Death or Exile: Will Immigration Reform End the GOP?

Ann Coulter has published a scathing critique of House Republicans who plan to move forward on immigration reform. She previews a forthcoming report from Phyllis Schlafly which seems to indicate that any increase in immigration will redound to the benefit of Democrats. Coulter delivers a convincing argument, leading our own Leslie Loftis to herald a return to Tammany Hall.

Taking each woman’s conclusions for granted, a question of political strategy arises. What inspiring plan should be offered as an alternative? We need an answer, because opposing immigration reform solely on the basis of its political effect will convince no one. What exactly does Coulter expect House Republicans to do? Are they to stand up on the floor and say they oppose a policy which will foster votes for Democrats? Even if that somehow proved successful in the short term, this issue will not go away. Republicans need a serious proposal with marketable merit.

The first step involves dropping rhetoric about native unemployment and cheap labor. It’s divisive and offputting in a time when the Republican Party needs to build its coalition amid plainly shifting demographics. More importantly, it ignores key economic realities and the moral principle of individual rights.

The unemployment in America owes far more to government intrusion in the market than to any number of immigrants. Our market’s producers operate with one hand clasped behind their backs by regulation, and the other chopped off through taxation. The rules by which the market plays shift constantly, increasing risk and thus uncertainty and doubt. Such a climate chills innovation and enterprise, slowing the growth which creates jobs.

In a free market, immigration causes unemployment no more than native births do. Adding people to an economy does not take anything from anyone when individual rights stand protected. Under liberty, new people must become their own producers. If they want to survive and thrive, then they will work to that end. Indeed, the freedom to pursue happiness through merit has remained the lure of the New World since its discovery.

Critics will be quick to point out that we do not have a free market. Today’s immigrants benefit from a welfare state dangled in front of them by the Left. Even so, the welfare state should not become our argument against immigration. Immigration should become our argument against the welfare state. We should appeal to the pioneering spirit which brought our own forebears here, and lift up a brighter beacon of liberty.

Republican immigration reform should distinguish residency from citizenship. There should be no ‘path to citizenship’ for illegal immigrants. Foreigners who have trespassed upon our laws should become permanently ineligibile for citizenship, and thus permanently ineligible to vote. They should also be prohibited at all levels of government from receiving taxpayer-funded benefits. Beyond that, the process for legal residency should be streamlined to allow law-abiding individuals living on their own means to trade value for value in America.

A proposal along those lines would preserve the rule of law, uphold individual rights, protect taxpayers from abuse, and go some distance toward blunting the political concern expressed by Coulter. It would also mute the racial overtones which plague the immigration debate. Even if it could not pass into law, advocating such a proposal would present a real alternative to the status quo and – for once – place the Democrats in the role of obstructionist.

A sense of nativist entitlement among far too many voters deters any Republican from floating such a plan. Many folks who would eagerly debunk the notion of a zero sum market in any other context embrace it in reference to immigration. In truth, saying immigrants “take American jobs” proves no more true than saying the rich gain wealth by taking it from the poor. You cannot lose what is not yours. No one holds claim over a job which they did not create. Standing between the consensual relationship of an employer and an employee proves immoral whether the employee is an immigrant or not.

The conventional paths laid before the Republican Party lead to electoral death under a new Tammany Hall or cultural exile as nativist intransigents. Let’s forge a third path by laying fresh claim to the immigrant dream.

Cross-posted at PJ Media, where comments are welcome.