Gerson's Immigration Insanity

Carrying on with my patriotic duty, today’s latest installment comes courtesy of Joe Knippenberg, who rather likes Gerson but can’t swallow this gristle:

But a young woman who dies in the desert during a perilous crossing for the dream of living in America is not the moral equivalent of a drug dealer. Millions of hardworking, religious, family-oriented neighbors make unlikely “criminals.” And treating them as such alienates an even larger group of Hispanic citizens.

I agree completely with Knippenberg that “Compassion for people who want a better life should lead us to creating a rigorous and generous immigration program, not to turning a blind eye to a porous border,” but, to put the cherry on top, I invite readers to contemplate how Gerson’s argument is weakened by:

  • his blatant use of gendered argument to try to subject the logic of border control to moral subterfuge;
  • his theft of the term ‘unlikely “criminal”’ from the bank-robbing grannies who heretofore exclusively defined it;
  • his failure to understand that ‘Hispanic’ citizens are indeed likely to be alienated by a policy that gives their ‘co-ethnics’ access to the goods of citizenship without requiring them to be citizens.

For every ounce of blood dripping from Gerson’s sleeve there is a normal person’s response to the moral anxiety that is his stock in trade. If you don’t want young women — or, indeed, middle-aged men — dying in the desert, seal the border so they can’t get there. Too heartless? What about posting, along with a Border Guard tower, a Citizenship Booth every twenty-five miles? If you don’t want good people to remain criminals simply because they broke the law, either deport them or go for amnesty — but let me tell you about the number of Mexican criminals in the representative Echo Park neighborhood of LA, and get back with me on the number of those guys who were citizens. And finally, if you don’t want to ‘alienate Hispanics’, consider treating them as real people instead of as a patched-up ethnic group in which Cuban-Americans, for example, are assumed to place race solidarity above the solidarity of citizenship.

The big problem with Gerson’s ‘moral internationalism’ is not that it has a big heart or a goofy smile. The big problem is that it’s inimical to citizenship. Gerson and his ilk long for the day that Americans don’t get a better shake in life just because they’re Americans. The moral outrage aimed at people against amnesty would, I guarantee you, magically rematerialize if amnesty were granted and the border sealed. All those excluded people! Moral internationalism, at Gersonian levels, is dedicated to the notion that politics is, at best, an imperfect means to a perfect end, and, at worst, an impediment. But, ironically, in believing that citizenship is only good insofar as it secures access to moral goods, moral internationalists fail to understand that exclusive citizenship is a moral good in and of itself. Because, among other reasons, when citizenship becomes meaningless, political rule still somehow thrives, and commodious living grows perilously contingent when political liberty dies.