Recently I was involved in a small Facebook dust-up, mercifully short. In the course thereof, a philosopher who shall remain nameless made a would-be-sly negative reference, with the air of one who brings up a dirty secret but is unwilling to come out and mention it openly, to my having advocated ending Muslim immigration several years ago. The allusion was made apropos of no philosophical idea being discussed but was clearly intended to tar me as some sort of trigger-happy nut.
Readers may or may not know that a rather infamous philosophical bully whose initials are B.L. chose to draw attention to that post (I refuse to link to his doing so) later in 2009. At that time he had something of a minor feud going on with this blog, and B.L. thought the mention of my shocking, shocking views on Muslim immigration would be a good way to try to get anyone related to me or even connected to anyone related to me into some kind of unspecified trouble in the philosophical community. Nothing came of that, but it was a low attempt nonetheless and was doubtless the means by which this philosopher interacting with me on Facebook knew of my otherwise rather inconspicuous blogging activities.
I present that long introduction only as the lead-in to this: I still hold the same position on Muslim immigration. I did a series with Jeff Culbreath called "Disinviting Islam." My posts in that series are here and here, and I have no qualms about re-linking them.
Tony, below, referred to the general difficulty of assimilating immigrants, whether legal or illegal. That's a wise point. I add to that the point that there is no general right to immigrate to the United States. I would go farther and assert that the burden of proof lies on anyone who would try to apply a generic principle of "no group discrimination" to immigration. I doubt that such a principle works well even when it comes to hiring people who already live in the United States, but a fortiori it doesn't apply to immigration. There are millions of people who want to come to this country. Examining each and every one of them for individual beliefs, associations, and propensities is the task of Sisyphus, and it simply is not evident by the natural light that the government of the United States is obligated to undertake that task rather than lightening it (somewhat) by making rough designations of countries and other rough-cut groups that are to be regarded as more and less desirable as immigrants. Will such designations result in individual cases in less-than-perfect outcomes? To be sure, they will. But there simply does not seem to be any good argument against starting with some group distinctions, and if we do start there, there are plenty of arguments that Islam as a religion is a disruptive force that is at odds with the ideals that America should be attempting to retain. See, again, this post.
Some readers may ask whether I "trust" the U.S. government to make good group picks for discrimination purposes in immigration. The answer to that is that at present I don't. This is why I don't just say, "Hey, let's have the Obama administration decide on groups to discriminate against in immigration. I'm sure they'll do a great job." Instead, I narrowly mention a particular group which I believe ideally would be treated differently and more negatively when it comes to immigration. Indeed, some progress could be made if we simply recognized differences of country, even if religion were not referred to, and if we made quotas based on, for example, countries from which terrorists have come to the United States in the past fifteen years. That a fair application of this idea would disproportionately affect Muslim countries should hardly need to be said. Yes, there would need to be room for exceptions, especially if the would-be immigrants were Christian converts fleeing persecution and in no way a terrorist risk. That is why the religious category would be the better one to use to start with. But the "country from which terrorists have come" category might work better as a governmental starting point.
The point in general is that as conservatives we can be willing to say what we would like to see done ideally even if we don't "trust" the present government to carry out such ideals. Such a concept can be used in ways that I would disapprove (e.g., if someone says that ideally he would like to see Protestantism outlawed), but that of course is simply because I don't agree that those should be part of our ideal picture in the first place.
Moreover, "giving the government power to discriminate" in immigration should be sharply distinguished from giving the government power to treat people differentially simply on the basis of religious membership once they are here. Indeed, the fact that we should not be passing out religious identity cards and stopping and frisking all Muslims here in the U.S. at any large sports events (which we shouldn't) is a good reason for discriminating on the basis of the Muslim religion in the area of immigration.
Will liberals gleefully jump on this and try to pretend that this reasoning could be applied to Christianity just as well as to Islam? Of course they will. (Indeed, weariness with moral equivalence partly explains why a blogger like me doesn't blog about these subjects as much as before.) But both statistically and doctrinally, they will be wrong, and we should calmly reject their attempted moral equivalences.
Another idea is that it was outrageously selfish of me to suggest that Muslim immigration be ended for the sake of parental rights. My argument, as anyone can see for himself, is that the more parents we have in the United States who abuse their parental rights under cover of religion, the more harm this will do to everyone's freedom. We all know that the government paints with a broad brush and that social workers tend to be anti-religious anyway. We also know that "religion" or "fundamentalism" will be blamed and that innocent Christians will suffer if those called "religious fundamentalists" harm their children, regardless of what religion is actually in question. Therefore, it is entirely legitimate, for the sake of innocent religious parents in the U.S., to want to avoid deliberately introducing into the country people from a group disproportionately likely to harm (honor-kill, mutilate, etc.) their children on religious grounds. Again, is this a rough cut? Yes, it is. Am I saying that the majority of Muslims are child abusers? No, I'm not. But I'm saying that the religious and cultural factors favoring such abuse are both proportionally high enough and absolutely high enough to make it rational in purely prudential terms to stop Muslim immigration or at a minimum to reduce it greatly and explicitly along cultural-religious lines.
Here we have the paradox, which I for one do not regard as a contradiction, of American exceptionalism. Suppose that you really do believe in some sense, which I do, that America has the opportunity to be a light on a hill, that American ideals of freedom and, yes, tolerance, are desirable things which we have to offer to the world. What that implies is that you can't just invite the whole world to America or you will ruin the very thing you have to offer. I put this well enough in my old post and don't think I can better it:
What all this amounts to is a point that conservatives tend to recognize in other areas: Conservatives know, for example, that if you take all the money from the rich and give it to the poor, if you nationalize all the industries of a country, you simply destroy. The few who are helped in the very short run by receiving some sort of windfall will be hurt in the long run or even in the medium run by the destruction of the country's prosperity and material well-being. If, to take another example, you say, "We have a wonderful city here. Let's invite all of the nation's homeless people to enjoy our streets," you don't have a wonderful city when you are done, and the homeless who come then will exchange one slum for another.
Common sense applies to the open door, "welcome mat" policy we have had toward Islam just as it applies elsewhere.
Thus what we come to is that every mainstream conservative, who (rightly and understandably) doesn't want to wander off into the fever swamps of reaction nonetheless needs to have an instinct for "protection of what we have here" in his veins or he will destroy the very American ideals he values. I think that's a possible political and psychological combination, though rare. It is certainly a combination I wish to promote.