Conservatives and Immigration

Politico’s Arena site recently asked contributors to weigh in on whether the GOP is likely to be “wounded” by its support for severe restrictions on immigration. My answer is available here:

The real tragedy here is not that the GOP might suffer politically, but that so many conservative Republicans have turned against immigration in the first place. Conservatives claim to support free markets, yet many of them also wish to use massive government intervention to close off an international free market in labor. They extol the virtues of self-help, economic opportunity, and individual achievement. Yet many of them also want to build a wall to keep out immigrants who come seeking greater freedom and opportunity than they could hope for in their native lands.

Had the restrictive immigration policies favored by some of today’s conservatives been in force a century ago, the ancestors of most of those conservatives would never have been able to come to America in the first place….

Ronald Reagan said that America should be “a tall, proud city… teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace.. and … doors …. open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.” More recently, former Florida governor Jeb Bush urged Republicans to rethink their views on immigration. Conservative Republicans should heed their call.

In this post, I explained why conservatives (and some libertarians) are wrong to worry that increased immigration will lead to a larger welfare state. Evidence from many countries suggests that increased immigration and ethnic diversity actually reduces support for welfare state policies.

For this reason, among others, Jeb Bush is right to urge a change in the GOP position on this issue:

Republicans should reengage on this issue and reframe it. Start by recognizing that new Americans strengthen our economy. We need more people to come to this country, ready to work and to contribute their creativity to our economy…. Just as Republicans believe in free trade of goods, we should support the freer flow of human talent.

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