they moved into Hazelton a century ago. They well understood the impact of racism and nativism and the need for tolerance, but they had been pushed to their wits' end. The street outside where they had played as children was now a perilous zone where gang members clustered and drug deals went down. It was now too dangerous a place for their kids to play. Now they stay indoors and the kids play in the back yards. They are right when they say that they should not have to live like that in their own community. Theirs is, in fact, a moral argument for restriction.

That does not mean, however, that their argument should prevail, simply that it should be respected and taken into consideration -- not dismissed as simple "racism". Unfortunately, the current debate does not respect moral arguments on either side of the question. Broad gauge restriction unfairly penalizes the decent majority of immigrants and their relatives abroad and does real economic harm to this country. Open borders allows the disruptive and criminal minority to terrorize good people here and undermines the quality of life in communities across the nation. Neither course of action is adequate or moral.

What is needed is strict and vigorous law enforcement at the local level to restore order and promote public safety. The restoration of order to stressed communities would go a long way toward satisfying the anxieties and legitimate concerns of local populations. But law enforcement is expensive and few localities across the nation can afford the level of protection they require. Federal aid will be required. And, there must be a determined effort within the judicial system to promote effective enforcement, even if that comes at the expense of group rights and entitlements. The focus must be on individual behavior and the enforcement of community standards.

There is an issue here that Republicans could effectively exploit in the upcoming campaigns. The promise of massive federal aid to local law enforcement is one that Rudy Giuliani could creditably make. He has the track record to support such a program and, as Bill Clinton proved, it is attractive to both Democrats and Independents. And, Rudy's experience in New York City has already inured him to the kinds of liberal objections that a vigorous enforcement program focused on individual behavior rather than group entitlements would encounter. I think that this is why a lot of conservatives are quite willing to overlook Giuliani's liberal views on many issues and to accept him because of his willingness to take the heat and to focus relentlessly on law enforcement.

Exclusion will not work, and the current level of disorder is intolerable. The only solution is the restoration of order and for that the only credible candidate is Rudy.

Rudy should make a few trips into Hazelton to talk to people there. He's got a great excuse for doing so. Judy Nathan is a Hazelton girl.