Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Writing for the Boston Globe, conservative columnist Jeff Jacoby makes what passes today as a strong argument against the brain-dead anti-immigration faction of the conservative movement:
A couple from Brazil, seeking a better life for themselves and their 2-month-old daughter, enter the United States unlawfully. They settle in Massachusetts, where 18 years later the girl graduates from a public high school, as assimilated and acculturated an American as her classmates in every respect - except that they are US citizens, and she, by virtue of a decision made when she was a baby, is not. Her classmates can attend the University of Massachusetts, paying $9,704 a year in tuition, the price tag for Massachusetts residents. She can attend only if she pays the out-of-state rate of $22,157; if that's more than she can afford, she's out of luck.Jacoby notes that current Governor Deval Patrick's recent proposal to allow illegal immigrants residing in Massachusetts to pay in-state college tuition is driving conservative voters into the arms of Charlie "If you're illegally here, you're illegally here." Barker. He correctly notes that this xenophobia contradicts the idea that "what matters most about any of us ... is personal character and achievement."
How is that a rational public policy? How is Massachusetts improved by making it impossible for an accomplished high-school graduate, a lifelong resident of the state, to gain a university degree? Who benefits when her education - along with the higher earning potential it would lead to - is cut short? She doesn't. You don't. Massachusetts taxpayers certainly don't. [links dropped, other minor format edits]
Right he is, but his level of analysis is wrong, and that causes him not to raise the question he should. What, exactly should "improving" Massachusetts entail in the context of the proper function of the government? Put another way, since a proper government protects individual rights, "How is Massachusetts improved by forcing anyone to pay for anything that anybody else needs?"
I agree with Jacoby that our current immigration laws are largely preventing from coming here, "just the sort of newcomers Americans should embrace," but these aren't the only laws in need of reform. As I have argued before, the real problem is not that immigrants are sucking up social services like education, but that the government is providing these services in the first place rather than private enterprise.
As I put it before in a slightly different context, "I doubt anyone would complain if these [kids] were paying customers of American schools." I would also doubt that anyone would complain, if they needed help to attend, about them being recipients of voluntary charity, winners of academic scholarships, or participants in industrial work-study programs.
That fact that Massachusetts is running schools that it should not, and that those schools charge out-of-state tuition for some students to attend is not "making it impossible" for anyone to receive an education, but it is making it impossible for many people to benefit from the fruits of their own labor. It is probably also harming the economy of Massachusetts in myriad other unseen ways. Finally, Massachusetts, in the proper sense of its being a state founded to protect the rights of individuals, is inarguably placed in great peril by the fact that such systematic violations of our rights are happening at all, and all the more so that such violations are business as usual.