The law-breaking canard against immigration reform

There are lots of well-intentioned conservatives against immigration reform. Then there are simple haters. I’m not sure which group the “law-breaker” peddlers fall into, but they’re really irritating me lately.

When arguing against any type of legal status for currently illegal immigrants, these people claim that since breaking the law was someone’s “first act” in our country, they are apparently forbidden from ever having a meaningful life as an immigrant or otherwise in America. Of course we are a country of laws and our society breaks down when those laws are flaunted, but what about when the laws themselves are…broken?

One argument often used is that since there are over 4 million people waiting to immigrate here legally, we shouldn’t reward the ones that have “cut in line” ahead of them illegally. This also argues for reform. The fact that there are over 4 million people waiting for years to immigrate legally is a point in favor of reform, not against it. We should make it easier for everyone to come here legally, not add more people to the already absurdly long line.

But more simply, the argument that breaking an administrative rule by skirting the immigration system should bar you from any rights and privileges as an American in the future is absurd. We can’t possibly enforce the laws as they are, the numbers simply prohibit it, and the numbers also prove the need for reform.

I realize this is a mostly libertarian argument, so not everyone will agree to it, but it seems like a speeding ticket to me. Speeding itself doesn’t harm anyone. Why is it illegal? Because it increases the potential for harm. Unauthorized immigration itself doesn’t actually harm anyone. Sometimes those who do it also break other laws and do harm, but that has nothing to do with their immigration status. Having this hugely complex immigration process seems as pointless as speed limits. People who intend to break them will do so, while the rest of us will drive at relatively safe speeds for its own sake, not because it’s the law.

There is a fundamental argument about the purpose of the law under this debate. Should the law be massive and confusing in order to prevent any possible negative event, or should it be simple and predictable and have a net positive effect on society?

And when the law itself is bad, should we really punish people for working around it? Where is the line between justified civil disobedience and lawlessness?

SHORTER: When everyone agrees that the law is a mess and needs fixing, why is someone having already broken it an argument against doing so?

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