Since I grew up on the Texas-Mexico border, I have long become accustomed to heartrending stories involving the U.S. government’s decades-long war against illegal immigrants, but for some reason a front-page story in yesterday’s New York Times hit me really hard. I don’t see how anyone could read the article and still endorse immigration controls.
The story details the immigration travails of Javier Flores, a Mexican citizen who illegally entered the United States 13 years ago. His reason? To better his life through labor. He was born and raised in one of the poorest villages in Mexico, named La Mixtequita, which is located in the southern part of the country in the state of Chiapas.
After entering the United States, Flores went to Ohio, where he worked in different jobs, ultimately ending up working for a company in Akron, where he rose to become a manager. He got married. The couple had four children, all of whom are American citizens. Until recently, they lived in a four-bedroom house in suburbia. Flores owned a F-150 truck.
One day he was suddenly picked up by federal immigration authorities. Denying him the opportunity to say goodbye to his wife and kids, federal officials transported him to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, where he grabbed a bus back to his hometown in Mexico.
The town is so poor that the only phone service comes from a landline in his parents’ home that works only periodically. The only Internet connection is through a local Internet café, whose computers are broken.
Every day, his wife and children call him, begging him to return. His wife tells him that the family situation is desperate, especially financially. The kids keep asking him when he’s coming home.
But Flores isn’t coming “home.” For one thing, he lacks the $8,0000 necessary to hire a “coyote” to smuggle him into the United States. For another thing, even though the article doesn’t point this out, if he gets caught a second time, he is looking at a felony conviction and a long term in the federal penitentiary.
Flores thinks about the possibility of bringing his wife and children to La Mixtequita but lacks even the money to secure passports and transportation for them. More important, he obviously is having a difficult time bringing himself to consign his family to a life of misery, malnutrition, lack of education, and extreme poverty.
The only job opportunity Flores now has is helping his father and brothers pick limes from a small nearby orchard. The crop is fully picked within a few days. The family then has to wait until a new batch of limes is ready for picking. In the meantime, they just sit around the house waiting for the new batch of limes to mature. Flores makes about $10 a day, when there are limes to be picked.
Why? What’s the point of inflicting such misery on people? After all, who was Flores hurting? He and an American employer struck a mutually agreeable deal. Both sides benefited. The American employer benefited because he got a hard worker. Flores benefited because he got a good-paying job. Indeed, America’s welfare recipients benefited because Flores was paying taxes on his income!
Why shouldn’t people be free to enter into mutually beneficial economic transactions with one another? Why shouldn’t an American employer be free to hire anyone he wants? It’s his money, isn’t it? It’s his business, isn’t it? What business does the state have in interfering with such mutually beneficial transactions?
For a century, immigration controls have brought nothing but death, destruction, misery, impoverishment, and despair. What happened to Javier Flores has happened to countless other people. How Americans reconcile this type of thing with their Sunday church attendance and God’s second-greatest commandment (“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”) is beyond me.
There is only one solution to these types of horror stories: the free market—that is, the right of people to cross borders freely in search of a better life and to enter into mutually beneficial economic relationships with others. That’s what genuine freedom is all about. It’s also what morality is all about.