I will put my Conservative credentials up against just about anyone. The first President I voted for was Ronald Reagan. I was a founder of the Conservative Student Union on my College Campus. As a lawyer I have given countless pro-bono hours to conservative legal causes and worked on the campaigns of some of the most conservative politicians this state has seen. As a result I tend to get a little testy when somebody tells me I am not conservative enough because I am pro- immigration and support immigration reform. The truth of the matter is that pro- immigration is the conservative stance. Whether a position is conservative or not depends not on what Rush Limbaugh says but on whether it adheres to bedrock conservative principles.
For instance, we believe in a government of limited powers enumerated in the Constitution. Nowhere does the constitution explicitly give Congress the right to regulate immigration. You can find the power to regulate immigration only if you infer it from other enumerated powers in the Constitution such as the Naturalization clause or the Commerce clause. Of course we have all seen what happens when liberals “infer” powers from the Constitution.
It is only natural that the Founding Fathers would not mention immigration in the Constitution. In an era when the rest of the world tightly controlled who could migrate and immigrate Americans believed they could come and go as they pleased and both before and after the revolution often ignored the laws of England, France and Spain that tried to prevent settlers from moving into their territories. Prior to 1875 individual States not the Federal Government regulated immigration. The First Federal Law dealing with immigration was passed in 1875, ninety nine years after the birth of our nation. The Page Act also known as the Asian Exclusion Act, outlawed the importation of Asian contract laborers, any Asian woman who would engage in prostitution, and all people considered to be convicts in their own countries. Then in 1882 in an act of blatant racism Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act. The Chinese Exclusion Act stated that there was a limited amount of immigrants of Chinese descent allowed into the United States for 10 years. The Federal Government has been mucking up immigration ever since.
Conservatives also believe in free markets. This includes free labor markets. Why is it we trust the free market to allocate other resources and seek decentralization and limited government intervention in all other areas but not immigration. The truth of the matter is that if the jobs are not there the people will not come. We require individuals to in effect get a government permit to come here and work and the permits are granted in an arbitrary and restrictive manner based primarily on where a person is born. Engaging in commerce and selling’s one labor is a natural right that should not be limited by arbitrary government regulations. Let’s apply the free market capitalist approach to immigration that we apply to other economic activity.
Now many of you are saying wait a minute what about the rule of law. That’s a conservative principle. These people are here illegally. Well that’s true. They have violated a civil law. However it is an unjust law and we Americans have a habit of ignoring or circumventing laws that are unjust. The reason we have so much illegal immigration is because our laws make no sense. They are not aligned with the reality of the labor market. Quite frankly I would give this argument a little more credence if the people spouting it called for stricter enforcement of the people breaking the criminal laws. That is the businessmen who hire the “illegal” immigrants and the suburban homeowners who use them as domestics and for mowing their lawns. If you really wanted to stop illegal immigration cold that is where your enforcement efforts should be focused.
In his farewell address to the nation in January 1989, President Reagan eloquently stated 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, windswept, 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 heart to get here.”
That’s why I am a conservative who is proudly pro- immigration.
Michael Laffey is a lawyer, conservative political activist, life long Republican and resident of Tinton Falls NJ.