SB 1070, Arizona’s new and strict immigration enforcement law has torn a hole right through the center of American political discourse. Sold as an enforcement law, Arizona Republicans lead the charge in passing SB 1070. Now Congress and the president are going to be taking up the issue. Instead of fighting Democrats or following the lead of Republicans in Arizona, the GOP's representatives in Congress should propose even more radical immigration reform. Bills like SB 1070 ignore conservative principles and hurt Republicans politically.
First, Republicans are supposed to be the political party that’s pro-free markets and opposed to increased government regulations. They should take a stand against anti-illegal immigration measures like E-Verify and a national biometric ID card that penalizes businesses for hiring workers.
Second, labor unions are a continual source of opposition to free market reforms and Republicans in general. Republicans should increase legal immigration of future migrants to put the final nail in organized labor's coffin for once and for all.
Third, conservatives rightly value the rule of law and national security. But the rule of law requires consistent enforcement which is impossible under our current laws. The laws need to be changed so that instead of wasting security resources that prevent the entry of migrant computer programmers and low-skilled laborers, we focus on countering actual security threats. An immigration policy that only weeds out suspected terrorists or criminals will focus law enforcement, not continually dissipate our efforts in a vain attempt to manipulate labor markets.
Fourth, to uphold American traditions, Conservatives should support legal mass migration. English, Irish, Scottish, German, and Swedish immigrants dominated the 13 colonies before independence and founded this great nation. Conservatives should remember that one of the complaints against King George III written in the Declaration of Independence was that:
He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.
But it also makes political sense for the Republicans to support mass legal migration. Hispanics typically vote like other working-class Americans. But in many other ways, they are a natural conservative constituency. They tend to be socially conservative and hostile toward confiscatory taxes and regulations. They are hard-working and entrepreneurial and many have recent bad memories of confiscatory left-wing Latin American governments. They sound and act like conservatives and a reasonable Republican position on immigration could win them over politically.
But Republican pronouncements about deporting every illegal immigrant could destroy that political balance and shift Hispanics into a permanent Democratic Party voting bloc. In a recent poll, 41 percent of Hispanics feared a deportation action against a friend or family member. Family-oriented conservatives should understand that no matter a person’s politics, he will do anything to defend his family. That includes forsaking every other political opinion he has and voting for the political party that won’t deport his grandmother.
Republicans should focus on eliminating the welfare state for immigrants, not choking off a flow of migrants that have proved to be a continual source of innovation, competition, and wealth creation. Furthermore, it will be politically disastrous for the Republicans to continue to oppose immigration reform. Like most policies that are good for America, legalization and legal mass migration are the conservative things to do.
Alex Nowrasteh is a policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
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Alex Nowrasteh is the immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute's Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.