No Human Should Be Documented

Earlier this month Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson made it clear that he was against using the term ‘illegal immigrant’ and that he preferred the term ‘undocumented’. The issue of what to call illegal aliens is often discussed, see John Lee’s previous post and the general page on the topic.

Conservatives object to calling illegal aliens “migrants” on the grounds that it justifies their actions as a viable form of migration. Some in the alt-right go as far as to claim that “alien” is the proper term as it makes it clearer that ‘white’ countries are being invaded. The left on the other hand objects to the term “illegal” as it dehumanizes individuals. No human is illegal – so goes that slogan. The alternative term proposed is “undocumented”.

I am indifferent to the distinction between migrant and alien. I have to resist chuckling when I hear someone seriously worry about illegal aliens invading. Can I be blamed? My home state of California is littered with Spanish place names – Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, etc. What would the point of an invasion be at this stage? To rename Bakersfield to San Panadero?

It is the promotion of the term “undocumented” term that concerns me. Just as no human is illegal, I see no reason why we should promote the idea that humans should be documented. To me being “documented” conjures up the image of a dystopian future where we are branded with identification numbers that are needed for every little transaction. Indeed, I consider the term undocumented to be worse than illegal since it implies that all individuals, including natural born citizens, should be documented in this manner. At minimum the term implicitly justifies a program like e-verify, a de facto form of national ID in the United States, which makes one’s right to work dependent on government approval.

This is not to mean that an open borders regime would do away with all forms of identification. It would be possible to still require potential migrants to undergo a background check in order to screen out criminals. However there is a difference between a background check and requiring everyone, migrant and natives alike, to constantly present documentation.

Both terms then, illegal and undocumented, should be objected to. Alternative terms have similar failings. “Dreamer”, a moniker used to describe to illegal aliens who entered as children and are pursuing higher education, implicitly suggests that “normal” illegal aliens should be deported. “Unauthorized” still implies, if subtly, that states have the right to restrict migration.

I personally prefer the term illegal alien because, at least in the United States, I think open border advocacy needs to be focused towards conservatives. This is not to mean that the left has embraced open borders mind you, but there are more leftists in the movement than conservatives. I am willing to concede the terminology debate if it means that there is more time to make the rest of the case for open borders.

Political considerations aside, what should these individuals be called? I think the answer should be obvious to open border advocates: humans. Under open borders all individuals are humans with the same inherent rights.

Michelangelo Landgrave

Michelangelo Landgrave is an economics graduate student at California State University, Long Beach.

16 thoughts on “No Human Should Be Documented”

  1. Hi Michelangelo. Though the term illegal may technically be correct, it connotes immorality since breaking laws is normally bad. There’s no question that a “law breaker” is meant as an insult and not a compliment, and the same is true of calling someone an “illegal.”

    When a word has a certain connotation, we should only use it when we want to imbue our object with that connotation. For instance, many combat veterans have killed a person, so we could rightly call them “killers.” But being a “killer” is definitely a bad thing, so we should only do it if we’re trying to highlight the immorality of their military service.
    If immigrating illegally is unobjectionable as I believe it to be and perhaps you do, too, then we should not use a word that implies it is wrong.

    I don’t see “undocumented” as having bad connotations like “illegal.” And I doubt that saying “undocumented” makes e-verify more rather than less likely. The reason e-verify is even a thing is that many people are upset by “illegal” immigration and are looking for a way to stop it. The best remedy is to get them to see that it’s no big deal, on a moral plane with failing to renew your library card.

    1. Sharon, seems to me there’s a big difference between immigrating to a place in order to conquer it and immigrating there to work.

      Joseph, what social contract do undocumented immigrants violate?

      If you think social contract arguments are persuasive, I would suggest reading Michael Huemer’s book “The Problem of Political Authority,” which forcefully argues social contract arguments do not establish politically legitimacy. You can read his summary of the book here: http://www.cato-unbound.org/2013/03/04/michael-huemer/problem-authority

      Here is an essay Huemer wrote specifically addressing whether illegal immigration is wrong: http://peasoup.typepad.com/peasoup/2016/06/illegal-immigration-is-fine.html

  2. Hi Michelangelo. While I don’t have an opinion about whether immigrants should be labeled “undocumented,” or “aliens,” I appreciate your thoughtful discussion of the terminology. I like how you ended this piece with the fact that we are all humans. As humans, we can be both good and helpful or evil and problem-causing. I love that we live in a land of freedom, and I want that for everyone, but I feel like it is also important to protect ourselves and our country. How can we do that without documenting people? Don’t we need to have a way to verify who they are? You mentioned a background check, but what good is that if it is not followed up with valid documentation? If we don’t know who a person is, how would we know the crimes they may have committed, or if they are dangerous. Most importantly, how would we find them if we needed to? On a human level, open borders seem nice, but in practice, isn’t it dangerous? Overpopulation, fewer jobs, impacted schools, out of control health care costs, increasing crime rates and more. Here is an article that lists some concerns that come with open borders, including diseases and safety issues: http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2014/07/08/8-reasons-to-close-the-border-now/ I hope you enjoy the healthy debate. Thank you for this discussion. I appreciate your ideas and respect for human beings.

