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Friday, September 5, 2014

On Immigration: The Duties of the Federal Government

A different twist on this topic.

(Note: If you think this is about amnesty, you are missing the point. Here's your update: President Obama now states he will hold off on amnesty until after the November midterm. But this column is about the underlying psychological and behavioral aspects of policymaking.)

Start with the belief by a good number, maybe a plurality if not a majority, that the American people and their federal government should be "more welcoming" to immigrants, legal or not.

The first associated principle is that the American people and the federal government are extensions of each other.  The second associated principle is that the American people and its federal government owe a duty to the excluded masses to tear down their barriers to free and open immigration.

Whether you agree with these principles or not, do we not need to address the central but hidden question: To whom do the American people owe a duty? (Said differently, who is entitled to the benefit, the entitlement, from the American people?)

If you argue that we owe a duty to all peoples of the world, does this not mean that the entitlement of our own people and specifically our children comes, well, second?

If we do not put the interests of our own families first, are we not creating a preference for others over our own families? And when we put our families' interests second -- a distant second, some argue -- can you identify anyone who would put them first?

Does this not hurt our families? Are our families, our children, effectively subordinated in priority? Effectively punished for being our family members?

I would contend that the duties of any nation's government run first to its own people. Other governments may abdicate those duties, may commit horrible atrocities, but exactly what event warrants -- never mind, compels -- the government of another nation to sacrifice or subordinate the interests of its own people to the interests of a foreign people?

Some open-borders advocates get very emotional on this issue. Their emotion betrays their real purpose. You see, this debate has a visceral edge that is not at all about immigration. 

It is about how they feel, their feelings of being recognized for being compassionate, or fair. (Mind you, this is worlds different from actually being compassionate, or fair, or whatever.) You see, in this society, feelings are exalted and approval by The People Who Matter is treasured. 

It is about their need to receive the approval of others, that they are indeed good people. It is self-esteem-seeking gone wild. Outerdirectedness run amok.

Yet aren't these sentiments in line with, or even require, an absolute abdication of responsibility to those to whom we as a people, and our federal government, owe a unique duty, and to those who have no one else but us upon which to rely?  Don't these sentiments produce (or require) an abandonment of our families who would be left alone while we galavant to save the children in a faraway land?

Don't these sentiments boil down to this?: "Abandon your own children, there are others more deserving than your own." 

Doesn't this boil down to the concept, the argument of taking anything we can get, we come first no matter what?

In light of the foregoing, aren't these demands for your compassion really exhortations for you to toss your children, your families aside in favor of, well, anyone else?

And if the "anyone else" here cannot readily be ascertained or identified, it does seem as if their identity is as insignificant as their actual condition, so helping people with a dubious need would appear to be quite dubious, no? Then that leads to the inference that the value here is not helping others who are argued to be less fortunate.

The real value is far more ominous, evil even: The value is in hurting your families, your children, for no apparent reason that the fact that they are your descendants. 

The proper answer to the crowd seeking to induce and exploit guilt is to assert that insistence on enforcement is both rational and a recognition that we must discharge our responsibilities to those to whom we owe a duty and who are relying on us and who have no one else on whom to rely. 

Surrender to guilt is both cowardice and narcissistic. Assertion of responsibility, especially in the face of disapproval and reprisal, is both courageous and responsible. 

Surrender to guilt is an act of thinking about oneself, about one's benefits in receiving the approval of others.

Assertion of responsibility is far different. It is an act of thinking -- and then doing -- on behalf of others.

You tell me which makes you more of a responsible American citizen.

Eric Dixon is a New York attorney, entrepreneur and political strategist who uses behavioral analysis in his work. Comments may be addressed to him at

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