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Why Conservatives Should Embrace Free Immigration

After the election, Righty circles are naturally engaging in some soul-searching, finger-pointing, and bickering.  Some of this is unproductive venting, but it’s also the start of the process of working out how to move on and improve, and there’s no time to waste.

My conversations with fellow Righty operatives and bloggers have spurred me to suggest several ways Republicans could simultaneously make the party more attractive (or less repulsive) to voters and achieve more conservative results.  This post is about immigration and reversing the trend of Hispanics rapidly abandoning the GOP; the next is about gay marriage; and the final post is about entitlement reform.

First, let’s dispense with the notion agreed upon by many on the Right: seal the border first, so that whatever follows is more controlled and orderly.  This is an expensive fantasy.  Conservatives need to apply their skepticism of huge, complex, market-distorting government plans to every issue surrounding immigration, starting with any plan to spend tens of billions of dollars on thousands of miles of fence, surveillance, unionized government employees, and a verification system forced on every employer in the country.

It’s a joke that the Republican Party, which is practically defined by marriage, babies, and mortgages, holds at arm’s length a whole demographic (Hispanics, especially foreign-born) that tends to be more religious, marry younger and longer, and have larger families than the average American voter.

Mass immigration could work for the GOP if the GOP went with the tide instead of trying to stop it.

  • If Republicans want school choice, they should have natural allies among those who are religious, have large families, and see their children suffer under the worst public schools.  When you hear complaints that Hispanic immigrants don’t speak English, suggest vouchers and education savings accounts for private-school English language instruction.
  • If Republicans want to revive farms and stop the population drain from rural areas, make legitimate cheap labor more available: open up a bunch of farm worker visas.
  • If Republicans want to cut the cost of new housing so that young people can form households and families, make legitimate cheap labor available for that too.  Heck, why not try to break various trade unions by inviting enough skilled immigrants to swamp or bypass their system?
  • So the entitlement system is a problem?  Yeah, Milton Friedman famously said you can’t simultaneously have free immigration and a welfare state.  Shouldn’t the Republican response be “Bring on free immigration“?  If math dooms Medicaid and the subsidized industrial-age hospital model, why not make the math even harder?
  • Conservatives have longed to shift taxes away from production and toward consumption.  Nobody wants to remove labor tax wedges (AHEM: the payroll tax) as much as someone in a labor-intensive business, the kind that tends to thrive when there’s a lot of cheap labor available.  That goes for both employers and the employees whose compensation is tilted toward wages rather than benefits; we know it suppresses the Hispanic savings rate.  And the payroll tax, of course, helps to maintain the accounting fiction that SocSec and Medicare are like savings.

Now, about the security problem: is it easier to pick out a genuine security threat in the crowd if everyone just has to pass a security check, or if hundreds of thousands of people are trying to cross the border undetected because the only legal route is a seven-year byzantine process?

Heather Mac Donald at NRO offers a potential counter-argument: Hispanics are more suspicious of Republicans for supporting class warfare than for opposing immigration according to a poll (from March 2011), and a majority favor gay marriage, so they’re not such a conservative bunch.  But:

  • Immigration may not be most Hispanics’ top concern, but it isn’t trivial either.  And because politics is so tribal, there are many ways to alienate a group without actually disagreeing on policy – many of which Republicans blunder into when discussing immigration.
  • Finally: social issues.  Mac Donald points out that a majority of Hispanics favor gay marriage.  I’ll argue in my next post that conservatives should proactively embrace gay marriage, which should resolve this issue nicely.

The Growing Problem At The Mexican/US Border (UPDATE)

The Drug War along the Mexican-US border is getting some high level consideration:

President Obama weighed in Wednesday on the escalating drug war on the U.S.-Mexico border, saying that he was looking at possibly deploying National Guard troops to contain the violence but ruled out any immediate military move.

“We’re going to examine whether and if National Guard deployments would make sense and under what circumstances they would make sense,” Obama said during an interview with journalists for regional papers, including a McClatchy reporter.

“I don’t have a particular tipping point in mind,” he said. “I think it’s unacceptable if you’ve got drug gangs crossing our borders and killing U.S. citizens.”

Already this year there have been 1,000 people killed in Mexico along the border, following 2008’s death toll of 5,800, according to federal officials who credit Mexican President Felipe Calderon for a crackdown on drug cartels.

But the spillover on the border — for example, to El Paso from neighboring Ciudad Juarez — has created a political reaction.

In a recent visit to El Paso, Texas Gov. Rick Perry called for 1,000 troops to protect the border.

Obama was cautious, however. “We’ve got a very big border with Mexico,” he said. “I’m not interested in militarizing the border.”

I agree with his point about not “militarizing the border”. And I certainly understand the desire to send in help to quell and control the violence that spills over the border. But my question is, how will the troops be mobilized? The only way Obama can send in National Guard troops as I understand it is by federalizing them. Then it becomes a matter of their role. The Posse Comitatus act prevents federal troops from being used in a law enforcement role except on federal property (like Washington DC). So he’s limited in the role to which he can commit any troops even if he wanted too.

It would seem instead, that perhaps the best way to proceed in this case, if the desire is to send NG troops to the border to help in law enforcement, is for the Governors to mobilize and send them while letting active military lend logistical, intel and perhaps advisory support. But unless they’re sent in a war-fighting mode, there isn’t much of a role for federal troops in this case.

UPDATE: Commenter Jay Evans notes a recent change in the law which may effect this (the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 (H.R. 5122)):

 SEC. 1076. USE OF THE ARMED FORCES IN MAJOR PUBLIC EMERGENCIES. (a) USE OF THE ARMED FORCES AUTHORIZED.— (1) IN GENERAL.—Section 333 of title 10, United States Code, is amended to read as follows: ‘‘§ 333. Major public emergencies; interference with State and Federal law ‘‘(a) USE OF ARMED FORCES IN MAJOR PUBLIC EMERGENCIES.— (1) The President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service, to— ‘‘(A) restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that— ‘‘(i) domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order; and ‘‘(ii) such violence results in a condition described in paragraph (2); or ‘‘(B) suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy if such insurrection, violation, combination, or conspiracy results in a condition described in paragraph (2). ‘‘(2) A condition described in this paragraph is a condition that— ‘‘(A) so hinders the execution of the laws of a State or possession, as applicable, and of the United States within that State or possession, that any part or class of its people is deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law, and the constituted authorities of that State or possession are unable, fail, or refuse to protect that right, privilege, or immunity, or to give that protection; or
‘‘(B) opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States or impedes the course of justice under those laws.

‘‘(3) In any situation covered by paragraph (1)(B), the State shall be considered to have denied the equal protection of the laws secured by the Constitution.

‘‘(b) NOTICE TO CONGRESS.—The President shall notify Congress of the determination to exercise the authority in subsection (a)(1)(A) as soon as practicable after the determination and every 14 days thereafter during the duration of the exercise of that authority.’’.

(2) PROCLAMATION TO DISPERSE.—Section 334 of such title is amended by inserting ‘‘or those obstructing the enforcement of the laws’’ after ‘‘insurgents’’.

It looks like it now depends on the classification of the problem. 

~McQ