Libertarian-leaning conservatives such as me understand that while the United States is an exceptional nation, we can’t alleviate the entirety of the world’s suffering. We tried to do just that in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and failed miserably. Why can’t libertarians extend this perspective to immigration?
The United States cannot save the world by opening our borders. Its ills are too great and numerous. By taking in millions upon millions of immigrants, even legally, we dilute our political culture of ordered liberty and diminish our ability to be a beacon of freedom to the rest of the world. Meanwhile, we do little to nothing to alleviate the overall suffering of the vast majority of the world’s people.
Is it worth it to help one million, two million, even ten million foreigners if we make the lives of 325 million Americans worse? When this question is posed in the context of foreign policy, libertarians will unanimously say no. Yet the worst big government neo-conservatives align with open borders libertarians (not to mention open-borders leftists) on immigration policy because neo-conservatives apply their naive worldview consistently to international issues.
Libertarians must extend the realist, humble perspective that they apply to foreign policy to immigration policy. The United States can and should be an example for the rest of the world, but we cannot hope to rid the world of suffering, despite our best intentions.
According to data compiled by the late Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, most immigrants come to the United States with decidedly left-wing views on everything from health care, to gun control, to the overall size of government. According to a study conducted by the Center for Immigration Studies’ James Gimple, most immigrants are more than twice as likely to identify with the Democratic Party than the Republican Party.
Make no mistake about it, as maddening and imperfect as the Republican Party is, a permanent Democratic majority created through mass legal immigration will unmake America as we know it, and make the lives of everyone here, native born and immigrant, exponentially worse.
It is true that a perfectly free society would have open borders, but we live in broken, fallen world. Every country must look out for its own citizens, or no one else will.
There might be some truth to the idea that open labor immigration can lead to a slightly larger gross domestic product, but the United States of America is not just an economy. Our country is more than just a collection of employers and workers. There are political and cultural implications to admitting millions of immigrants who don’t share in the values of our political culture.
Immigrants disproportionately vote for Democrats. Another decade or two of mass immigration will solidify: higher taxes, socialized medicine, business-throttling regulations, alarmist climate change policies, socialized college, federalized education, gun control, an absurdly high minimum wage, possibly a federally funded jobs guarantee, etc.
That’s not to mention the incredible spending increases these programs would necessitate, or the populist concerns many have regarding mass immigration driving up unemployment for the unskilled, putting downward pressure on wages, and swelling the welfare rolls.
According to our own federal government, more than half of immigrant households receive some form of means-tested welfare. As libertarians and conservatives work together to scale back the size and scope of the welfare state, can’t we at least agree that in the meantime, it should exist to help only our fellow Americans? As a sovereign nation, we can, and generally should, pick and choose immigrants who will be net contributors to our economy, similar to the way our allies Australia and Canada do.
It’s not easy to apply libertarian principles to governance. But libertarianism at its core is about protecting freedom for the greatest number of people possible. Unfortunately, we can only effectively protect the freedom of our own citizens.
This applies to immigration just like it applies to foreign policy. If we continue to allow 1 million foreigners to immigrate to the United States annually, our political culture will be overwhelmed. If we continue to consent to our current level of immigration, or move even closer to open borders, we will be living in a catch-22 where a quasi-libertarian immigration policy leads to less and less liberty for American citizens.
This libertarian would rather allow for one simple government restriction on the liberty of foreigners—the ability to migrate to the United State—than consent to the continued mass immigration of socialist-leaning future voters. We must significantly downsize our illegal and legal immigration problems, and quickly. Otherwise I fear we will wake up one day living in a mere shadow of our once great republic where, once upon a time, freedom was our birthright.