So, after weeks of having our morals questioned by George Bush, Michael Chertoff, Linda Chavez, the Wall Street Journal editorial board, and a galaxy of other well-known friends of the undocumented, we arrive at last at the nadir of racial demagoguery on this issue. Coming soon to an Opinion Journal editorial near you:
How do you justify a border fence? Why is it OK to consign millions of unskilled Mexicans to lives of desperate poverty? I’m told it’s because Americans should care more about their countrymen than about a bunch of foreigners. OK, but how much more? Surely there’s some limit; virtually nobody thinks, for example, that Americans should be allowed to hunt Mexicans for sport. So, exactly how much are you willing to hurt a foreigner to help an American? Is a foreigner’s well-being worth three-quarters as much as an American’s, or half as much, or one-quarter as much?…
Bottom line: When the immigrant crosses the border, Americans lose $3, and the immigrant gains $7. To oppose that, you’d have to count an immigrant as less than three-sevenths of an American.
But wait! It’s worse than that… [I]t turns out that the immigrant’s $7 gain is worth about five times the American’s $3 loss. In other words, to justify keeping the immigrant out, you’d have to say he’s worth less than one-fifth of an American citizen.
By contrast, there was a time when the U.S. Constitution counted a black slave as three-fifths of a full-fledged citizen. Alabama Gov. Bob Riley has recently apologized for the ravages of slavery. How long till politicians apologize for the ravages of our restrictive immigration policies?
I offer this in the same magnanimous, fair-minded spirit in which his own argument is made: is he saying Mexicans would be better off as American slaves than as free men back home? Also, what conclusions might we draw about how we “value” people in other countries given how much we spend on ourselves versus how much we spend on them? The mere existence of U.S. borders would seem to “consign” billions around the world to vastly lower standards of living than we enjoy; as such, what economic measures should be taken to narrow this horrendous gap so that the average Bangladeshi is no longer “worth” one one-thousandth of an American or whatever? Surely we should at least strive to whittle it to three-fifths so we’re no longer subjected to cheap, dishonest, nakedly race-baiting arguments like these.
I’m almost afraid to ask what implications this argument holds for abortion.
Update: And just like that, I’m in a good mood again.