Reagan on immigration
One of the most frustrating things about being a conservative today are the policies promoted in the name of the conservative movement that are pretty much the opposite of what I believe conservatives should theoretically stand for. The first obvious example is gay marriage and adoption (why should a conservative advocate that government care about your sexual orientation?), but a second example is immigration.
Ronald Reagan is the undisputed king of the modern conservative movement in America. So, looking at conservative policies today you'd probably assume that Reagan wanted to round up all of the illegal aliens, erect a huge wall and said something about wanting to keep America for Americans.
In the late 1970s, Reagan proposed a treaty that would have allowed full freedom of movement for workers throughout North America. He signed the 1986 immigration reform act that gave over amnesty to over 3 million illegal immigrants. In his farewell address he again shared his vision of America:
I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.
You see that? I don't notice anything that says "unless you're unskilled and/or Mexican".
To be fair, Reagan also advocated heavy fines for employers that still hired illegal immigrants, but he was pushing for a humane solution that punished people trying to exploit illegal immigrants, rather than punishing illegal immigrants for trying to better their lives.
To me, that's a very conservative response - one that is optimistic and assumes the best of the individual and one that believes in the importance of opportunity and the enduring American dream.
Ilya Somin at Volokh has it exactly right when he says:
The fact that Reagan supported something does not by itself prove that it is right, or even that it is the right position for conservatives. Reagan certainly made his share of mistakes, such as the extremely grave error of trading arms for hostages with Iran. But as Cannon notes, Reagan's positive attitude towards immigration was not just an isolated issue position, but was integrally linked to his generally optimistic and open vision of America. I would add that it also drew on his understanding that America is not a zero-sum game between immigrants and natives - just as he also recognized that it is not a zero-sum game between the rich and the poor. Immigration could promote prosperity and advancement for both groups in much the same way that free trade benefits both Americans and foreigners. Reagan probably did not have a detailed understanding of the economics of comparative advantage which underpins this conclusion. But he surely understood it intuitively. Those who reject Reagan's position on immigration must, if they are to be consistent, also reject much of the rest of his approach to economic and social policy. Today's conservatives can argue for immigration restrictions if they so choose. But they should not claim the mantle of Reagan in doing so.
Sadly, I think the new modern conservative movement is more literal. It's social movement about "family values" rather than an economic or social movement about freedom.
Reagan used to be a Democrat. I don't think he'd be a Democrat today, but I have my doubts that he'd be a Republican.
Posted by kris at June 14, 2010 09:23 AM
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|# June 14th, 2010 9:37 AM BVBigBro|
|The problems, of course, are that:
1. Any discussion of addressing any illegal alien concerns is immediately labeled as racist.
2. People like you are the ones who want to exploit illegal immigrants. Yes, you. You want a cheaper this and a cheaper that and someone to take care of your every need when you're in a hotel room. That price pressure is half of what drives illegal immigration.
|# June 14th, 2010 9:40 AM kris|
|Well yes, we all want cheaper this and cheaper that, but we also have a conscience and don't want people to live in misery and fear because we want to pay $20 less for our hotel stay.
|# June 14th, 2010 9:44 AM BVBigBro|
|You say that, but reality is that we do not have a conscience and we're perfectly OK with people living in misery and fear as long as we don't have to look at them. |
|# June 14th, 2010 9:48 AM kris|
|I disagree. If you give people any easy way to help other people they'll do it. If you say, this head of lettuce is $1 and is brought to you on the backs of miserable illegal immigrants being exploited by the man and that this head of lettuce is $5 and brought to you under more humane methods - enough people will pay $5 |
|# June 14th, 2010 9:52 AM james|
|BV, you often make a distinction between "illegal" and "legal" immigrants, but I'm not clear how your positions change when discussing the issue of legal immigrants.
So let's do this:
1. Grant all "illegals" amnesty. Guest worker status for all, citizenship for anyone who wants it.
2. Open the borders. Anyone who wants to can come work in the U.S. Just sign your name at the door & give a forwarding address.
Now that we have no illegals, what's the problem?
|# June 14th, 2010 10:13 AM BVBigBro|
|The problem is, James you've now dumped your problem onto Arizona. Arizona then gets to pay the price for incarcerating the criminal element. Arizona then gets to pay for the services you've said must be paid to illegals even though they've spent their lives not paying into those services. Arizona then gets to pay to school a whole bunch of kids because you've added a demographic group highly skewed towards the young.
Second, illegals generally don't want citizenship. Citizenship means you can be tracked and forced to pay income and SSI taxes. Citizenship means can't simply depart anytime you want.
|# June 14th, 2010 10:21 AM BVBigBro|
|Legal immigration means we will sometimes say "no". |
|# June 14th, 2010 10:26 AM kris|
|I accept that, but I think we say "yes" most of the time |
|# June 14th, 2010 10:27 AM BVBigBro|
|Perhaps not. Legal immigration means a conscious decision within our control. |
|# June 14th, 2010 10:31 AM james|
|I would suspect that most people who collect services in the US have spent their lives not paying in. And you're forgetting that anyone who works in the US "pays in," even illegals. Also, I'd contest your assertion that most illegals don't want to be citizens. Many do.
