Congratulations to REASON and Glenn Garvin ("Bringing the Border War Home," October) for exploding the myths in the debate on illegal immigration, including the inflated statistics. Americans are still not aware of the consequences of requiring a national ID card or a work permit to address this exaggerated problem. Nor do they know how very close Congress is to implementing one. When--or if--they do become aware, I'm confident that they will object to the idea. It's national masochism.
Robert Ellis Smith
As a resident of Tijuana, Mexico, and a daily commuter north to San Diego, as an employer of 10, as a white male, and an evangelical Christian and a libertarian, I felt compelled to write regarding Glenn Garvin's article.
Having just left church where the message essentially is for Christians to love others, as Christ loves us, I arrived at my post office box to find the recent issue of REASON. The article couldn't have come at a better time. Reading the first portion of the article about Lizbet Martinez I couldn't help but have tears in my eyes as I think of most Christians' response to immigration. How quickly they will cop out on love when it comes to immigration! "Sure, love others" they will say, "Um, unless they're illegal aliens."
Every day, on my way to work and when I come back to Tijuana, I see hundreds of human beings wedged alongside the old military runway fencing, waiting for their chance to make it to "El otro lado." Our business is located in the Otay Mesa section of San Diego, where the Border Patrol has their offices and "alien" holding areas. Each day, the hundreds of green and white Ford Broncos comb the streets and canyons nearby. I'm extremely puzzled at Americans' desire to increase funding for Customs and INS. How many guys do we want to pay to stand around chatting and smoking cigarettes and driving Broncos all over, arresting people for working, and fining those that provide income for others--income used to put food on tables?
As an employer, I too have all the forms and ask for all the proper documentation of legality. How is it right for others to tell me who I can and cannot hire? If I wasn't here, there would be no work for anyone. How dare others tell me who I can hire based on country of origin?
The huddled masses (literally) along the way to my home in Tijuana are desperately seeking a better life. Socialism has failed everywhere, including Mexico. If I have to go to prison as an employer, as a human being, for giving someone the opportunity to work so he or she could put food in their stomach, so be it.
Solana Beach, CA
There have been many articles that object to regulating immigration to the United States, but none were as nauseating as the barf by Glenn Garvin. You might tell Mr. Garvin that the measures he finds so draconian and oppressive are intended to placate the millions of persons, like myself, who are rightly alarmed by the invasion from Mexico. You might also tell Mr. Garvin that he should thank his lucky stars that democracy, or any other form of majority rule, does not direct this government. If an effective solution is not found soon, many of us would favor a mass deportation of the entire Spanish-speaking population, at bayonet point if necessary. I don't give a damn how long they claim to have been in this country. It may be difficult for Mr. Garvin to appreciate the fear and desperation of Anglo-Americans concerning the locally overwhelming numbers of foreign newcomers. (Funny, this is the first time I have ever referred to myself as an "Anglo.")
Any intelligent person who believes that a border between two countries cannot be sealed 100 percent lacks imagination. I dare say, the National Guard units of the border states with Mexico could seal the border, by themselves, by this weekend, and round the silly bastards up by the end of the month. Imagine, no more illegal immigration from Mexico within the month!
Don Q. Reynolds Jr.
"Bringing the Border War Home" places me in the vanguard of a movement toward a national worker identity card system. For some, any discussion of ways for employers to verify work eligibility makes one subject to such classification. But while your article attacks all proposed solutions, it fails to address the problem.
The Senate Judiciary Committee and Subcommittee on Immigration, of which I am a member, has approached the problem of illegal immigration on several fronts, the first and foremost being efforts to secure our borders. But this only addresses half the problem. The majority of illegal immigrants actually enter this country legally and either overstay or violate the terms of their visas. Without addressing the reason people come here--jobs--no amount of barbed wire or night scopes will fully solve the problem.
The system for employers today is simply unworkable. Right now, a prospective employee may present any of up to 29 different documents to establish a legal ability to work in this country. The law says it is the employer's responsibility to determine the validity of these documents, with stiff penalties (up to $25,000) if he or she hires illegal immigrants.
This puts employers in an impossible situation. Employers, especially in small businesses, have no way of verifying these documents, and yet the law says it is the employer's responsibility to do so. We must limit the number of documents that can be presented to an employer. Current proposals would cut the number down to 16. I am in favor of cutting it down even further to two or three.
At the same time, we have technology to make documents counterfeit resistant, and we should use it. At the very least, we should replace the current green card--used by legal immigrants to establish work eligibility, but which can be easily counterfeited in mass numbers--with a card that is counterfeit resistant.
The fraud expert in your article dismisses attempts to make documents counterfeit resistant but then goes on to make the strongest case in favor of such an idea. He himself designed the state of Florida's birth certificate (presumably to be as counterfeit resistant as possible) and, although the document can still be counterfeited, he admitted that its street price in Miami is now $5,000.
Compare that price to the $25 or $50 one can pay on the streets right now for fraudulent documents. Don't you think raising the price to $5,000 would serve as a deterrent? It is probably true that no documents we make will ever be totally fraud-proof. But by making them as fraud resistant as possible, we can at least make them much more difficult and substantially more expensive to reproduce illegally.
