Illegal Immigration Benefitted Australia and They Had It Worse

The United States’ debate on unlawful immigration draws on current events very similar to how Australia got founded. Major criminals, “bad” men, were given a path to citizenship. The nativist people probably didn’t want the company but faced too many immigrants to kick out, immigrants who probably were violent, raped native women, and brought unwanted or debatable culture into strongholds of native tradition (alcohol is not unlike various drugs for being disruptive).1 Australia, despite its large desert2, is now one of the world’s solid democracies and developed economies, a regional leader, and a wartime blood ally of the U.S. and the United Kingdom that now makes some effort to improve relations with the native people.

Almost all the colonizers, according to basic history, were convicted criminals who should have had nothing to complain about where they lived, in England. They had committed mainly economic crimes, not political crimes; probably those were robbery, burglary, and so on. They were serving long prison sentences. Most of them were not career criminals; if they could have found a way to support themselves legitimately, they’d have gone back to doing so,3 but that might not matter: everyone has a responsibility to obey the law and they had violated that fundamental duty in society and should have been glad to get imprisoned rather than executed. The deal to accept transportation out of England in exchange for never coming back was not offered by anyone indigenous to Australia, but was offered by the sender. Indigenes building a wall around the over-37,000-mile Australian perimeter was not practicable. It would have been some 18 times longer than the longest proposed for the U.S.–Mexico border and the indigenes had less money.

They were not called hombres, and in several other ways the two cases are not parallel, because the Australian case is worse. In the U.S. case, most of the immigrants committed no known crime other than in how they entered the U.S. or overstayed U.S. visas (and not even those in the case of asylees), whereas most of the immigrants into Australia were convicted criminals before they left England. Whether immigrants were a flood: In the U.S., illegal immigrants are 3 to 6 percent;4 in Australia, by now, nearly everyone is descended from illegal immigrants,5 illegal from the viewpoint of the indigenous people. While England didn’t mind sending them, wishing the emigrants good riddance and not letting them return, most Latin American nations don’t mind the emigration north and likely wouldn’t mind their return, and may be receiving more remittances back than England got from the convicts who colonized Australia, even allowing for inflation and currency values. I haven’t heard that the illegal immigrants in the U.S. propose to establish their own state; the people England sent did exactly that, and were probably accompanied by a British royal official to make sure of it.

Terrorism was not much of an issue for either nation through a large scale of unlawful immigration. The border screening since the September 11th attack has worked well, the domestic asymetrical warfare in the U.S. coming largely from citizens born here.

This is not a call to defeat traditional people or ways. In both the U.S. and Australia, reconsideration of relations between dominant and native people has been underway for years, with a view to preserving traditional rights and cultures. But the U.S. is concerned about the arrivals of a few percentage points of population augmentation, while what became Australia faced being overwhelmed by sheer numbers and with few resources with which to resist.

I do not want a borderless world. Values differ critically among different groups of people. I do not want a nation based on faith and opposed to scholarship. I do not want executions for being born in some unpopular way, like being gay. I do not want governments that steal billions of dollars, keep power by any means necessary, and hold most people in poverty. What I do not want that’s out there, someone else wants, and badly, directly contradicting what I do not want. We have no experience operating a single government to run the world. We wouldn’t agree on what to tell a world government to do.

But neither can we run the world like a bunch of fortresses, where trading is limited to spear points. One nation may need to invite miners to dig out an extractable. Another nation may need inventors, discoverers, or artists. Another nation may need doctors to staff clinics and hospitals.

We can publicize what we will and won’t want when we look at immigrants. We can screen at the borders. Some people will sneak in or overstay and we’ll be right in arresting many of them and turning them back, but sometimes we’ll find that someone came in illegally but was a net contributor and should be welcomed to stay despite their means of entry. Those we welcome may be quite a number of people. We won’t know how many. Mistakes are not subject to quotas but to immigrants’ qualities and histories.

Many nations have done well with immigrants, our nation, too.