Your problem isn't really with illegal immigration, then, is it? Sounds to me that you're against immigration in general. Or, more specifically, mass immigration.
You're right, unchecked mass immigration brings with it a slew of problems that need to be addressed. Top among them, "who's gonna pay for all of these services?" A valid concern.
The fact that Reagan was talking about this 30 years ago should tell us that anti-immigration legislation just plain doesn't work. (In fact, Reagan granted amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants, didn't he?)
Wouldn't it then make more sense to focus on the actual problem - namely, paying for services - instead of continuing with a policy that is doomed to fail? If we can see to it that guest workers pay their fair share of taxes, does that alleviate your concerns?
|# June 14th, 2010 10:48 AM BVBigBro|
|The fact that Reagan was talking about this 30 years ago would imply that amnesty and doing nothing doesn't work, because that is what has been done in the preceding 30 years.
Paying for services. would be a start, but only a start You, and others who complain about Arizona, want to go back and address the problem as it existed 5 or 10 years ago. That's no longer possible. In 2010 we have added several years worth of illegal immigrants. In 2010 we have a recession and the ensuing unemployment. In 2010 we are 5 years closer to the implosion of the various ponzi schemes we call government and social services.
We now face the problem of getting our economic house in order. Until we do so immigaration reform will take the form of Arizona's laws.
|# June 14th, 2010 10:51 AM kris|
|But wouldn't legal immigrants/workers who are paying in in greater numbers actually help solve some of our ponzi schemes?
If part of the issue is demographic then isn't this actually exactly what could help?
|# June 14th, 2010 10:54 AM BVBigBro|
|What happens when those immigrants reach the age of consuming vs. paying for services? Ponzi schemes fail because they require an ever expanding base. |
|# June 14th, 2010 10:56 AM james|
|Don't punish immigrants because the US has an unsustainable Ponzi system. As you point out time and time again, it's gonna fail either way. And as Kris points out, immigrants only help to sustain it. |
|# June 14th, 2010 11:00 AM BVBigBro|
|Immigrants do not help sustain it. They make it larger so that it falls harder when it falls. Don't punish citizens because you want to continue a ponzi scheme for a while longer. |
|# June 14th, 2010 11:02 AM james|
|You're avoiding the issue. If the system will fail either way, then the system needs to be fixed. Restricting immigration doesn't help to fix the problem. |
|# June 14th, 2010 11:12 AM BVBigBro|
|But of course, I have been writing about illegal immigration. Restricting illegal immigration undoubtably keeps our problems from getting worse while we fix them.
Legal immigration requires a debate, which no one outside Arizona wants to have.
|# June 14th, 2010 11:17 AM james|
|Restricting illegal immigration will eliminate the financial problems you identify about as much as restricting drug use has eliminated the drug problem in the US. |
|# June 14th, 2010 11:24 AM BVBigBro|
|The people of Arizona, who are after all the people experiencing, paying for, and confronting the problem, differ with you, James. Having seen amnesty and doing nothing fail, they wish to take a different tack. |
|# June 14th, 2010 11:43 AM james|
|And the people of Alabama would like to teach the Ten Commandments in their public schools. But they don't get to make that call. Neither does AZ. |
|# June 14th, 2010 12:33 PM BVBigBro|
|I won't indulge any fantasies of what
Arizonans or anyone else may or may not want to do. They do however, get to make the call on apprehending illegal immigrants.
They are also not obliged to engage in suicide pacts, illegal immigration, unlike the 10 commandments, being an issue vital to the survival of the state.
|# June 14th, 2010 12:51 PM james|
|When asked about why you don't like illegal immigrants, you cite state funding issues like education and crime prevention.
When presented with the prospect of solving the funding problem, you fall back on a Federal issue like Social Security. (Which is what I assume you mean by "Ponzi Scheme.")
Your solution to everything seems to be hanging a sign on the door that says "America is currently closed until we fix everything." (No word on whether you want to hang a sign in delivery rooms, too, though that might help.) Even though immigrants aren't the cause of the problems, you don't want them here.
Will there ever be a day when you will say, "OK, America is fixed! Open for business!"?
|# June 14th, 2010 2:40 PM BVBigBro|
|Illegals are a federal and state issue. They are a drain on both Federal and State resources, both of which are fighting their various ponzi schemes.
You have presented no prospect of solving any funding problems. Nor will anyone because of the state we are in. Nor does the door have to remain either open or closed. It will be open for some and closed for others.