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Are Republican Immigration Hawks Socialist?

From Fred Thompson, via Insty:

But he received his biggest applause for blasting the bipartisan plan for immigration reform, which he called unworkable. "We are a nation of compassion, a nation of immigrants," he said. "But this is our home . . . and we get to decide who comes into our home."

Isn't this an essentially socialist view of property, that the whole country is essentially owned by all of us collectively and it is our government's responsibility to administer access to this community property?

I am just completing a course on the history of Rome from the Teaching Company (whose products have been universally excellent in my experience).  One of the interesting things that contributed substantially to Rome's strength, at least through the BC years, was their flexibility and success in absorbing many different peoples into the state.  They actually had various grades of citizenship, including such things as Latin Rights where certain peoples could get access to some aspects of citizenship (e.g. ability to conduct commerce and access to the judicial system) while being denied others (e.g. voting). 

Can't we figure out something similar?  Shouldn't it be possible to allow fairly open access to being present and conducting commerce in this country, while still having much tougher and tighter standards for voting and getting government handouts?  The taxes immigrants pay easily cover things like emergency services and extra load on the courts, but fall short of covering extra welfare and education. 

Unfortunately, the debate seems to be dominated either by Lou Dobbs racists who see Mexicans as spreading leprosy or by Marxists who see poor immigrants as a wedge to push socialism.  The problem is again traceable to a President who tries to lead on divisive issues without trying to clearly communicate a moral high ground.  For example, I would have first tried to establish one simple principle that has the virtue of being consistent with most of America's history:   

"The US should allow easy access to our country for immigrants, but immigrants should expect that immigration involves financial risks which they, not current Americans, will need to bear.  Over time, they will have access to full citizenship but the bar for such rights will be set high."

OK, it needs to be shorter and pithier, but you get the idea.  Reagan was fabulous at this, and Clinton was pretty good in his own way.  Bush sucks at it.

Posted on June 3, 2007 at 09:56 PM | Permalink

Comments

For the record, SmartFlix rents out a dozen or so courses from The Teaching Company, and if there are every any that you're interested in, and we don't carry, we purchase 99% of all titles that are recommended to us.

Posted by: TJIC | Jun 4, 2007 7:05:42 AM

I'd be with you, but just like I don't trust government to close the border, I don't believe that we'll ever cut off government benefits to immigrants.

And speaking of Rome, didn't their downfall accelerate when they invited the Visigoths inside their borders?

Posted by: Craig | Jun 4, 2007 8:10:27 AM

I never understand why no one will suggest publicly that which makes the most sense: Let in immigrants who (instead of paying a smuggler) pay down part of the future entitlement program debt and forgo the right to entitlements themselves.

Posted by: JoshK | Jun 4, 2007 9:01:31 AM

It's just as socialist as any club or any publicly owned property. I.e., you can draw the analogy if you want, but it rapidly becomes absurd because of its infinite applications. Or, in otherwords, it's only a serious criticism if you don't buy the concept of borders to begin with...

Posted by: Jody | Jun 4, 2007 7:45:59 PM

I don't know of any political party that isn't collectivist. What average voter doesn't like to hear about how "we" are all compassionate and "we" all have "obligations" and "we" should care about the path of "our" society? Especially when this position is contrasted with "selfishness" and "division." Talk about a Hobson's choice!

As for immigration, I've always loved how you articulate the pro position (both in moral and economic terms). From an economic perspective, the argument is strong as ever. The Economist's Economic Focus this week is on Mexico-US immigration.

Even if one takes into account the welfare state use of illegals, the fiscal benefits to the US government are still positive. The higher tax revenues from cheap labour-led GDP growth combined with the future tax payments of the 2nd generation more than make up for education and health care costs. Check it out:

http://www.economist.com/finance/displaystory.cfm?story_id=9256643

When people conclude that Mexicans will be likely to abuse the welfare state, I think they often neglect how the process of immigration leads to the positive selection of individuals with high work ethic. The journey to the US is trying, to say the least. Those who make it are likely highly motivated and value the opportunity for upward mobility. Many of their offspring will internalize this culture (that is if the experience of public school doesn't destroy it!).

Posted by: true liberal | Jun 5, 2007 7:31:44 AM

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