Victor Davis Hanson: Socrates on Illegal Immigration





After Socrates was convicted by a court of questionable charges, his friends planned to break him out of his jail in Athens. But the philosopher refused to flee. Instead, he insisted that a citizen who lived in a consensual society should not pick and choose which laws he finds convenient to obey.

Selective compliance, Socrates warned, would undermine the moral integrity of the entire legal system, ensuring anarchy. And so, as Plato tells us, the philosopher accepted the court's death sentence and drank the deadly hemlock.

Socrates' final lesson about the sanctity of the law is instructive now in our current debate over illegal immigration.

There are, of course, many objections to illegal immigration besides that it is against the law: Unlawful workers undermine the wages of our own citizen entry-level workers. Employers who depend on imported labor find common ground with ethnic chauvinists; they both exploit a large, vulnerable and unassimilated constituency. And security analysts warn us that it is insane to allow a 2,000-mile open border at a time when terrorist infiltrators are planning to kill us.

Yet few have criticized illegal immigration solely because millions have, with impunity, flouted the law — aliens, their employers and the officials who look the other way.

But Socrates would do just that, and also point to our hypocrisy.

The alien from Mexico chooses which American laws he finds convenient. He wants our border police to leave him alone — until he becomes lost in the desert or is attacked by robbers.

The employer expects trespassing laws to be enforced to keep vagrants off his premises, but then assumes that the same vigilant police will ignore the illegal status of his cheap labor force.

And does the city council that orders its policemen not to turn over arrested illegal aliens to the border patrol similarly allow townspeople to ignore their municipal tax bills?

When thousands operate cars without state-mandated licenses and car insurance, why should other drivers bother to purchase them? If police pull over motorists and do not verify the legal status of aliens, why do they check for outstanding arrest warrants of citizens?...




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