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Entitlement and exclusion

Soon “The Jews” will be forgotten and the ballots will be counted (hopefully). People will feel a reduced urge to push their politics on every person they meet with witless T-shirts and uninspired rallies. But some of the largest problems facing this country will still be left unaddressed.

Few Americans consciously realize that their most powerful identity is their U.S. citizenship, and even fewer contemplate how different their life would be without it. Ask any of the international students at Duke without authorization to work in the United States, and they might have a thing or two to say. Although it would be stupid to argue that everyone in the world would want to live in the United States if given the choice, there are many people who would like to live and work in this country but don’t have the opportunity to do so. While immigration policy is unlikely to change markedly in the coming years, a good place to build momentum is at this University.

The problem that some on the right have against immigration is that it “destroys American values.” They have a conception that American values are frozen in time, most likely in the 1950s. It is almost as if they see the country as a fetus in a jar of formaldehyde, no longer developing. Not only is this view of a static America disturbing, it is incorrect. The United States has changed much throughout its history, not only with the different groups of people that came, but also with the changing ideas of what this country was about. Americans have had few problems adopting the best ideas that they find, no matter where they come from.

Of course this does not mean that there is any value in change for change’s sake, but change can and should be considered. Besides, it is difficult to see how anyone who leaves their country to make more money for their family is any danger to conservative conceptions of family values. While not all first generation immigrants will learn English, a skill that they need to be integrated into a community, undoubtedly their children will. In the long run, immigration provides no danger to integrated families and communities.

The left has far more ingrained objections to the free movement of human beings. The welfare state sees each new unskilled legal immigrant as a liability. These immigrants are eligible for various free programs which cost the local, state, and national governments through the nose. Worse yet, one of these immigrants may even take a job that an American might have had. So, comically the leftist drive to redistribute assets to the American poor means that the left is opposed to allowing the poorest immigrants to have a chance to enter this country and make more money. They tell poor foreigners that they support redistributing assets to the poorest countries on a global scale, but for now just stay where you are and rot in the systemic failure in which you were born.

Labor unions don’t like competition for ideas or workers, including immigration. Labor unions are the backbone, musculature, circulatory system, respiratory system of the Democratic Party. Until a few years ago, labor unions opposed helping illegal immigrants already in the United States. Now they just oppose helping poor, unskilled people in other countries move to the United States. Of course, they are right that new unskilled immigrants will reduce hourly wages, especially in the unskilled services industry. Who cares? Why are people born in the United States entitled to a higher wage than those born abroad? What is this sense of moral entitlement based on?

The contradictions of American immigration policy defy the potential of the country; we need to change it. Severely reducing the welfare state and reinvigorating dynamism into the American identity are the first steps. The American project holds too much promise to be aborted now.


Paul Musselwhite is a Trinity junior.


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