“Illegal” immigrants and Nuremburg

by Harry Binswanger
(posted with permission from HBL:  www.hblist.com
Other than (most) HBLers, virtually everyone regards “illegal” immigration as dishonorable, if not contemptible. There is a stain of dishonor here, but it brands the illegalizers. Making free, peaceful travel illegal is a grave violation of rights, the rights of immigrants and of the Americans who would trade with, learn from, and befriend them.
Given that laws restricting immigration are dead wrong, what are we to think of those who break these laws? Well, the “illegals” broke them because they value America. They broke them in order to live a free, better, richer life. And, the vast majority of cases, obeying anti-immigration law would mean never getting to live here. It’s a life sentence.
Breaking this law to build a better life is courageous and admirable. There’s no force involved, just avoidance of those who would initiate force.
An “illegal” immigrant is, in principle, like a Jew in Nazi Germany who refused to wear the yellow star. Yes, I grant you that ours is not an illegitimate, barbarous dictatorship like the Nazi regime, and in the name of objectivity, there is a certain deference due to legality and lawfulness as such. But not at the price of spending one’s life in Senegal, Haiti, or even Greece, instead of America. There is no moral requirement to martyr oneself to any form of obedience to others—neither to their values nor to their disgraceful, rights-violating legislation.
It is wrong to wield private force; it is wrong to take the law into one’s own hand. But these are not involved in illegal immigration.
The principle established at the Nuremburg war-crimes trials was that a monstrous act cannot be excused by saying that one was merely obeying the law, “just following orders.” Basic morality trumps the merely legal. The corollary is that one cannot be condemned for disobeying a monstrous law on the grounds that “those are the rules,” “the nation decided, so just follow orders.” A monstrous law should neither be enforced nor obeyed. It must be repealed.
It is not enough to give “illegals” amnesty. These long-oppressed individuals need also an official apology from our government.

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