To the Editor:
Regarding Ari Armstrong’s article “Rational Morality Requires Amnesty for Rights-Respecting Illegal Immigrants” (TOS Blog, July 2, 2014), I agree with Mr. Armstrong that illegal immigrants have the same moral rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as everyone else.
But I disagree with his claim that they do not have a right to welfare. Illegal immigrants contribute to our system just as U.S. citizens and legal residents do, and they should have the same rights, including a right to welfare. Even legal residents who commit vicious crimes remain eligible for welfare. Why shouldn’t illegal immigrants who violate no one’s rights be eligible?
Deerfield Beach, Florida
Ari Armstrong Responds:
The implicit premise in Ms. Taelor’s letter is that rights are granted by government. But this premise is mistaken. Real rights, moral rights—such as the rights to life, liberty, and property—are not granted by government; they exist prior to government. The reason we need government is to protect these preexisting rights. The alleged right to welfare stands in contradiction to these rights; most obviously, it contradicts the right to property, the right to keep and use the product of one’s effort, including the money one earns. When government takes money from those who earned it and gives that money to those who did not earn it, which is what government does when it “provides” welfare, it violates the property rights of those from whom it seizes the money.
When a person takes someone else’s money by force, we recognize that as a violation of property rights, and we properly call it theft. When government takes someone’s money by force and hands it to other people, this too is a violation of rights, and, although it may be legal, it is still theft and it is morally wrong.
Immigrants do not have a right to welfare—and neither do U.S. citizens or legal residents. Toward the ultimate goal of eliminating welfare programs altogether, government must phase out welfare handouts, not expand them. Accordingly, government should exclude immigrants from welfare handouts and begin sharply cutting welfare handouts to existing recipients. People don’t need welfare. They need freedom to work and to keep and use what they earn.