Immigration divide cuts off libertarians from GOP
Saturday, August 16, 2014
By Beth Cody, Writers’ Group member
Iowa City Press-Citizen

As a libertarian, I have many views in common with traditional conservatives. We agree on most economic issues and in the fundamental belief that government should do far less.

Several issues on which we differ – gay marriage, drug laws, and policing the entire world – are declining in importance as the Republican Party slowly adopts more libertarian stances on them.

However, immigration is an issue on which we remain far apart – and one that seriously threatens the future of the Republican Party.

Republicans claim that illegal immigration is an attack on our borders and that “legal” immigration is just fine. But they have made little effort to increase the number of immigrants allowed to enter legally – the one viable way to decrease illegal immigration.

Instead, they build a multibillion-dollar Great Wall of China across our southern border and spend billions more tax dollars for border patrol police. And unreasonably, they insist that no meaningful reform laws can be passed until the millions of people already here illegally have been punished or deported.

Spend tens of billions of dollars to keep out people who want to come here and work, making our economy wealthier…. Hmmm. Usually it’s liberals who are this irrational.

But openness to immigration is the rational view, despite some misapprehensions about it:

First: Jobs and the Economy: Many people erroneously believe that if more people enter the country, those newcomers will “take all the jobs,” hurting existing residents. But this is false:

  1. *When new people arrive, they need stuff just like everyone else, which creates a larger economy overall with more jobs. It’s not too many people, but too many regulations and taxes that reduce job opportunities.
  2. *Many of the newcomers take jobs that Americans are not willing or qualified to do, like farm labor or science and technical work.
  3. *Immigrants are twice as likely to start new businesses as native-born Americans, starting a quarter of all businesses and 40% of all Fortune 500 companies. The more immigrants, the more jobs.

Think about it: places like Detroit – losing half its population since 1950 – are the poster children for bad economies, not places with growing populations due to low taxes and regulations. Conservatives should apply the same logic to our nation’s economy: successful nations grow in population and wealth.

Second: Welfare. This is the opposite fear: that immigrants come here not to work, but to collect welfare. But this is an issue with welfare policy, not with immigration. The majority of immigrants come here to work – proved during the recession, when the number of illegal immigrants here declined for the first time. And obviously, if we make it easier for immigrants to work legally, fewer will need welfare.

Third: Culture and Language: Many are concerned that immigrants will change our nation’s language, as well as our historical emphasis on freedom, religious expression and economic success. But we cannot hold back language changes; languages serve people, not the other way ‘round.

And as to freedom, this is the Fourth concern: Political Alignment. Conservatives are afraid that because new immigrants are often lower-income, they will be tempted by the Democratic Party’s offers of “free stuff” for no work.

But the Republican Party has something even more attractive to offer immigrants: freedom and the chance to earn honest wealth. We should not underestimate the appeal of these things to immigrants. Most are highly religious and willing to hard work for their families, and they want government to leave them alone and not take most of their earnings.

They sound like ready-made Republicans. The GOP should not alienate them with anti-immigrant talk. (Railing against immigrant children? Really?)

Republicans should make it their number one priority to greatly increase the number of legally-allowed immigrants, and should do the Christian thing by forgiving those who ignored our foolish laws.

This is the winning strategy for Republicans, if they are wise enough to do it.