Remember the good old days when conservatives advocated liberty, free markets, and a business-friendly political environment? Now, at least when it comes to immigration, many conservatives instead advocate border socialism, economic protectionism, intrusive identification laws, and criminal penalties on employers for the "crime" of hiring willing workers.
Let us begin with the rights of property and free association, the bedrock of a free market economy. As a property owner, you have the right to invite your neighbor over for dinner. You also have the right to invite your neighbor to help you build a shed. These rights of property and association do not diminish if you offer to pay your neighbor, or if you offer to pay somebody from Florida, Canada, or Mexico.
But what about the Arizonans whose rights are violated when illegal immigrants sneak across their land? We agree that is a serious problem. However, it is immoral and impractical to attempt to protect the property of some by blatantly violating the rights of others. Moreover, the only reason immigrants sneak over the border (generally a dangerous and expensive proposition) is that immigration is largely illegal. With a robust guest worker program, immigrants looking for work would be more than happy to take the bus.
What about border security? With a robust guest worker program, U.S. officials could control the flow of migrants much more easily. Many fewer Mexicans would attempt to cross the border illegally, and U.S. law enforcement would have a much easier time catching them.
It would help if U.S. drug prohibition weren't enriching murderous Mexican drug lords, ripping apart the Mexican legal system, and promoting the illegal drug trade into the U.S. It is these drug routes that threaten to allow Islamist terrorists to hitch a ride. The obvious answer, which many conservatives are too cowardly to mention, is to repeal drug prohibition and return to individual responsibility. Short of that, at least a guest worker program would allow U.S. law enforcement to focus on the delimited problem of drug trafficking.
But won't legal immigrants and guest workers take American jobs? In a free society, a job belongs to whomever an employer chooses to hire, and to nobody else. And we are frankly tired of alleged conservatives treating jobs as though they were some sort of socialized property of the collective. It's time for Republicans to stop channeling Karl Marx when it comes to immigration policy.
Ah, but we hear, some immigrants go on welfare and drain government budgets. Many immigrants pay enormous sums into U.S. welfare programs and never draw out a penny. We advocate a guest worker program that forbids migrants from signing up for U.S. welfare dollars.
Conservatives claim to endorse family values. Why, then, do so many conservatives tolerate or endorse immoral immigration laws that split up families over minor technical infractions?
Many conservatives rightly bristle at the thought of giving their name to the government for a gun purchase. Why, then, do many conservatives now want to force all employers to verify employees with the federal government and force all citizens to carry identification documents to get a job and avoid trouble with the police? It used to be that conservatives were dead set against any sort of "papers please" policy.
These onerous paperwork crackdowns on employers started with tax compliance. Conservatives should be fighting such controls on businesses, not trying to enact more. What do you think the likes of Thomas Jefferson and Sam Adams would have thought about asking the federal government's permission to hire a willing worker? Now,shamefully, some alleged conservatives call for felony penalties on employers who fail to sufficiently kiss bureaucratic backside.
On a pragmatic note, Republicans are foolish to alienate Hispanic voters. Conservatives claim to support hard work, family values, and a strong sense of community harmony -- precisely the values of many immigrants.
To put a human face on the issue, some years ago your senior author knew someone in eastern New Mexico who worked a "truck garden," requiring back-breaking work to bring vegetables to market. He hired ten to fifteen illegal immigrants for the season, and said many of these workers had been with him for many years. They were hard working, dependable, and trustworthy. Once he ran help wanted advertisements in the local city and school newspapers. A single local high school student answered the advertisement. The student worked for a few short hours, then went home. Conservatives would throw that employer in prison and see his crops rot.
The choice is clear. Either you support liberty, free markets, the rights of property and association, and security against government intrusions, or you support restrictive immigration. But if you choose the latter, please do not call yourself a conservative. Use the correct term for your views on this issue and call yourself a socialist.
Linn Armstrong is a local political activist and firearms instructor with the Grand Valley Training Club. His son, Ari, edits Ari Armstrong's Free Colorado from the Denver area.