Angelo A. Paparelli and Ted J. Chiappari published in the New York Law Journal February 25, 2008

When the subject of immigration policy has been raised in the stump speeches and debates this election season, the candidates (particularly the anti-immigration candidates who, for want of voter support, are no longer in the race) have focused almost exclusively on illegal immigration. Current and erstwhile candidates have waxed rhapsodic on the value of border fences and strict enforcement. Very little has been said, however, about legal immigration. We sometimes hear the short, perfunctory compliment paid to those who “have played by the rules” and “patiently waited in line” outside the United States, and perhaps also a remark, uttered in passing but without much passion, on the need to increase visas for better educated, highly skilled workers.

One candidate with surprising internet-fueled support, the quixotic Ron Paul (who largely opposes immigration), has often asked a question about America’s muscular foreign policy that could well be applied to the attitudes of many law-abiding foreign nationals. Dr. Paul asks and then answers this question: “Why is it that they don’t like us? It’s because of how we treat them.” He continues: “How would you feel if they did the same to us?” His question, of course, is not new; rather, it is a variation on the venerable theme of the Golden Rule, the injunction to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

To what extent, then, do our nation’s immigration policies apply the Golden Rule? Regrettably, sightings of the Golden Rule are as rare as UFO sightings by presidential candidates. America’s immigration policies are embodied in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) – a relic of the McCarthy era ­­– and in the actions of legislators, agency officials and judges from the Fifties to today. Taken as a whole, our immigration laws and regulations reflect policies of official suspicion of and arrogance toward virtually all foreigners.

To be sure, few among us would decry strict enforcement against brazen immigration violators, especially terrorists and criminals, or chastise the government for adopting intelligent and effective measures to protect the homeland. For example, inkless 10-print fingerprinting of foreign citizens at U.S. ports of entry is a reasonable burden in light of the potential benefit of snaring terrorists or criminals, and Americans should be ready to accept similar requirements, as has been proposed for entry to European Union nations.

[1] Still, the question arises whether it serves our nation’s interest and reflects our bedrock values when, as a matter of law and procedure, we systematically apply the tools of indifference and suspicion to all foreign citizens.

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To read related article “Fortress America,” Click Here