Benjamin Franklin, one of the great intellects of America's Federal Period, observed, "Love your neighbor; yet don't pull down your hedge." In other words, barriers to delineate borders are important—not "immoral," as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would have us believe.
In spite of the inanity and incorrectness of Pelosi's characterization, apparently it has been adopted as a talking point among more radical congressional Democrats, who dutifully repeat it whenever they're within 30 feet of a microphone.
Taken to its logical extreme, fences, doors, and gates are immoral because they deny entry to other, equally deserving souls. Of course, this is reductio ad absurdum, taking an idea to its logical, yet ridiculous, conclusion. After all, even the Speaker shouldn't have to allow anybody to walk in off the street and into her house. Or should she?
Let's examine the moral implications of the two situations. The migrants are looking for better economic circumstances, which include shelter and sustenance. Doesn't the homeless person walking past Pelosi's house have the same needs? Both the migrants and the homeless face heightened risks due to crime. (For that matter, so do poor people who must live in bad neighborhoods, due to the cost of housing.) Both populations want to live free from fear.
The major difference between these two situations is that, especially in Pelosi's San Francisco, there are extensive, government-provided social services to help our citizens. Many U.S. locales, including the Speaker's, have even extended a number of those services to illegal non-citizens who have already penetrated our borders.
Therefore, to be morally consistent, should not Pelosi favor extending much of this social safety net to citizens of Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico, among the many others who aspire to cross our borders? (That would be reductio ad absurdum, again, except it is actually what we do, but in the form of foreign aid to corrupt and ineffective governments; the worst of both worlds.) After all, why reward those who break our laws (illegal migrants), but not those preferring a legal path to entry?
But if morality demands that we subsidize all the poor here, as well as those who might want to come here, is that not effectively declaring the border irrelevant to begin with? And how can the wall per se be the culprit? For how can a wall be immoral while border agents, drones, electronic sensors, and legal entry restrictions are posited by Pelosi as moral and lawful? That would be a mockery of morality.
To be consistent, therefore, the Pelosi version of morality should demand the erasure of borders and of allowing people to flow where resources are most plentiful and available. The logical result of that would be the depletion of resources by a rapidly increasing population until there is no longer an abundance of resources and largess to attract new entrants. This is analogous to locusts consuming a field of crops and moving on to the next. It implies that farmers who abandon their crops to locusts are the most moral of beings. Reductio ad absurdum, again.
It is interesting to ponder in the open-border scenario the morality of the impact on current citizens, a debate best left for another time. As a practical matter, with the exception of a few dozen House Democrats, the concept of open borders is politically unpalatable and untenable. Hence, a misdirection to "the immoral wall."
Rejoining the real world from Planet Pelosi, perhaps it is appropriate to discuss what might be thought of as surrogates, or more limited alternatives, to open borders. One possibility would be to grant green cards to any family that can find a citizen willing to sign a binding contract to support them for their first five years in the United States. That should afford them adequate time to become independent and productive, and to learn English (after all, much of the world accords a priority to learning our language). It would not burden non-consenting citizens with the costs of immigration. (We offer that option merely for discussion, not to endorse it.)
Another option to avoid resource depletion would be to focus immigration on the highly skilled, who could readily support themselves and a family at the outset.
We confess that the previous sentence was a sort of trap: We already do that, of course. But maybe not enough. What we do know is that it works. But clearly surrogates are not enough for Speaker Pelosi and her band of radicals.
By resorting to the concept of morality and its logical corollary of open borders, Pelosi and her pals are opening Pandora's Box. We would remind them of a simple truth: The richest societies tend to attract the poorest immigrants. Human nature seeks more than minimal advancement. Consider that the migrants populating the U.S.-bound "caravans" from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala are not trying their luck in more prosperous nearby countries such as Costa Rica or Panama, and they are declining asylum in Mexico. They are bound for the great economic colossus of the United States.
The bottom line: Talk of an "immoral wall" is politician-speak for open borders, whether in her heart of hearts that's what Speaker Pelosi really wants.
Andrew I. Fillat, the co-inventor of relational databases, spent his career in technology venture capital and information technology companies. Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, was formerly a Consulting Professor at Stanford University's Institute for International Studies and an official at the FDA.