If conservatives want to restore a vibrant party for "free men" (and women), then our leaders ought to return to the arguments of Milton Friedman, who outlined some unusual and unique insights on this pressing issue. If voters remember and reintegrate some of the values of the free-market economist, then they can turn stunning gridlock from the past five years into compromise on the immigration issue for the future.
The paradox of immigration starts with the current perceived problems with the issue compared to one hundred years ago. For many years, immigrants would enter this country and get a health check up. They would file paperwork, receive passports, then become citizens just like that. Up until 1914, no one in the United States complained about an immigration problem in this country. Now, there is nothing but uproar and race-bating over this issue. What happened over the past century? The welfare state, with its growing entitlement burden which immigrants (and citizens) can take advantage of, along with a growing class of dependents who have not received adequate training and preparation to get back on their feet.
Ironically enough, Friedman claimed that illegal Mexican immigration is good because people who come into the United States illegally do not qualify for entitlements. Illegal immigration is good. They will migrate to jobs that most Americans refuse to take. They provide work that helps businesses in this country. They prefer to live in this country with its opportunities rather than live in Mexico as citizens cursed with poverty and danger.
Responding to one student who felt that Mexican immigrants were cursed with choosing between bad and worse, Friedman pointed out that only on the surface Mexican immigrants have two bad choices. The lack of capital and free markets and the rule of law in their home country induces them to leave and seek a better life elsewhere. The immigrants who come to California do so because they are looking for a better life, and working in the fields of Central California is a palatial option compared to living in the failed welfare-warfare state South of the Rio Grande.
No one should condemn immigrants to having no opportunities by expecting the state to provide them the same level of life which Californians expect for themselves. Just as one generation improved its economic standing over time, so migrant workers, legally established, can do the same, rising from entry-level to better-paying jobs. The arrogant elitism which shamefully drives our political class to pave the way for some into this country will only hurt the state and the immigrant communities more.
Of his many insights on issue, Milton Friedman's one pithy remark on the immigration deserves the greatest attention:
"It is one thing to have free immigration to jobs. It is another thing to have free immigration to welfare. You can't have both."
If the United States insists on having a welfare state in which people are promised a certain level of subsistence once they enter, then the federal government is inviting more dysfunctional illegal immigration into the country. Another Republican, Texas Congressman and former Presidential Candidate Ron Paul, does not support a border fence. He famously denounced our government for stationing more forces along the Afghani-Pakistani border than along the United States-Mexico border. Like Friedman, Paul attacks the overgenerous public subsidies. Get rid of them, he argues. Hospitals can be charitable to individuals who come into this country and need care, but illegal immigrants should not have access to our public schools. Even Mexico requires enrollees to prove citizenship.
Most politicians, if they have any sense, want a free and healthy and thriving country with legal immigration, but no one should reward people for coming in illegally.
Congressman Paul has also advocated getting rid of the birth-right law in the Fourteenth Amendment. Passed originally to secure the civil rights of recently enfranchised African-Americans, the law has now permitted individuals to cross the border and give birth to their children on American soil, thus permitting them to become American citizens. Even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid originally advocated reforming this provision of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Beyond the extended arguments above, here is a list of reforms which will encourage legal immigration while protecting the citizens of this country, both born and naturalized. Deny benefits to immigrants (and provide a pathway to independence for citizens) and deport the ones who commit crimes. End the outrageous policy of sanctuary cities. Stop with this political correctness that refuses to hold every person living in this country to the standard of the rule of law.
Along with Friedman and Congressman Paul, Libertarian journalist John Stossel has pressed for open borders, but not with the welfare state. His colleagues in one forum suggested that immigrants who receive a college education with their Student Visas should also receive a Green Card. Attack the entitlement programs, and 90 precent of the argument would be gone about illegal immigration, they emphasised.
There is a solution to the illegal immigration problem in the United States, a solution that is conservative without being craven or uncaring to PC interests or identity politics. Conservatives, Republicans must heed Friedman on this issue. Attack the entitlements, not the people; demand more border patrols (not a fence), and Congress will be able to craft a bipartisan and humane solution to this neglected yet lingering issue.