28 June 2013

Trespassing in the Commune

I'm not much of one for ideology or party lines.
If I see an error in someone's thinking, I'm just as likely to mention it if I agree with their overall point as if I don't.  Trying to get people to see all sides of things tends to put me in the roll of Devil's Advocate, and so I have been accused of being a capitalist by communists, a communist by capitalists, a fan of Ayn Rand (HA!) by anarchists.

A few years ago I wrote some about illegal immigration:




You just might get the idea from those that I have some particular opinion on the issue.
But really, I was trying to point out what one side of the debate prefers to ignore.
That doesn't mean the issue is one-sided or simple.
The other side does just as good a job ignoring what it doesn't want to see.
Just like with the abortion debate, I mostly agree with the progressive side in practice, but I recognize that they are right for the wrong reasons, while in principal the conservative side at least gets the question right, even if they are mistaken about the answer.


Imagine a hippy commune, out in the country side.  A few hundred people live there together, they come up with house rules, they all do chores, everyone contributes to the property taxes and insurance costs of the land and building and to a communal maintenance and repair fund.  Lets say this particular commune works really well, they come up with a system to manage internal conflicts, they are reasonably self-sufficient, but everyone also has real jobs so they have cash for trading with the outside world.
Sooner or later people are going to have children, and a new generation will be raised there. 
Now and then some people will want to leave, and that's just fine.
Other times new people will want to join.  These people are all about peace and love, sharing and community, but that doesn't mean they won't want to screen applicants.  They want to know, as anyone would, if their prospective new member shares their values and work ethic and whether they are responsible.  They may want to know about any drug addictions, criminal history, or if the applicant is employed.  They may decide to allow someone to join who doesn't meet a particular criteria if they have a good explanation, that could be decided on a case-by-case basis, but it would be hard to find fault in the community for wanting to at least ask the questions.  It is, after all, their home, and simply opening the floodgates would mean its rapid destruction. 
Now lets say this place is so successful, so popular, that there is a waiting list to even be interviewed by the residents.  But its a huge estate, and its hard to keep track of all the residents, not to mention all the guests and visitors, and someone gets the idea that instead of getting on the end of the waiting list, they can just come as a guest, and then just never leave - or maybe even sneak it through an open window.
They find a spare storage room that no one is using and set up a little bedroom in it.  No interview, no lease agreement.  They don't help pay for the property tax, but they do more than their share of chores, they contribute to the communal maintenance fund, and they follow all of the rules.
This trespasser has not really done anything terrible.  They are contributing their fair share.  But they also snuck in without permission.  When the residents figure out that they did, they are fairly likely to throw the trespasser out, or at least to consider it.  If it takes long enough before they are caught, there's a chance they will have friends and advocates, but the very fact of having snuck in in the first place is likely to be a strike against them.  And no matter how good of a roommate they have proved themselves to be, the fact remains that they are taking up a slot that could have otherwise been filled by someone who has been waiting on the waiting list.
Ultimately, whether they stay or go would be up to the official residents. 
Would it be unreasonable if their ultimate decision is that the trespasser can not stay?
America - every nation - is essentially a commune: a community of people living together, sharing common interests, property (private property may exist as well, but so does public space) and resources.  This land is home to all the people who were born here.  As I pointed out in my earlier essays, no one "deserves" to be born any particular place, its nothing but luck - going back to the analogy, suppose none of the residents personally built the commune, say the estate was originally inherited long ago, and an entire generation has turned over since then.  It is still their home, and they still have a right to demand that no one sneak into their windows and move in without permission.

When you look at it this way, arguments such as "I work hard", "I have family here", or "I have been here for 20 years" all seem a bit less reasonable or even relevant.  If you feel you have a good reason, put it on your application, but its still ultimately up to the residents to admit you or not.
Why should any of that change just because the scale changes?
What does it really imply when someone wants to redefine illegal immigrants as "undocumented workers", because "no person is illegal"?
The logical conclusion is that there should be no boarders, that everyone should be able to live anywhere.  New Zealand has low crime, high quality medical care, schools and transportation, and excellent weather.  If I want to go there, the country is going to make me apply for a visa - and if I don't already have family there, a high level degree, a special skill and a job offer in the country, or a lot of money and a promise to invest there, chances are the application will be turned down.  Just like in America, and every other country.  If an American is in Taiwan on a work visa, and gets fired, the country will deport them.

If we open the flood gates, and half of  Guatemala, 1/2 of Haiti, a quarter of Mexico and Jamaica, everyone in Somalia and most from Ethiopia, everyone who can scrape together any means of travel and lives somewhere poor, they all come to the US which no longer has any boarder patrol, no longer has any immigration service,  no longer has any program for deportation, what happens then?  Is life better for the new immigrants, in now ridiculously-crowded-with-
unskilled and-uneducated America, which doesn't have the resources to provide either jobs not welfare?  Before they may not have had an opportunity to get ahead, but at least they were getting by. Is life better for the now severely underpopulated folk left behind in the mother countries, where the only people left are those who had so little they couldn't make the trip, and doesn't have enough people to get all the jobs done that need to get done?  Is life better for the Native born Americans?  Over all, between the 3 groups, would this change be positive? 

Some people are supportive of "undocumented" immigrants.
They say things like "no human being is illegal" (I just saw that on one of those petition / donation emails).  They are focused on not punishing people for trying to find a better life, not breaking up families.  They are focused on people, on individuals.  They are looking at individual people, they see that people are unhappy, they don't like people being unhappy, so they don't like the situation or the rules, or whatever.  But it seems like few, if any, want to take a step back and look at the big picture.

The anti-immigrant people, many of them are racist, nationalist, selfish, angry and reactionary.  But what they are reacting to is the idea of the scenario described above.  Their solutions are largely unreasonable, and there motivations are often unjust.  But they are at least capable of seeing the big picture.  They are right, even if for the wrong reasons.
Of course its not so simple as that.  The real world rarely is.  If you agreed with my previous blog posts on immigration, then this one was for you.  If you agree with this one, go back and read the links I posted in the beginning.  Because if you have a strong opinion, chances are high that you are going on ideology instead of reason.  And that's all I have to say about that.


  1. I have not yet read your prior posts on immigration. But this is what I have to say. The US is not some land that a bunch of hippies bought or were given and proceeded to work to keep. The US is a land of immigrants. The first inhabitants were Native Americans. Their land was forcibly stolen from them. I believe they are the only people with any right to deny anyone else access to this land. They were not successful in keeping out Europeans. What gives Europeans (and anyone else who followed) the right to keep out anyone else? (If you want me to read your earlier post, please tell me where to find it...you have so many!)

    PS: what am I supposed to put in "URL" in order to publist w/o publishing anonymously? -DK

  2. The previous ones are all hyperlinked at the top of the post!

    I happen to disagree with the notion of "visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation"
    Each person is their own, and makes their own choices. We don't lock up the mob bosses daughter just because her father committed murder.
    We can't go back in time and change things, we have to deal with the real world that exists today. And today humans are born in various places and that place is "home".

    URL is a spot to put your website, if you have one.


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