Caution Sign of illegal aliens crossing road


Some advocates of high immigration justify the harm it does to this country by arguing that we are ethically bound to honor the heroism and courage of those who leave their countries and tenaciously fight to immigrate here for the betterment of their families.

Well, I am happy to concede to my immigrant friends that they have been bold and often brave. I make no moral judgment against their decision to accept the legal option that our country offered them to immigrate.

Nonetheless, the courageous heroes on the world scene are not those men and women in poor countries who have the energy, the intelligence, and the skills to escape to a rich country but rather those remaining with their people. Instead of focusing on improving conditions for themselves and their families by emigrating, they strive to raise the conditions for whole communities.

It is in those communities where more than 99% of the world’s poor will live out their lives, regardless of what rich countries do about immigration. That is where effective and, thus, ethically sound humanitarianism must be directed.

Years ago, I developed a little presentation with gumballs to help audiences analyze this issue. I held up a huge bottle with 4,600 gumballs, each representing approximately one million people in the world who are more impoverished than the average Mexican (4.6 billion at the time). I then removed a single gumball. This represented the one million legal immigrants the U.S. has taken in an average year since 1990.

The students had no trouble getting the point: As a humanitarian program for the world’s poor, immigration is pitifully ineffective for nearly everybody it is supposed to help.

The world's poor will not find hope in those who migrate, but in those who remain and bloom where they are planted. Heroism and courage is found among those leveraging every bit of good will and appropriate investment from outside to provide home-grown quality of life improvements.

By Roy Beck

Ethics of Population and Immigration