Immigrants & refugees: a thought experiment

I’ve got a challenge for you. Try to imagine: you and your family are living somewhere the rest of humanity seems to have forgotten. You have no economic prospects, your children can’t get an education, your government controls your entire existence, you either have no private property or your property is valueless, basic living costs can’t be met, and you can’t even get the most basic of items for survival, like clean drinking water. And no, you are not a resident of Flint, Michigan.


Then add in – as is true in many circumstances – you live under the daily threat of death from war, terrorism, sectarian violence, criminal gangs, or subjugation by tyrants who use things like food and water as their means of coercion.

Unless you’ve lived it, or seen it with your own eyes, it’s an existence nearly impossible for the average American to envision. What passes for poverty in the United States is a life the impoverished in the rest of the world would see as great comfort. But please try, and then ask yourself this question:

What price or risk of consequence would I not endure to escape a hellish existence and have a better life?

It’s a simple cost/benefit proposition. If death—or conditions ultimately leading to death—is your daily life, what wouldn’t you risk to have a chance at life?

It’s very easy for us, as people with roofs over our heads, food to eat, water to drink, medicine to cure treatable medical conditions, our children not being impressed into combat service by tyrants, etc. to say, “I’d want to migrate elsewhere and build a better life, but I’d obey the law.”

Obedience of the law unto death: I seem to recall that was rejected from the United States’ very founding.

[A]ccordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations…evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty…to provide new Guards for their future Security.


Immigration and refugee policy are on the campaign battle lines. Yes, the economic and homeland security policy concerns being raised are serious and must be paid close, considered attention, but the default is to let rhetoric and impractical, pandering solutions that merely try to placate the extreme opposites of opinion trump discussion of what practically can be done to both address the current situation and address the conditions that produce illegal immigration and mass migration.

There are two things I see missing from the discourse on these topics.

The first is reason. Logically there is no law, no wall, no enforcement effort, no penalty (even death) that will ever outweigh the desire and drive of the impoverished and persecuted to get to the United States or anywhere that offers them a better existence. So long as living conditions elsewhere exceed those where one is, people will come by whatever means they can grasp at, regardless of consequences.

Want to end illegal immigration once and for all? Destroy our own existence, our own prosperity, our own safety, such that life in the United States is worse than the proverbial hell holes illegal immigrants and refugees currently live in. Do that, and the world will stay home. If you look at life in America versus elsewhere logically, I think you’ll come to the same conclusion.

The second is liberty. Face facts: both Democrats and Republicans (speaking broadly as parties, noting individual exceptions) are identical when it comes to government. They both are fine with expansive government on their own terms, and they both above all else want to preserve their power within an ever-expanding government. Speaking solely to the Republican-leaning side, as it makes up core Hot Air readership, liberty is supposedly something the GOP believes in and is supposedly the solution to all human wrongs, but it isn’t trusted to be a winning message.


Republicans talk about liberty, but never do much of anything from a policy standpoint to advance it; they’re distrustful of it. If you truly believe that liberty is the way, how can you concede that “immigrants” and “refugees” that come here can’t be won by a message of free enterprise, self reliance, personal responsibility, and individual achievement? Unless liberty is a false premise, it is a message that applies to all, regardless of race, nationality, religion, etc.

Republicans cast fear about a “permanent Democratic majority” because they believe, without openly saying it, that government is the only way, and they really only care about being the ones to run it. They have conceded that the only outcome for immigrants of any status is that they’ll wind up on government welfare programs (which Republicans are more than happy to expand, so long as they do the expanding) and cast their votes if naturalized as citizens for the party who is public about their love of spreading the wealth around, i.e. the Democrats.

Perhaps instead of the same old “Democrat vs. Republican” or “Conservative vs. Establishment RINO” political playbooks, we could try something new and innovative, and that would differentiate on the basis of solutions.

The easiest way for us to screen candidates for admission to the United States is if they present themselves to immigration enforcement for screening. Why do so many circumvent our laws to enter? Because their circumstances demand that they can’t wait. Fix the legal immigration system first, and you will necessarily reduce the number of people who will try to enter illegally. Border security is important, but a line-in-the-sand of “close the border first” is exactly the position progressives want us to have. They’ll defeat it in the court of public opinion, every time. Outflank them. Change the rules of the game.


And what of caring for immigrants or refugees? Stop conceding that government will wind up caring for them. Back in the summer of 2014, many “conservatives” went out of their way to excoriate people (including other “conservatives”) who voluntarily provided aid to illegal immigrant children as supporting “amnesty” or “open borders”. No, what they were doing was supporting humanity, on their own, without government.

Our Constitution opens with “We, the people” not “We, the government”; we can accomplish things as individuals and as a culture that our government can’t, and that we shouldn’t want government to in the first place. How do you win over a new arrival to the United States to a message of liberty? How do you prevent the “permanent Democratic majority”? Demonstrate to these people by action that private enterprise and individual efforts can exceed anything government provides them.

You probably don’t know the name Milana Vayntrub, but you know who she is. She’s the woman in the AT&T commercials playing sales representative “Lily”, an all-American pretty face, right? Milana and family came here over a quarter-century ago as refugees from religious persecution under the Soviet Union. She recently saw the Syrian refugee crisis in Greece first hand, and upon returning home, decided that we can’t do nothing.


I don’t know what Milana’s politics are, and honestly I don’t care, because she’s right. This is an area where governments everywhere have failed us, and failed those who face “Will I live, or will I die?” as a matter of daily routine. And governments will never fix it, but perhaps we can make a difference: one life at a time.

People are going to leave places where they are subjugated for greener pastures, period. We will not stop them. The real question is what we do about them when they get here, or other prosperous places like Western Europe, because they will. Efforts to stop them will never exceed the will to pursue freedom, and why would we want them to?

And by the way, this isn’t the first time our political and social culture has feared being overwhelmed by immigration.

“The Great Fear of the Period” c. 1860-1869 (Source: Library of Congress)

We’re better than that today, aren’t we?

Allan Bourdius is a co-founder of Vigilant Liberty Radio and the co-host of the station’s “Roundtable of Extreme Liberty”, host of “Their Finest Hour” and the founder of the blog of the same name. You can follow him on Twitter as @allanbourdius.

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David Strom 12:40 PM | July 23, 2024