Yale University seems to be the main force behind the New Haven city administration’s program to give municipal identification cards to illegal aliens. Yale Law School is providing counsel both to the city in defense of the program and to people detained as illegal aliens by federal agents in New Haven. And Yale students and faculty have just participated in what they called New Haven Solidarity Week, a campaign urging legal residents to obtain the ID cards and thus diminish the card’s association with illegal aliens, so that the illegals might more easily conceal themselves in the city.

Like the ID card itself, Yale’s involvement here is portrayed as a matter of humanity. But it also deliberately facilitates illegal immigration. Worse, Yale’s defense of the ID cards is the essence of demagoguery, the refusal to make distinctions, in this case the distinction between legal and illegal immigration. For any opposition to the ID card program is denounced at Yale as prejudice against all immigrants and as bigotry and racism. The logic of the ID card program is that there should be no limits on entry into the United States, and many of the card’s supporters seem to think so, even though helping illegals get settled is not the only humane way of treating them. Illegals also could be cordially assisted in getting home comfortably — decent accommodations in transit instead of immigration jail cells, a limousine ride to the airport for a flight home instead of a bus ride in shackles to a distant border, and no gratuitous separation of families.

In any case Yale’s support for the ID card and illegal immigration is hugely ironic. For Yale maintains itself among the most exclusive major institutions of higher education in the country even as the University, defending illegal aliens and assisting the ID card program, now presumes to tell the rest of the country that it should admit foreigners in unlimited numbers in disregard of the law.

Many high school students would like to go on to attend Yale but have little chance because they do not come from the University’s two preferred admission groups — racial minorities and the children of wealthy and influential alumni. So what if New Haven, in the name of humanity, started to print and distribute Yale student identification cards so that these inadmissible students also might enjoy the University? How would Yale feel about that?

Of course Yale would feel that the city was giving away what wasn’t the city’s to give — which is exactly what New Haven, at Yale’s instigation, is doing by distributing ID cards to illegal aliens. For the right to live in the United States is for the nation as a whole to bestow, not just for New Haven, at Yale’s instigation, to bestow — if, indeed, the United States is to be a nation at all, a nation being a geographic entity that has control of its borders.

Yale’s righteous defense of illegal immigration may assuage any guilt the University feels about its elite status amid urban poverty. The University is part of the ruling class and its students will emerge with tickets to the ruling class, even as Yale is also the employer of many low-skilled people who do its menial work.

Yale’s security in the ruling class may erase its concerns about unregulated immigration, and the University shares this security with those behind the Bush administration and with big business. So with the ID cards the University is even helping to carry out their policy.

Most people needing the New Haven ID cards are unskilled workers who will become the chauffeurs, gardeners, nannies, day laborers, and such for the ruling class — cheap labor constituting almost a slave class, a class without political rights, a class that can’t complain or vote. But there are other classes, the working and middle classes, whose wages, particularly the wages of native unskilled labor, are driven down as the supply of unskilled labor grows. Further, since the illegals work to a great extent outside the rules, much of their income is paid under the table, evading taxes, and much of it is sent out of the country to support families abroad, diminishing economic growth here, another issue of more concern to the working class than to the ruling class.

The United States has proven that liberal immigration can be assimilated with democracy, a common culture and rising living standards if it is adjusted to changing economic and social conditions. Unregulated immigration is something else; it contemplates the end of any country. The University’s confidence in its own brilliance notwithstanding, this country still belongs to more than just Yale.

Chris Powell is the managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Conn.