We are told, too, that wider family reunification is of paramount importance to immigrants who are already here. In cases of genuine asylum, there is certainly a virtue in this country’s remaining a “Mother of Exiles.” But what of voluntary migration? I am an immigrant who chose to move here. In making my decision, I weighed up the costs and the benefits, and I live with those every day. Should there be no downside to my having relocated? Does America owe me comfort? Absolutely not! There are costs to displacement and they should be paid by the immigrant.
And if America should bend over to accommodate me, where should it stop? Perhaps I’d like to be able to spend my local currency here. Should we allow that? Perhaps I’d like my favorite local restaurant and all its employees shipped over? (So I can integrate, you understand.) Perhaps I need part of my hometown transported across the Atlantic so that I don’t really have to leave; after all, what’s a bridge or a brick wall among friends? There’s nothing inherently wrong with bringing over your parents or your sister to join you. But they shouldn’t be privileged in law, pushed to the front of the line, or exempt from caps because they happen to have a relative here already.
It is sometimes said by libertarians that state control of the immigration flow is antithetical to conservative principles, fitting more neatly in with the statist tradition than with the free-market ethos to which those on the right typically display fealty. There is some truth in this. But it does not tell the whole story. Immigration controls are, in fact, the inevitable product of statism, rather than statism per se; for, as Milton Friedman was fond of pointing out, as long as a welfare system exists in the United States, immigration will need to be controlled. “It is one thing to have free immigration to jobs,” he said. “It is another thing to have free immigration to welfare. And you cannot have both.”
The question before the country is not whether immigration controls are necessary but instead, given that the welfare system isn’t going away, how do we structure our laws to get in the people we want? Sadly, despite all the anger and activity in Washington, this question is not being answered. Were the pro-amnesty “Gang of Eight” as interested in the rest of the bill as they are in the southern border, their proposal could go some way to deserving the “comprehensive” sobriquet that they have so cynically accorded it. As things stand, like the foreign lands from which Lazarus’s “huddled masses” came, those who are trying to sell the bill as an exhaustive fix to America’s troubles are laboring under so much “storied pomp.”
— Charles C. W. Cooke is an editorial associate at National Review.