It is an arbitrary distinction that people have more or fewer rights because they were born on one side of the border or another side of a border. Once you accept the premise that all human beings are endowed with equal rights and of equal value, then there’s no moral or ethical justification for treating them differently simply because they were born in different countries.
We can’t grant everybody rights by invading all the countries in the world and forcing our values upon them. What we can do is grant anybody who has the wherewithal or power to come within our borders the same set of rights that we grant the people that are already here.
I should add that that was the American tradition up until the 1920’s with the exception of Asian Americans. All other groups until the 1920’s who came here volitionally were granted a certain set of basic rights and the borders were open to them.
That really was the fundamental difference between the United States and the countries of Europe. You came to America, you had the opportunity to become a citizen, you had an opportunity to take part in “The American Dream.” That’s what the Statute of Liberty is all about.
The people who waved their American flags and shout about patriotism and at the same time don’t want immigrants to come across our borders or are concerned about illegal immigrants have missed the entire point of America.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.