Immigration and Freedom

As President Obama and Congress grapple for prominence in the
debate over immigration, both have lost sight of the true nature of
the issue at hand.The issue the politicians and bureaucrats would rather avoid is
the natural law. The natural law is a term used to refer to human
rights that all persons possess by virtue of our humanity. These
rights encompass areas of human behavior where individuals are
sovereign and thus need no permission from the government before
making choices in those areas. Truly, in the Judeo-Christian
tradition, only God is sovereign—meaning He is the source of His
own power.Having received freedom from our Creator and, in America, thanks
to the values embraced by most of the Founding Fathers, individuals
are sovereign with respect to our natural rights. St. Thomas
Aquinas taught that our sovereignty is a part of our human nature,
and our humanity is a gift from God. In 1776, Thomas Jefferson
himself recognized personal sovereignty in the Declaration of
Independence when he wrote about Nature’s God as the Creator and
thus the originator of our inalienable human rights.The rights that Jefferson identified consist of the well-known
litany of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. By the time
his ideological soul mate James Madison was serving as the
scrivener at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, the list of
natural rights had been expanded to include those now encompassed
by the Bill of Rights. Yet again, the authors of the Constitution
and its first 10 amendments recognized that the rights being
insulated from government interference had their origin in a source
other than the government.This view of the natural law is sweet to the heart and pleasing
to the ear when politicians praise it at patriotic events, but it
is also a bane to them when it restrains their exercise of the
coercive powers of the government. Thus, since the freedom of
speech, the development of personality, the right to worship or not
to worship, the right to use technologically contemporary means for
self-defense, the right to be left alone, and the right to own and
use property all stem from our humanity, the government simply is
without authority to regulate human behavior in these areas, no
matter what powers it purports to give to itself and no matter what
crises may occur. Among the rights in this category is the freedom
of movement, which today is called the right to travel.The right to travel is an individual personal human right, long
recognized under the natural law as immune from governmental
interference. Of course, governments have been interfering with
this right for millennia. The Romans restricted the travel of Jews;
Parliament restricted the travel of serfs; Congress restricted the
travel of slaves; and starting in the late 19th century, the
federal government has restricted the travel of non-Americans who
want to come here and even the travel of those already here. All of
these abominable restrictions of the right to travel are based not
on any culpability of individuals, but rather on membership in the
groups to which persons have belonged from birth.The initial reasons for these immigration restrictions involved
the different appearance and culture of those seeking to come here
and the nativism of those running the government here. Somehow, the
people who ran the government believed that they who were born here
were superior persons and more worthy of American-style freedoms
than those who sought to come here. This extols nativism.Nativism is the arch-enemy of the freedom to travel, as its
adherents believe they can use the coercive power of the government
to impair the freedom of travel of persons who are unwanted not
because of personal behavior, but solely on the basis of where they
were born. Nativism teaches that we lack natural rights and enjoy
only those rights the government permits us to exercise.Yet, the freedom to travel is a fundamental natural right. This
is not a novel view. In addition to Aquinas and Jefferson, it has
been embraced by St. Augustine, John Locke, Thomas Paine, Rev. Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr., Pope John Paul II and Justice Clarence
Thomas. Our fundamental human rights are not conditioned or even
conditionable on the laws or traditions of the place where our
mothers were physically located when we were born. They are not
attenuated because our mothers were not in the United States at the
moment of our births. Stated differently, we all possess natural
rights, no more and no less than any others. All humans have the
full panoply of freedom of choice in areas of personal behavior
protected from governmental interference by the natural law, no
matter where they were born.Americans are not possessed of more natural rights than
non-Americans; rather, we enjoy more opportunities to exercise
those rights because the government is theoretically restrained by
the Constitution, which explicitly recognizes the natural law. That
recognition is articulated in the Ninth Amendment, which declares
that the enumeration of certain rights in the Constitution shall
not be used by the government as an excuse to deny or disparage
other unnamed and unnamable rights retained by the people.So, if I want to invite my cousins from Florence, Italy, to come
here and live in my house and work on my farm in New Jersey, or if
a multinational corporation wants the best engineers from India to
work in its labs in Texas, or if my neighbor wants a friend of a
friend from Mexico City to come here to work in his shop, we have
the natural right to ask, they have the natural right to come here,
and the government has no moral right to interfere with any of
these freely made decisions.If the government can restrain the freedom to travel on the
basis of an immutable characteristic of birth, there is no limit to
the restraints it can impose.

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Immigration and Freedom


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