Libertarian Republicans favor immigration amnesty; other GOPers do not

Illegal immigration is not only provoking debate across the country, but inside of the Republican Party. Photo: Associated Press

FLORIDA, February 20, 2012 — Kicking the can on illegal immigration down the road will no longer work. The problem has grown too large and far too expensive. The time for legislative action is now, but we should search for policies that it better rather than worsen the situation.

The idea of rounding up and deporting illegal aliens en masse is not only terrible, but also unrealistic. The social consequences of this would surpass imagination, and there simply aren’t enough law enforcement officers to do the job. However, making citizens out of illegal aliens is a plan for abject failure. Not only would unlawful immigration be encouraged, but competition would soar for even the most menial of employment opportunities.

If it is difficult to find a good job in Great Recession-era America, just wait and see how hard it will be to make ends meet in post-amnesty America.

Many illegal aliens have minimal interest in assimilating into American society. Many send the money they earn back home and plan to return themselves when their financial goals have been met. Amnesty is not going to make them decide to stay, keep their money here, or bring the average American any fortune whatsoever. Mitt Romney was onto something when he spoke about self-deportation. 

According to a recent poll, a clear majority of Americans have unfavorable views about granting amnesty to illegals. Among Republicans, amnesty is even more unpopular.

Of course, this opinion is anything but monolithic. While there are few enthusiastic pro-amnesty Republicans, for libertarian-minded Republicans, amnesty does not seem to carry a negative connotation. That should not be confused for unconditional support, however.

“First and foremost we are utterly opposed to the idea of any kind of national ID card, especially a biometric ID or smart-card based ID, being issued to citizens as a way of controlling immigration,” Dave Nalle, chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus, explains. “Tracking citizens this way using a national database is a violation of their first and fourth amendment rights and absolutely unacceptable. If we need to track people it makes much more sense to maintain a database of immigrants who come into this country and issue them trackable IDs, not citizens.

“Second, we oppose e-verify and related programs. E-verify puts the burden of immigration enforcement on businesses which should not have to do the government’s job for it. Businesses should not be penalized with red tape or with fines and punishments just for hiring workers to meet their labor needs.”

READ MORE: David Nalle on the GOP’s growing libertarian movement

What about the matter of actually granting legal status to those here illegally?

“Third and possibly most importantly, we believe that the solution to most of our immigration problems lies in a robust and well managed guest worker program,” Nalle continues. “Most immigrants, especially from the south, do not want to come to America to become citizens, they want to come here to work and earn money. So long as there are jobs here they will come, legally or illegally, so why not let them come legally under an organized guest worker system.  

“Issue them trackable visas to come look for work and then extend those visas based on their employment. Let them stay so long as there are jobs for them, and if the jobs aren’t there then they will leave on their own. America needs immigrant labor, and we believe that if properly managed, a guest worker program will convert border security from interdiction to management and benefit workers, businesses and the economy.”

Is that it?  

“Of course there are also other concerns,” Nalle notes. “We think that ending the War on Drugs would go far to improve conditions on the border and for immigrants. We also believe that current laws denying immigrants access to welfare programs should be maintained and properly enforced.”

What about the fact that a surplus of laborers will result in decreased wages and soaring competition for menial jobs? I didn’t ask Nalle about that specifically, but I have yet to hear a libertarian provide a substantiative answer to this question.

Beyond dollars and cents, what about preserving some sense of a national culture? What about keeping English the predominant language of this nation? What about overpopulation?

READ MORE: Likely voters want immigration laws enforced

The libertarians never do seem to have much to say about these things. Perhaps this is why the Austrian School, along with Say’s Law, are best given theoretical as opposed to practical consideration. 

In any case, the GOP has some philosophical diversity insofar as illegal immigration is concerned. The Democratic Party certainly does as well, and this diversity is most definitely for the better.

If only compromise were fashionable right now, and any possibility of bipartisanship didn’t include an amnesty program of some sort, but that’s life in winner-take-all-and-everyone-else-loses-era America.

Can we honestly comprehend what our quality of life will be like in amnesty’s wake? Flipping burgers might become a job to which upwardly mobile people aspire. 

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Joseph Cotto

Joseph F. Cotto is a social journalist by trade and student of history by lifestyle choice. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he was a contributor to Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications. He is currently at work on a book about American society.

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