  3. In this post’s final paragraph, it suggests calling these people “humans”. That answer dodges the question. It ignores the need to refer to the particular group of humans that we are talking about on this website.

    Should we call those people “unaccepted”? That conveys how they are viewed by both the legal system and by significant parts of the population in migrant-receiving countries.

    The inaccuracy of the term “undocumented” undermines the cause of migrant rights, because it creates a perception that activists are trying to mislead or to dictate beliefs by dictating which words are permissible to use.

    The controversy is about acceptance by the receiving country’s systems and people, not about documentation. This is true even if a migrant somehow can manage to avoid breaking any law, regulation, or administrative rule.

    Alternatively, how about using “unlawfully present” in place of “illegal” in our terminology?

    For both those migrants with papers and those without, the real issue is this: some people care about violations (of laws or other government rules) that enabled the migrants we’re talking about to reside in the country. And those people often don’t care whether the migrant is blameless because someone else (human traffickers, parents of DREAMers, etc) caused the violations.

    Some people claim that the term “illegal” is demeaning or pejorative. Even if that could be proven, we could ask: why do those migrants deserve to be spared from that kind of term, given those violations I just mentioned? The migrants usually are willing beneficiaries of those violations, and often will commit more violations in order to stay in the USA.

    Activists are demanding that people stop referring to the migrants as “illegal”. Then they should suggest something much more accurate, something that captures the fact that those violations occurred (because the violations are what people care about and are the defining characteristic of the migrants we are talking about). Why should people settle for a misleading term like “undocumented” just to avoid the alleged possibility of stigmatization?

    We could say “unauthorized” instead of “illegal”. But then people could just say, “No human being is unauthorized.” So I guess that would solve nothing.

    A specific individual should not be described as “illegal” (or any replacement term) while his/her immigration status is unproven. But the term is often used to refer to a group of people known to exist in the USA (or whichever destination country is being discussed), and the appropriateness of the label for them is debatable.

    Saying “no human being is illegal” is a misleading slogan. I believe that few or no participants in the recent immigration debate ever seriously believed that people can be inherently illegal. I doubt that adults considering immigration issues believe the term “illegal immigrant” means that. The term is understood to have a different meaning.

    Instead, some people claim that a person’s presence in a particular place, or crossing a particular boundary, at a particular time can be the result of some kind of violation. Other people believe that such a presence is itself some kind of violation. I believe these are the two widely intended meanings of “illegal immigrant”. Unfortunately, it’s not always clear which of those two is meant, but both involve illegality so maybe that doesn’t matter.

    It’s true that we don’t describe people in other kinds of situations as illegal. For example, we don’t use “illegal drivers” to refer to those who get speeding tickets, or “illegal employers” to refer to those who knowingly hire employees who lack a legal right to work. But why are these migrants entitled to equality of terminology? The English language has other quirky terminology that we don’t worry about, because we know the intended meaning. We know the approximate intended meaning of this term “illegal”. Must this term have a legalistic degree of precision? Do we really need to get rid of it?

    It’s true that “illegal immigrant” is not thoroughly accurate terminology. But why is “undocumented” any better? For some of the migrants we are talking about, there do exist various documents related to their citizenship or residency.

  4. May I ask what is the role in respect to borders and migration of the people who are native to, or are the clear and undisputed settled majority in, a given land or living space?

    I am English, and I find it profoundly offensive that the groups – including government over the last six decades – in favour of open borders here do not for one instance take into account my peoples natural right on, and genetic interests in, our own homeland. An existential crisis has been created for us, yet at no time have we been asked for our consent to what has been done.

    Are natives peoples with white skin required to take no interest in their own survival and continuity? I have heard deceptive little ways to answer “yes” to that question, but none of them survive a moment’s critical examination. Setting those aside, then, what is the principle by which the race-replacement and genetic dissolution of native peoples -any native peoples, not just those with white skin – is acceptable to open borders advocates. What principle, in essence, privileges the expansive interests of foreign individuals and peoples over native peoples? How would such a privilege not lead to a social darwinian, racial supremacist hell where power dictates everything, where any group of people can take what it wants when it wants it, and the principle of self-defence itself does not apply?

    1. As an occasional guest blogger on openborders.info, let me try to answer some of those questions, Guessedworker.

      “May I ask what is the role in respect to borders and migration of the people who are native to, or are the clear and undisputed settled majority in, a given land or living space?”

