Immigration and Big Government



If the Tea Parties and conservative activists want to be serious about opposing big government, they need to abandon their love of border police, immigration controls and statist nationalism. The hysterical response to those on the left comparing the Arizona law to Nazism reminds me of the equally hysterical response to those on the right comparing Obama to Hitler. We are never to compare America’s big-government policies to those of the Nazis, unless we ourselves don’t like those policies. That seems to be the standard on both left and right.

The borders cannot be sealed. There is just far too much a stretch of land to try to control. A fence won’t work. People can easily circumvent walls. Any attempt to truly “crack down” on immigration would devastate America. The cost in civil and economic liberties, and the diminution of the freedom of association, are much too severe to treat cavalierly. How is the U.S. government going to “stop” illegal immigration, when it cannot do anything else right? Do we want to see more than 10 million people rounded up and deported? If not, what are we talking about exactly, and if so, how can this possibly be done without destroying the rest of America’s freedom? And where does the Constitution even authorize the federal government to control immigration? Naturalization is the prerogative of Congress; immigration is not.

Those who favor small government and free enterprise should oppose the overbearing state necessary to control immigration. Yes, commentators are right that other nations control immigration, but why should America be more like other nations? If Western Europe is a bad model for economic policy, why should our border policy mimic theirs?

Republicans are split
on the Arizona law, but the underlying factor appears to be politics, not principle. This was not always the case. Ronald Reagan implemented the last major immigration amnesty, and if he’s good enough for today’s Republican Party to look upon with nostalgia (as opposed to the Bushes who followed him), why do today’s conservatives ignore one of Reagan’s most sensible policy prescriptions, in the area of immigration?

For more on immigration, see Jonathan Bean’s Race and Liberty in America and the Institute’s immigration archives.

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