The acceleration of hostility towards “foreigners” among the old-line Americans became rapid towards the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century as American consciousness transformed into racial and anti-Semitism ideologies. The wave of nativism was then grounded in fear of foreigners who might challenge the Anglo-Saxon ‘pure’ race. The fear was instilled by a belief system constructed on a fallacy that allowing foreigners into America would increase the number of criminals, paupers, illiterates, and madmen.
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In the end, it would endanger American citizenship and character. This analytical paper attempts to explicate defiled human dignity as contributed by immigration in the American society. The theme of human dignity will be examined through the lens of consequences as highlighted in the utilitarianism ethics and impacts as explored by Kant’s autonomy and formula of humanitarian principles.
Impact of Immigration on American Society
Immigration has had several impacts on American society. Since the end of the 18th century, the border controls across the US territories are designed to forcefully exclude immigrants labeled as unwanted (Spencer 124). There are legislations in place to reinforce this action as part of communal self-determination. However, from a utilitarian perspective, the use of force is a direct violation of the principle of absolute human rights and freedom of choice (Barrow 26).
Basically, mankind has a right to live in whatever place it wants because this is part of the basic interest and desire. This means that human beings should respect the rights of each other as rational creatures capable of self-intellection (Lazari-Radek and Singer 43). This is not the case with US immigration strategies.
Immigration has also resulted in inhuman acts and internalization of the inferiority complex among the victims. In the 1990s, the US government, through its Federal Immigration and Naturalization Service, installed cameras, erected border fences, and increased patrol units, which led to the eventual closure of the border (Patrick and Werkhoven 44). Immigrants were subjected to inhuman screening and sometimes forceful deportation.
These activities increased the cost of human suffering as thousands of immigrants continued to die while crossing the US borders. This raises the moral question of what motivates the government’s hostile efforts to simply exclude human beings seeking better living conditions. These actions go against Kant’s principle of autonomy by denying human beings the right to self-judgment (Patrick and Werkhoven 31).
Apparently, strict immigration policies do not allow immigrants to set their standards of conduct and are subject to preset intolerable conditions. As would have been observed by Kant, the actions lack the supreme principle of morality with regards to controlling immigration (Spencer 134). Moreover, from a utilitarian perspective, human beings have a natural worth and should be treated with decorum (Mill 18). This means that no man has a higher ethical right than others in exerting rationality and deciding on a place to dwell in as a subject of existence. Therefore, the actions of the US government in closing the border and deporting immigrants are immoral.
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Immigration has limited free movement within American society. Controlling movement denies mankind the basic right of freedom as opined by the Unitarianism ethics (Sher 45). The principle of lesser evil in discrimination of mankind only promotes the self-righteous attitude, which is against the utilitarian belief in the right to fair treatment (Spencer 138).
The decision to control immigration within the US borders is part of the racial and socialist attitudes that promote division among the human community, as Kant would have put it. Such actions do not allow mankind to maximize pleasure in living since they limit the ability to freely choose a dwelling place. The US immigration restrictions are inspired by mankind’s obsession with domination attitude, which is wrong and is not aligned to the basic tenets of the overall good. Therefore, it is improper to abuse human rights simply because of selfishness and minimal utility void of intrinsic morals.
Immigration has created a society in America that embraces discrimination as normal. The discriminative American immigration strategies go against the notion of right or ethics of common sense. The migration policies are driven by the desire to limit the freedom of mankind by a fellow being who has taken a superior ground for naturalism and self-realization. The utilitarianism ethics would point that there is no goodwill or proper motive in rationalizing the limited freedom of movement within American society (Spencer 166).
The restrictive immigration laws in the US have resulted in a series of ethical dilemmas as happiness, pleasure, and freedom are hived without choice. Although it can be argued that immigration laws are created with good motives, they cannot fully function within the complete ‘right’ in utilitarian ethics (Patrick and Werkhoven 36). In reality, the only unqualifiedly and intrinsically good functions in the form of goodwill. In the US scenario, there is an error in judgment since the laws have been adjusted to be very strict and self-defeating, as Kant would have put it. Unfortunately, the strict immigration laws actually pervert goodwill by denying mankind mutual coexisting without coercion.
Immigration has wrongfully defined the concept of humanity in American society to only accommodate the ‘Americans’ as the only rightful citizens. According to Kant’s formula of humanity principle, the actions of an individual or entity should be persuaded by the need to treat humanity as an end and not as a means. This narrow definition alienates immigrants and categorizes them as lesser beings who do not have a right to self-judgment on where to stay or which part of the territory to visit (Barrow 17).
The limited respect to the rational nature has made the American society deceptive, servile, and immature colony that cares more about self than others. In the ideal, Kant’s vision of respect for rational nature includes upholding the liberty of others without putting any harm on their way (Patrick and Werkhoven 39).
Unfortunately, the Americanization of different immigration laws goes against this principle to rationalize deceit and minimize the flourishing of others, which means no harm when consequential utilitarian ethics is applied. Simply because of the ‘immigrant tag,’ foreigners are treated with arrogance, ridicule, and sometimes physical defamation to drive the agenda of superiority versus inferiority ‘genes’(Spencer 189). These activities continue to deny the immigrants humanity and equal opportunities in the current American society.
In summary, the use of force in controlling immigration within the US and its borders goes against utilitarianism’s principles of ‘right’ and ‘good.’ As a result, it has attracted negative consequences such as dominance, arrogance, and discrimination in the present interactions between the ‘Americans’ and immigrants. In line with Kant’s principles of autonomy and humanity, the actions of the immigration authority of denying human beings the right to self-judgment have resulted in a society ruled by unfounded fear and mistrust between the immigrants and the ‘Americans.’
Barrow, Robin. Utilitarianism: A Contemporary Statement. 4th ed., Routledge, 2015.
Lazari-Radek, Katarzyna and Peter Singer. Utilitarianism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2017.
Mill, John. The Greatest Happiness Principle – Utilitarianism, on Liberty & the Subjection of Women: The Principle of the Greatest-Happiness: What is Utilitarianism (Proofs & Principles), Civil & Social Liberty, Liberty of Thought, Individuality & Individual Freedom, Utilitarian Feminism. Madison & Adams, 2017.
Patrick, Tom and Sander Werkhoven. Utilitarianism. CRC Press, 2017.
Sher, George, editor. Ethics: Essential Readings in Moral Theory. Routledge, 2013.
Spencer, Herbert. The Principles of Ethics, Vol. 2 (Classical Reprint). 2nd ed., Fb&C Limited, 2017.