President Clinton’s secretary of labor, Robert Reich, complains on Marketplace Radio that the new immigration bill may encourage immigration by high-skilled people. He argued:
A century ago, America’s immigration policy was best summarized in Emma Goldman’s famous lines on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
It’s a lovely poem, and it’s true that America was the land of opportunity for millions of people. But as Julian Simon pointed out, on the whole immigrants in the 19th century were not tired, poor, huddled masses. He cites findings from economist P. J. Hill:
[I]mmigrants, instead of being an underpaid, exploited group, generally held an economic position that compared very favorably to that of the native born members of the society.
On NPR, Daniel Schorr compares the proposed wall along the southern border of the United States to the Berlin Wall and tells us, in the words of Robert Frost, “something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”
I sympathize with him. I don’t like the idea of building a wall around the United States, either. Since the Boazes arrived in America in 1747, we have seen the country prosper as the Buchanans, the Tancredos, the Dobbses, the Maglalangs, the Brimelows, the Arpaios, and millions of others arrived on these shores and were welcomed into the country that my ancestors helped to create in 1776 and 1787.
But there’s a problem with Schorr’s analogy. The Berlin Wall was designed to keep citizens in. The wall (or fence) along our southern border is intended to keep non-citizens out. There’s a very real difference. The Berlin Wall declares that the people of East Germany are the property of the East German state and are not free to live anywhere in the world other than East Germany. The Border Fence merely says that non-U.S. citizens can’t enter the United States without permission; as far as the U.S. government is concerned, they’re free to travel or live anywhere in the world except the United States.
Daniel Schorr might ponder this: He lives in a house with four strong walls and secure locks on the door. He reserves the right to bar entry to his house to anyone, and that helps to protect his life, liberty, and property. But a building with walls and locks to keep people in is called a jail.
As I said, I too don’t want a wall around the United States. But we need better arguments against it than flawed analogies.