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Harvested from in May 2008.

Immigration has been an unmitigated American success story.Edit

Throughout our history, from the transcontinental railroad to the rebuilding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, immigrants have proven themselves indispensable to the American economic miracle. They've enriched our culture in every area, from language to food to music to literature. This, in repayment for the fact that America has offered refuge to those in whose hearts the fire of liberty still burns when it has been temporarily snuffed out in their home countries; succor to those who seek work and life in the kind of economy that their home countries can't provide; and a NEW home for those who choose to stay.

There are those who claim that "changing circumstances" make this no longer true: That economic disparities between the United States and other countries would, under a liberalized immigration regime, saddle us with the world's poor and drag us down. In response to this, I can only point out that the reverse has always been true: By welcoming the poorest of the poor, we've always become richer, not poorer. I see no essential changes of situation which seem likely to change this outcome.

I support "open" immigration: Free movement over borders by peaceful people. It's not the government's job to figure out how many engineers or landscapers or programmers or farm workers the US economy "needs." The economy figures out those things for itself far more efficiently than some bureaucrat ever could.

Beyond the economic and cultural positives of open immigration, we must consider the national defense problems posed by "closed" immigration.

Capital -- including human capital -- moves to where it can be most profitably invested for all concerned, and it rolls right over government barriers to do so. In practice, this means that millions of immigrants arrive, and will continue to arrive, in the United States each year regardless of what our government does to stop them.

Right now, nonsensical US immigration policy forces many of those immigrants to sneak in rather than walk in "through the front door." Reasonable estimates put the number of illegal immigrants from Mexico alone in excess of one million annually. An entire industry of cross-border guides, called "coyotes," is built around getting those immigrants into the US to live and work. These "coyotes" don't care one way or another whether the person they're smuggling into the US is a janitor from Guadalajara or an al Qaeda fighter carrying the material to make a "dirty bomb" in Dallas. And our immigration policy gives the latter type of "immigrant" a huge crowd to hide himself in.

The first step in providing for our national defense at the border is to let those who bear us no ill will to come in "through the front door" -- to walk across the border publicly and conveniently instead of sneaking over it in the middle of the night and in the middle of the desert. Believe me, they'd rather be welcomed than hunted ... and welcoming them rather than hunting them will reduce the cover they provide for our enemies.

The second step in providing for our national defense at the border is to re-focus the government services which address that border away from hassling peaceful immigrants and toward detecting and eliminating real threats to the United States.

As your president, I'd have to have the cooperation of Congress to take that first step -- but I could take the second with or without their help. I could order the executive branch departments which address immigration to direct their attention to real national security threats instead of toward whether some Slovenian visitor's visa is stamped "tourist" or "student." I could order the Coast Guard to pay attention to its legitimate job of protecting our coasts from attack by sea instead of trying to keep Cuban refugees from getting their feet on dry land so that they can claim asylum.

At bottom, a border is nothing more than an imaginary line on the ground, drawn by politicians. What's important are not the lines themselves, but the people on either side of those lines. As your president, my job will be to secure the rights of the people within the set of lines that have been drawn, and to defend them from attack across those lines -- not to impede peaceful people from crossing them.


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