If we are serious about curbing illegal immigration, then we must make it more difficult for those who are here illegally to obtain work. The very least we can do is make it possible for employers to follow the laws we make.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein
It is important to set the record straight on some of the provisions contained in my immigration reform legislation.
First, Mr. Garvin asserts that I want to "reduce" U.S. refugee admissions to 50,000. My bill, the Immigration in the National Interest Act of 1995, sets a flexible ceiling at 50,000 annual refugee admissions, but allows the level to be raised by Congress at any time or by the president in emergency situations. The current refugee process is broken and must be fixed.
Mr. Garvin also argues that my legislation would allow the government to seize the assets of employers suspected of hiring illegal aliens. However, H.R. 2202 contains no such provision. Neither does it contain a national worker registry linking the databases of the Social Security Administration and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, as proclaimed by Mr. Garvin.
Besides the misinformation on my legislation in this article, which makes one wonder whether the author has ever read the bill, the tone it projects adds nothing to the immigration debate. Your magazine should be ashamed at the blatant attempt to play on fear and emotion as represented by the picture of an arm tattooed with a bar code on the cover. America needs to have a calm, reasoned debate on its immigration policies--not one that panders to baseless arguments and false emotion.
Rep. Lamar Smith
Subcommittee of Immigration and Claims
Your readers must be puzzled by your recent personal attacks on me, particularly considering that in 20 years in mainstream journalism I dare say I've done more for libertarianism than your writers John J. Miller and Glenn Garvin (whoever they are). Or indeed, given your sadly small circulation, than you.
Thus in "Bringing the Border War Home," Mr. Garvin tries to smear me as a "racial scientist." But in fact in my book Alien Nation: Common Sense About America's Immigration Disaster, I explicitly eschew The Bell Curve's conclusion that the average IQ of the post-1965 immigrant inflow is significantly below that of native-born Americans. Instead, I rely entirely on the overwhelming economic and sociological evidence against the current mass immigration policy. Mr. Garvin's smear is not merely a fabrication: It is a calculated effort, given contemporary standards, to drive me out of public discourse.
The reason for this extraordinary behavior is simple: The libertarian establishment simply has no answer to my demonstration, in Alien Nation, that the current mass immigration is not the result of open borders, but instead is determined in minute detail, as to numbers, origins, and skill levels, by a complex, perverse, and highly discriminatory government policy--the 1965 Immigration Act, as subsequently amended; and Washington's betrayal of its constitutional obligation to protect the states against invasion. Accordingly, establishment enforcers must either abuse me personally, as does Mr. Garvin, or suppress my book's central thesis altogether, as did Mr. Miller in his review ("Wretched Refuse," June).
Messrs. Garvin and Miller are in the same position as the boosters of dams and water projects who gulled an earlier generation of libertarians into thinking these projects were the result of market forces. In fact, they were the result of government intervention and subsidy. An entire school of free market environmentalism developed from this episode. It is time today's libertarians recognized the social engineering implications of Washington's current mass immigration policy. To say nothing of the fact that markets require meta markets--institutional and cultural frameworks--of which property rights are only the most obvious aspect.
At least the dam-boosters were after a dishonest buck. What is Garvin and Miller's agenda, and yours?
New York, NY
John J. Miller replies: Come on Peter. If I were involved in any kind of conspiracy to "suppress" your ideas about immigration, then please explain why the Center for Equal Opportunity--where I serve as vice president--sponsored a debate on the subject between you and Ron K. Unz at the National Press Club last spring. I not only helped conceptualize that event, but also organize and promote it. You may have sold a few copies of your book as a result. Either you have a strange definition of suppression, or I'm just no good at it.
Glenn Garvin replies: If Sen. Feinstein would like to withdraw from the vanguard of the movement for a combination national ID card and work permit, I think that's great. But I don't see the slightest suggestion in her letter that she intends to do so. Nor do I see any indication that she comprehends the problems with such a card. She admits that all kinds of fraudulent documents can be purchased on the street right now for $25--but it is precisely from those fraudulent documents that the federal government will create a database and issue the new national ID card.
And though she expresses dismay at the way current law plunges employers into bureaucratic hell on worker-eligibility verification, her solution is to plunge all of us into that same purgatory. Generally I oppose federal porkbarrel programs, but I think I speak for most Americans when I say that I wish Sen. Feinstein would go back to lobbying for useless zillion-dollar Defense Department projects for California and leave the rest of us alone.
Rep. Smith says he seeks a calm, reasoned debate on immigration policies. He would contribute to that debate if he would stop playing games. The article didn't refer to H.R. 2202 because that bill didn't exist when the story went to press. Instead the story specifically mentioned sections of H.R. 1915, which was Rep. Smith's bill at the time.
