Who are the real immigration lawbreakers – foreign citizens who cross illegally into the United States in search of work or U.S. officials who arrest and incarcerate them?
The Declaration of Independence emphasized that all men (not just Americans) are endowed by their Creator with certain fundamental and inherent rights. Among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
What do each of these rights entail?
The right to life means that each person has the natural and God-given right to sustain his life through labor. He does this by utilizing the talents and abilities with which he was born.
The economic aspect of liberty entails the right to engage in economic enterprise freely and to enter into mutually beneficial exchanges with others. A singer might offer a concert to people who are willing to pay to listen to the performance. Or a farmhand might offer his labor services to a farm owner.
As part of this process, the individual gradually begins to accumulate wealth or property, which he saves, invests, consumes, or donates. Thus, the English philosopher John Locke, upon whose Second Treatise on Civil Government Thomas Jefferson relied in writing the Declaration, had written that life, liberty, and property were fundamental, God-given rights.
As a person engages in labor, enters into economic exchanges, and accumulates wealth, he finds that as he goes from barely surviving to a higher standard of living, the wider ambit of economic choices enables him to pursue happiness in more fulfilling ways.
Thus, the natural and God-given rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness are closely integrated and interrelated.
Do U.S. immigration laws trump these natural and God-given rights that exist in all men? How can they? The Declaration emphasized that these rights preexist government and that, in fact, governments are called into existence to protect the exercise of these rights, not to regulate or prohibit them.
It is true that throughout history, tyrannical governments have enacted and enforced laws that infringe upon these fundamental rights of man. But as our Founding Fathers often reminded the world, any man-made law that contradicts natural law or God’s law is null and void and entitled to no respect whatsoever.
Therefore, whenever a Mexican citizen (or Chinese, Korean, or other foreigner) who has crossed the U.S. border in search of work to sustain or improve his life finds himself in an American jail for illegal entry into the United States, he should never believe that he has done anything immoral. After all, he hasn’t murdered, raped, stolen, or otherwise initiated violence against another human being. All that he has done is exercise the natural and God-given right to survive and improve his life through peaceful labor and economic exchange – the right that exists in all men everywhere.
Who then are the real immigration lawbreakers – people who exercise their inherent God-given rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness or government officials who violate the laws of Nature and Nature’s God by punishing people for exercising such rights? The answer seems fairly simple.