On Immigration, Too Many Conservatives Oppose Liberty

The following article originally was published May 14, 2010, by Grand Junction’s Free Press.

On immigration, too many conservatives oppose liberty

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

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 FreeColorado.com from the Denver area.



Anonymous May 14, 2010 at 2:06 PM
Instead of viewing immigrants for what they contribute, we view them for what they cost. We try to figure out how much in “free” government services they use, health care, education, welfare, etc. We aren’t moving towards less government, so divisions between neighbors will likely keep growing.

mtnrunner2 May 14, 2010 at 9:59 PM

Armstrongs, you’re absolutely right.

Just this AM I commented on a Tea Party site web that was flush with words like “freedom”, “rights”, and “constitution”, yet they were promoting the awful http://standwitharizona.org/ action.

On the premise that at least some of them were mistaken or ignorant, I left the link to the excellent Objective Standard article on immigration: http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues/2008-spring/immigration-individual-rights.asp.

Advocates of freedom need to realize they are not helping the cause by backing overly restrictive and protectionist federal laws.

Neil Parille May 16, 2010 at 4:34 AM


While I agree with some of what you say (in particular the drug war), I don’t think the large number of immigrants in this country is a good idea.

I’m curious if you would place a limit on the number of guest workers? In addition, we would still have the same problem. These workers would come to the US and have children. What would we do when the duration of their visa is up and tell them to take their citizen children with them?

I understand conservatives opposing the high level of immigration we have. It certainly isn’t making the US more conservative. Areas with high immigrants such as LA are hotbeads of multiculturalism, leftism, and labor unionism.

Would you extend the guest worker program to people from Islamic nations? That would open the door to terrorists since it’s unlikely that most would-be terrorists would tell the border agents that they support terrorism.

Incidentally, the author of the above-refernced article is Craig Biddle. I asked him if believed Israel’s policies on immigration are immoral and he didn’t respond. (Israel would become a Moslem country if it followed Biddle’s advice.)

-Neil Parille

Ari May 16, 2010 at 8:42 AM

It would be pleasant if you would respond to any of the arguments the article makes against your position. Nevertheless, I will briefly respond to your points.

1. By my reading of the 14th Amendment, it is true that anyone born here automatically becomes a citizen. I don’t see this as a problem. What percent of immigrants have babies here? Many males work here seasonably partly to support their families in Mexico. Why does this concern you? If we cut off immigration from welfare benefits, this would create zero problem. I would, however, be open to an amendment slightly altering the rules about citizenship.

2. Immigrants certainly are not the driving force of the left. That is, instead, homegrown ideologues.

3. So your strategy for preventing more “leftism” is to impose more socialist, collectivistic controls? You will not win the ideological battle by promoting collectivism. (Or, rather, you will win the ideological battle FOR the left.)

4. Your assumption that border checks would be limited to guards asking questions is asinine. Anybody with a suspicious background should be checked out, possibly delayed or denied entry, and possibly tracked more carefully if allowed through. But the fact is that most would-be terrorists hate America and want nothing to do with us. You want to prevent Catholic Mexicans from working in the U.S. in order to prevent Islamist terrorism from the Middle East?

5. I don’t know much about Israeli policy and therefore cannot say much about it. When my dad visited there he noticed that many Muslims in fact live in Israel. Obviously, Israel has to be especially careful about border crossings, given the number of Islamists who openly declare they want to destroy the Jews. Israel is very nearly at war with its neighbors. If the U.S. were at war with Canada or Mexico, obviously that would effect our immigration policies with respect to those regions for the duration of the conflict. But your argument seems to be that we should keep out obviously peaceful people because Israel’s neighbors are murderously hostile.

Your arguments are so laughably inept that I have to wonder whether you’re trying to divert attention away from your primary agenda with distractions.

Thanks, -Ari

mtnrunner2 May 16, 2010 at 9:16 AM

Open immigration does not mean national suicide.

Anyone who is an *objective security risk* is a candidate to be barred entry to the country. Who that is remains to be determined based on the objective security requirements of a given nation, whether it’s Israel or the US.

However, common arguments for limiting immigration are often thinly disguised protectionism or racism and violate the rights of peaceful individuals. Or they are a fallback position made in response to the failures of bad foreign policy.

Ari May 17, 2010 at 1:14 PM
Notes on the comments:

1) If you submit a comment that is gratuitously insulting, then I will not waste my time reading it. Certainly I will not post it or bother responding to it.

2) If you submit a comment that significantly misrepresents my stated position, or that fails to respond to it, then I will not post your comment .

If you want to criticize my position, then do so using honest argument, not misrepresentation and personal attacks. Thanks!