Rep. Smith also decides to play some unfortunate semantic games. A "flexible ceiling" on refugee admissions is the same as a cap. Changing either would require a congressional vote. And while the words "worker registry" may not appear in H.R. 1915 or H.R. 2202, here's what either bill would establish: a telephone registry of all newly hired employees which would require every employer to check either the Social Security number or alien identification number of each potential employee with the Department of Justice. Is a "verification system" substantively different from a "worker registry"? You decide.
Turning to Peter Brimelow, my story noted that he's from another country. Now I'm starting to wonder if he's not actually from another planet. There is not a single word in my story that mentions IQ or The Bell Curve, not even tangentially.
But since Mr. Brimelow has unaccountably chosen to raise the subject, let readers judge for themselves where he stands. In a footnote on page 57 of Alien Nation, Mr. Brimelow briefly explains the thesis of The Bell Curve and its authors, Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray. He continues: "In a little-noticed passage, Herrnstein and Murray blamed the 1965 Immigration Act for a sharp deterioration in immigrant quality. They estimated that the current influx has an average IQ of 95, at least 5 points below the white American mean. If they are right, of course, this suggests the consequences of current policy are far more disastrous than anything argued in this book. However, I figure I've taken enough risks already and merely report their view for what it is worth." Some eschewal.
Mr. Brimelow is quite right that selective and discriminatory government policies have distorted the natural patterns of immigration. But that doesn't mean the correct solution is to abolish immigration, any more than government construction of the Hoover Dam means we must stop drinking water or generating electricity.
As for Mr. Brimelow's question about my agenda, let me refer him to the letter above by Daniel Cannon, who captured it nicely: We ought to treat immigrants as the decent, hard-working human beings they overwhelmingly are. And, along the way, we ought to protect the liberties of all Americans, not use the fear of immigrants as an excuse for more government control of our lives and businesses.
Readers who wonder what Brimelow's agenda is but don't wish to wade through the tedious prose of Alien Nation might simply read the letter by Don Q. Reynolds, who has thoughtfully distilled its essence: "Round the silly bastards up."
What Is Truth?
Nick Gillespie's review of The Truth About Truth ("Goodbye True World," October) contains several elementary fallacies. First, he treats truth, knowledge, belief, and "truth" as if they were all the same thing. They are not. Knowledge consists of truths that are known, but since there are truths that are not known, truth cannot be identified with knowledge. "Truth" is what has been called true, presumably because it is believed to be true; but what is believed may not be true, and what is true may not be believed.
Second, he implies that truth is relative to belief because all facts are interpretations. Yes, but he overlooks the fact that all interpretations are not facts; instead, some interpretations are false. Third, he seems to share the popular idea that belief in objective truth implies dogmatism. But only those who believe that there is such a thing as the objective truth can admit that they might not know what it is.
These truisms matter politically, because the doctrine that there is no truth, just equally good competing beliefs, has always been the great enemy of reason and the great excuse for arbitrary power. Liberals should believe not that there is no truth but that reason must be left free to find it.
Department of Philosophy
University of Alabama
Nick Gillespie disparages the assumption of the Enlightenment that "man in the full knowledge of what he was doing should deliberately create such a civilization and social order as the process of his reason enabled him to design." To be sure, "modern socialism, planning, and totalitarianism" have been post-Enlightenment phenomena. But their defects result from insufficient (rather than excessive) application of the Enlightenment's principles. Modern perpetrators of interventionism (e.g. socialists) neglect to heed man's inevitable lack of full knowledge. And it is precisely in light of this lack of full knowledge that the impropriety of an imposed social order can be deduced--deduced, that is, in full accordance with the principles of the Enlightenment. Accordingly, libertarians from John Stuart Mill to Robert Nozick (men who would not exactly be termed postmodernists) advocated minimal government in direct acknowledgment of the fallibility to which people, and especially governments, are prone--a model exercise in the Socratic knowing of what one does not know.
While faults exist in the epistemological optimism common to both the Enlightenment and modern forms of totalitarianism, postmodernism offers nothing more in the way of an antidote than does the wrecking ball relative to the limitations of modern construction and architecture. Advocates of postmodernism such as Mr. Gillespie would do well to recall the somewhat pre-modern insight that "[i]t is wrong to remove the foundations of a science unless you can replace them with others more convincing." (Aristotle's De Caelo III.1.299a5-6).
Nick Gillespie replies: Max Hocutt makes useful distinctions between truth, knowledge, and belief, though I think those categories are far less clear cut than he does. More important, he misunderstands what I think is useful in postmodern thought by equating a continuing interrogation of what we believe to be true with relativism. It strikes me as self-evident that all competing interpretations are not equal--some have more predictive, explanatory, or conceptual value than others. But it is no great stretch to believe in objective truth and to recognize that we may never fully discover or understand those truths. In fact, that insight informs Karl Popper's view of rational inquiry and the paradoxical nature of "progress" in human understanding: The more we learn, the less we can be sure of. Chad Trainer errs, I think, in seeing postmodernism as antithetical to the Enlightenment. As I argued at the end of my review, that notion is more a marketing ploy (by champions and detractors alike) than anything else. Postmodernism extends the Enlightenment project in a Humean sense by using reason to challenge its own explanatory power.