Last week the
House of Representatives passed an immigration bill destined to restrict
illegal immigration into the United States that represents the first step
in placing all sorts of restrictions on legal immigration at a cost that
American freedom (not to mention the economy) cannot afford.
Pushed on by
a coalition that cuts across party lines, anti-immigration fever is infecting
politicians of all stripes. Republican presidential hopeful Pat Buchanan
has been the cheerleader for the latest round of anti-immigrant sentiments.
Although Buchanan’s nomination bid failed, he succeeded in pushing the
immigration debate much closer to his position.
Republicans together, however, bear the blame of this new anti-immigration
mood as decades of spineless jellyfish leadership from both parties created
an opening for Buchanan to exploit. Rather than argue the obvious, that
immigration is one of the most important reasons the United States achieved
its world-leading economic position, both Democrats and Republicans engaged
in scape-goating of immigrants whenever it served their short-term political
Like the Luddites,
who in the early 19th century attempted to preserve their economic position
by destroying the machines that helped create an unprecedented level of
material comfort, so the two major parties willingly sacrificed economic
gain at the altar of prejudice and know-nothing reaction to changes in
There is hardly
an industry in the United States today that would be as vibrant and dominant
without immigration. Many of the scientists who pushed Intel to its dominance
in computer chips came to this nation from Eastern European countries
where their ideas and innovations were not wanted. Although many politicians
complain when foreign citizens come to the United States to get degrees
in the hard sciences, our nation is strengthened by this and it should
In their opposition
to immigration, politicians maintain immigrants “steal” jobs
from American citizens. Some like Buchanan fear this so much they want
to build a fence around the United States. We know from history this simply
doesn’t work and, if it did, would ultimately harm the Americans whose
jobs it is supposed to protect.
It makes no more
sense to prevent Mexican residents from crossing the border into the United
States to seek work than it would to build an enormous fence between Indiana
and Michigan to keep job seekers from crossing the state border. Will
Indiana residents move to Michigan to “steal” jobs from Detroit
autoworkers? Maybe. Does everyone in the United States benefit from being
able to move freely across state borders in search of employment? Absolutely.
Free borders help
promote the sort of economy that continues to innovate, increase worker
productivity and improve the material position of all workers. Free interstate
commerce and workers movement has proven itself a success within the United
States, and it can bring about similar results if free movement between
the United States and Mexico were allowed.
the increasing welfare tabs picked up by states such as California as
a reason to discourage this movement of people. This is not a problem
with immigration, however, but with the ridiculous welfare programs created
by states such as California. The solution is not for the United States
to spend federal dollars to protect California’s out-of-control welfare
system from immigrants, but for California to stop engaging in the huge
income transfers that are the real source of its problems.
In its irrational
reaction against immigration, the U.S. House of Representatives is willing
to go to extreme lengths to restrict illegal immigration. Part of a recently
passed bill created a three-year pilot project in which employers in five
states would voluntarily use a computerized system to verify that new
employees are indeed U.S. citizens. Many in Congress would eventually
like to see this system permanent. This is nothing more than an attempt
to create a nation citizen registry.
If the system
is successful, it won’t be long before everyone in the United States is
required to carry a national ID card, which in fact an immigration task
force recommended a couple years ago.
If the United
States really wants to do this sort of thing, it could accomplish it much
more cheaply by simply forcibly tattooing Social Security numbers and
other information on the arms of potential workers. Another 20th century
opponent of the right of people to move freely and seek employment demonstrated
just how effective this technique could be.
At a time when
both parties complain about big government, the House bill authorizes
spending for 5,000 new border agents, along with 800 support staff (only
a government program would require one support person for every 6 new
There is the
hint of a salvageable idea in the immigration bill, though. The bill authorizes
spending $12 million to reinforce the fences around the U.S.-Mexican border,
including triple-fencing 14 miles of the border near San Diego. Now if
House members really want to have a positive impact, it should direct
that the $12 million be used to fence off Washington, DC, from the rest
of the nation. Put a few guards up and refuse to let any politician come
or go until they take an oath to start taking the U.S. Constitution and
Bill of Rights seriously.
Now that might
be some serious immigration reforms.