      Those in the majority ought to enjoy the same rights as those in the minority, namely that their individual rights will be respected. If you’re wondering whether majorities have the right to impose their will just by being majorities, let me present you with a scenario: you and a group of friends go out for drinks, and at the end they vote that you should pick up the tab. Is that their right as members of the majority? That’s where you’ll find the answer to your previous question.

      “Are natives peoples with white skin required to take no interest in their own survival and continuity?”

      Let me give an account of what I think people are allowed to do. If you want to pass on traditions to your children, you are within your rights to do that. If you as a white person wish to date or marry only other white people, you are within your rights to do so. What you are *not* allowed to do is to prevent your neighbors from marrying non-whites, or prevent non-whites from working at nearby factories, or anything else that involves coercing others.

      1. Andy writes, in reply to me: Those in the majority ought to enjoy the same rights as those in the minority, namely that their individual rights will be respected.

        Humanity does not consist of individuals. This is a Cartesian lie in which the interests of the individual are contrary to, or exclusionary to, the interests of his people. Only Western liberals believe this.

        The human fact is that we are all tribal, we are all ethnic. Every man whose forebears are a distinct people is of that people, owes his existence to that people, shares genetic interests with that people, and natural right to and on that people’s soil, takes his sociobiology from that people … everything that he inherits, including his ideal of Woman, for example … and, if he manages to behave endogamously, he will continue the life of that people. If he is healthy of mind he will know security in that people’s midst, and natural love and loyalty from them and toward them. He will willingly labour and sacrifice for them. He will give everything for them. There is no bond in Nature more powerful than this. In extremis, it surpasses in necessity even parenthood (at least, for the male of the species).

        To declare this natural endowment void because our skin is white is the new racism. You would not presume so were we non-white. You would allow to us the natural right to struggle to exist on our own soil, and to reject our colonisation and replacement accordingly. So why the hypocrisy now?

        Andy writes: Let me give an account of what I think people are allowed to do. If you want to pass on traditions to your children, you are within your rights to do that. If you as a white person wish to date or marry only other white people, you are within your rights to do so. What you are *not* allowed to do is to prevent your neighbors from marrying non-whites, or prevent non-whites from working at nearby factories, or anything else that involves coercing others.

        You are withdrawing from white peoples the right to self-defence, and to live sovereign and free from colonisation and replacement. You are talking about coercing replacement and genetic dissolution on white peoples. You are talking about a gene-killing.

        Let me tell you what you, as a liberal, should believe. There is one right given in Nature to all living things, and it is the right to struggle for life (not the direct right to life) – always allowing that the natural imperative can be admitted to have some degree of choice or decision in it. The principle of universality can and does apply here, also. Either every person and every people, without exception, has this right to struggle for existence, or none has it.

        Clearly, the possession of this right accords with natural justice and leads to diverse humanity as we have known it throughout its history. The denial of this right means that there can obtain no concern for continuity of existence and, therefore, no recourse to defend that existence. Ironically, this would lead, as I said in my first comment, to a social darwinian, racial supremacist hell where power dictates everything, where any group of people can take what it wants when it wants it, and the principle of self-defence itself does not apply.

        The first proposition is ethnic nationalist in kind. The second proposition is liberal in its present globalist and neo-liberal as well as neo-Marxist and anti-racist form. To be truly liberal, a liberal cannot be neo-liberal or neo-Marxist … cannot selectively declare one people’s life irrelevant while labelling their dissent as “racism” … but must believe in the universality of the right to struggle for life not just individually but collectively and at the ethnic level.

    1. “Well in that case, Mexico, China, India, and Iran must all open their borders to unlimited US workers immediately in any quantities.”

      Actually, what those countries need to do most is open their economies to U.S. corporations. They would see a substantial rise in output. Unfortunately, most countries on earth are run by protectionist or semi-protectionist politicians.

  5. Clear-thinking people realize open borders always results in more government.

    This is because either the new immigrants demand it (Free Shit Army!), or the locals do – to protect them from the newly included members of the Free Shit Army.

    Doug Casey neatly summed up how open up the borders without harm:

    1) there can be no welfare or free government services, so everyone has to pay his own way, and no freeloaders are attracted; and

    2) all property is privately owned, to minimize the possibility of squatter camps full of beggars.

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-10-06/how-solve-migrant-crisis-2-easy-steps

    1. “Clear-thinking people realize open borders always results in more government.”

      I would think the opposite would be true. A government that feels empowered to control migration will feel empowered to limit freedom in other ways.

    1. I’m not high on the welfare state, either, but why *can’t* they co-exist?

      Here are a few solutions I have in mind beginning with my first choice:
      1) Reduce the welfare state over time for everyone
      2) Make immigrants ineligible for welfare for a certain number of years after immigrating
      3) If 1 and 2 aren’t possible, then just raise taxes. Taxes are immoral but not as immoral as a complete ban on working.

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