Like any rational employer, the owners of major league baseball teams do not care about a player’s place of birth. They care about his talent.
Many of the players drafted by major league teams come from Spanish speaking countries. They usually move to America to pursue their dream of being a professional baseball player, and are often overwhelmed. They are introduced to a culture that is foreign to them and they do not know the language. Fortunately for them, their employer has the resources and the long-term vision to address these issues, as this article explains.
A major league baseball team can easily pull the necessary strings to get a prospect into the country legally. It can hire a team of lawyers to expedite the process. But what of the individual who does not have such a benefactor? But what of the poor, ambitious Latino who does not have baseball talent? What of the individual who lacks skills, but does not lack in desire to make a better life for himself and his family?
Such individuals have little chance of entering the United States legally. To enter the country legally, they must subject themselves to years of arbitrary hearings, submit mountains of paperwork, pay outrageous fees, and then hope that some underpaid and overworked immigration bureaucrat will approve their entry. They must suspend their dreams and put their lives in the hands of strangers.
Or, they can enter the country illegally. Millions have done so, and they often take the most grueling and laborious jobs (as millions of immigrants before them have done). They must hide in the shadows, because many of those who benefit from their efforts denounce them as criminals. Their life may be better than it was, but it remains incomplete because the nation that once welcome the tired, huddled masses no longer does.
America is a nation of immigrants. Our greatness was built on the recognition and protection of the moral right of each individual—no matter where he happened to be born—to act on his own judgment in the pursuit of his own dreams. The Declaration of Independence does not state that “all Americans are born with inalienable rights.” It states that “all men” are. Those words were true in 1776 and they remain true today. All men—whether they are born in Topeka or Tampico—possess the same rights. It is time that we Americans recognize them.
The consequences of conservative attacks on “illegal” immigrants could soon show up at the grocery store. Farmers in fifteen Southern states are facing a severe shortage of workers and may be unable to pick their crops. Conservatives, however, aren’t changing their tune.
The problem, conservatives argue, is that farmers won’t pay a wage high enough to attract American workers. If farmers did so, there would be no labor shortage. While this argument seems plausible, it ignores two simple facts, one economic and one moral.
Economically, picking fruits and vegetables is not a highly skilled job. (In fact, I picked strawberries when I was a child, so I can vouch for the skills required.) Economically, it makes no sense for a farmer to pay more than a job is worth. Further, if Americans want to earn higher pay, then they should develop skills that are superior to those of illiterate Mexicans.
Morally, each individual has a right to act on his own judgment. The farmer has a right to offer whatever wage he deems appropriate to any individual he chooses, and that individual has a right to accept or reject that offer. Conservatives don’t see it that way. They believe that the farmer should not be free to contract with the individuals of his choosing, and instead, he should be forced to contract only with Americans.
For all their talk of free markets, conservatives often forget that the operative word is “free.” And freedom means the absence of government coercion.
It is often claimed that illegal immigrants do not learn English or assimilate into the American culture. Certainly, many first-generation immigrants do not speak English and do not bother to learn the language. Many live and work in tight-knit communities with fellow immigrants, where they can speak a familiar language and practice their native customs.
So? Whose rights do they violate? The failure to speak English violates nobody’s rights. The failure to speak English only harms those who do not speak it—their choices and job opportunities are limited. But this has been the trend throughout American history. First-generation immigrants have often settled into Chinatown, or Little Italy, or some similar ethnic community. But with few exceptions, their children assimilate: they learn English, attend college, and become skilled tradesmen and professionals.
The Vietnamese are a typical example. When Vietnamese first immigrated in large numbers after the Vietnam War, most immigrants did not speak English. They settled into Little Saigons where they retained their culture and language. However, in general their children became well-educated and entered professions such as science, medicine, and engineering. Immigrants come to America to make a better life for themselves and their families, and that is precisely what occurs. And they are successful in doing so to the extent that they embrace American culture.
“A nation’s culture,” writes Ayn Rand, “is the sum of the intellectual achievements of individual men, which their fellow-citizens have accepted in whole or in part, and which have influenced the nation’s way of life.” What is America’s culture?
Historically, America’s culture has been shaped by the principle of individual rights—the freedom of each individual to live his life in the pursuit of his own personal happiness. Individual freedom—the recognition and protection of individual rights—is what attracts immigrants. Of course, individual rights have been under attack, but that attack has *not* been led by immigrants. That attack has been led by America’s intellectuals and politicians. The solution is not further violations of individual rights—limits on immigration and freedom of association—but a principled defense of individual rights for all individuals, including immigrants.