I just noticed the latest Wall Street Journal attack on immigration skeptics. (It’s here, but I think a subscription is required.) The piece is by Alfonso Aguilar, head of DHS’s Office of Citizenship under Bush II, now head of something called the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, and an affable enough guy in my experience. Before I address the substance, I have to note my disappointment that Alfonso didn’t name me personally; one of my professional objectives is to be denounced by name on the editorial pages of the Journal. (I’ve only managed that feat once, so far.)
But he does attack the Center for Immigration Studies, which I run, so if I’m reading Alfonso correctly, that makes me a “population-control activist” and “radical environmentalist” who thinks that “people are pollution.” Well, maybe in Bizarro World.
He then waves the bloody shirt of unions, saying that immigration limitation “historically has been embraced by big labor.” Uh, “historically” is the operative word here; the AFL-CIO and the SEIU are firmly in the open-borders camp. For a historical look at organized labor’s take on immigration, see here. The short version is that when American unions were animated by American patriotism, they opposed amnesty and unlimited immigration, just as they opposed corporate rope-sellers doing business with the Soviet Union. Now that organized labor has become post-American, it has embraced the same open-borders stance as the Journal; in fact, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce worked hand-in-glove with the SEIU to try to pass the Bush/Kennedy/McCain amnesty in 2006 and 2007.
Alfonso then goes to argue that free immigration is the same as free trade. This is a tired argument, but needs to be repeatedly rebutted. I think Borjas wrote a piece for NRODT during O’Sullivan’s papacy, though I don’t remember the date. My colleague Steve Camarota did this overview of the issue years back. And how about Henry Simons, one of the founders of the Chicago School of free-market economics, who wrote that:
To insist that a free trade program is logically or practically incomplete without free migration is either disingenuous or stupid. Free trade may and should raise living standards everywhere … Free immigration would level standards, perhaps without raising them anywhere.
Part of this view of foreign workers as widgets to be plugged into the economy is the promotion of guest-worker programs; as Alfonso writes:
Republicans have long favored the creation of a temporary worker program like the Krieble Foundation’s “Red Card Solution,” which Mr. Gingrich referenced in the last presidential debate.
Well, some Republicans have indeed favored such a thing. But others haven’t. Alfonso fields one ambiguous quote by Reagan, but how about the thoughts of others addressing the issue directly? Phyllis Schlafly rejected the very concept of guest workers as immoral, writing that:
Inviting foreigners to come to America as guest workers is equivalent to sending the message: You people are only fit to do menial jobs that Americans think they are too good to do. We will let you come into our country for a few years to work low-paid jobs, but you have no hope of rising up the economic and social ladder.
Is Phyllis “ideologically incorrect”? Or how about Milton Friedman, questioned at a libertarian conference in 1999 about a “blue card” proposal which is basically the same as Gingrich’s “red card”:
Q: Instead of a green card [resident alien status], can the USA issue a blue card which does not give welfare?
A: If you could do that, that would be fine. But I don’t believe you can do that. It’s not only that it is not politically feasible, I don’t think that it is desirable to have two classes of citizens in a society. We want a free society. We want a society in which every individual is treated as an end in themselves. We don’t want a society in which some people are in there under blue conditions, others are in there under red conditions, others are in there under black conditions. We want a free society. So I don’t believe such ….
I haven’t really ever thought of that system. It’s a new question. I very rarely get a new question, but I must admit that’s a new question for me. And I haven’t really thought about it a great deal, but my initial reaction is that it’s a very undesirable proposal.
Maybe Friedman was also “ideologically incorrect.” Teddy Roosevelt actually might fit that description, what with his many progressivist follies, but he was on the mark when he wrote that “Never under any condition should this nation look at an immigrant as primarily a labor unit.”
Alfonso goes on to praise Gingrich’s “unquestionable conservative credentials” (like his support for the “sanctity of marriage” — the more the better!) and ends this way:
I hope this signals that conservatives within the GOP are now ready to take back the immigration issue from the restrictionists in their midst. The question all Republicans must ask themselves is whether they are going to allow their party to be controlled by the ideas of big-labor restrictionists or the ideas of free-market conservatives like Ronald Reagan. The answer should be clear.
This clumsy attempt at damage control reeks of desperation. I actually thought Gingrich was successfully finessing the immigration issue — he’s more rhetorically adept than Perry, for one thing, and being the only non-Romney left, I figured lots of people turned off by his amnesty/open-borders stance but leery of Romney’s flip-flops might tell themselves Gingrich’s performance was just for show and would never actually come to fruition. But if this comically maladroit piece is any indication, it could be that Gingrich’s backers are more worried than I thought.