As Loretta Lynch's U.S. Senate confirmation hearings for the office of Attorney General opened on January 28, Republicans were dying to ask her just how friendly she might be to the class of people government defines as "illegal aliens." In an exchange with immigration scrooge Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), Sessions wondered who Lynch believes has the right to work in America. Specifically, he asked: Who has "more right" - a lawful immigrant, a citizen, or a person who entered the country unlawfully? Lynch wisely opted to dodge Sessions' silly multiple-choice question, instead responding that if a person is here unlawfully, she'd prefer it be as a participant in America's workforce.
Sessions' line of questioning - and the answer he was fishing for - reveal much about the political class' warped thinking. The bipartisan immigration-bashing contingent in Washington believes, as Sheldon Richman notes, "permission to work is theirs to bestow." Unfortunately, that belief is the law of the land. Today, who may work is a question decided largely by Washington bureaucrats and special interests jockeying to buy legal monopolies on their services. While you may think yourself free to pursue work of your choosing, the countless prerequisites and riders imposed by government drastically narrow your choices. If you're fortunate enough to overcome those obstacles, your ability to remain effective at your craft is often curtailed as you're forced to wade through a morass of government-mandated compliance.
Politicians rely on this hugely important power to maintain a stranglehold on their subjects. The right to bestow work upon their subjects, and all of the ancillary terms and conditions that come with granting work as privilege, allow the parasitic political class to fill its pockets in the most efficient way possible. If work - whether that of an illegal immigrant or an American black-market laborer - is re-routed through unregulated marketplaces, politicians lose the ability to track it and extort tribute. Failure to comply with their tangled web of tax, labor, and administrative law, not to mention licensing schemes laid over entire professions, risks having your livelihood pulled out from under you. The whole complex structure is falsely sold as protecting producers and consumers alike.
Illegal immigration itself is not what scares bureaucrats. Their fear is loss of control over the income streams that result from unregulated immigrant labor. Sessions and his fellow border guards in Congress couch their fear in terms of "us versus them" rhetoric, a brilliant stage act serving important political purposes. With this sleight of hand, politicians lead you to believe their fears are not for the loss of taxpayer loot, but for "your" jobs, "your" Medicare, and "your" Social Security. Those here legally and working lawfully (and paying taxes) are said to serve a patriotic function. The state's skimming of their paychecks is not to be abhorred, but welcomed as a vital contribution to everyone else's well-being. Those who work without permission are the enemy, undoing the noble work of the lawfully employed. "You" are good and "they" are bad. Politically powerless undocumented immigrants make an easy target for Washington, putting a false human face on politicians' fake hysteria. Madison Avenue couldn't have designed a better ruse.
It's also worth recognizing the immigration scare's target audience: (1) unemployed and insecure American workers, and (2) retirees. The "us versus them" mantra becomes more potent when you're told something tangible may be taken from you if immigration is not stemmed. Those already secure, successful, and relatively independent of the state concern themselves less with others' work and pay arrangements. Furthermore, older Americans, many themselves immigrants or descendants of immigrants, are generally less tolerant of the new wave of brown-skinned immigrants. This other-ization is an easier sell to older Americans who have less experience and interaction with them and are told that their presence leads to the disintegration of American culture.
The real source of worker insecurity, cultural ruin, and general predation on honest, hard-working people is the state. Poking holes in the politicians' immigration story and lifting the veil on their real motives, all while recognizing the humanity of our supposed enemies, is a solid first step on the road to real liberty.
Chad Nelson is a Rhode Island-based attorney and a contributing author at the Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS.org), where this article originally appeared.