The Corner

Risky Alliances

Paul Mirengoff at Power Line and John O’Sullivan have ably responded to Mario Lopez’s latest flailing attempt at justifying his smear of conservative immigration skeptics, so I’ll absent myself, having said what I have to say.

But the matter of conservative-liberal alliances on immigration policy does raise an interesting question. What risks are conservatives taking in entering the kind of odd-bedfellows arrangements that we see on both sides of the immigration issue? What I mean specifically is, are the desired outcomes of the various parties fundamentally at odds or not? I’d submit that on the low-immigration side, the goals of the right-restrictionists and left-restrictionists, while different, are not in conflict. On the other hand, there’s a real tension between the objectives of the right-expansionists and the left-expansionists.

Let me illustrate. The other day Robert Zubrin over on the homepage decried “Green Anti-Humanism.” I think Zubrin overreacted to the specific target he chose; I’ve met Phil Cafaro and he strikes me as a regular liberal environmentalist — he’s a former park ranger with two kids — rather than the humans-are-a-cancer type that’s lamentably common among the greens. Be that as it may, Zubrin was attacking the idea that global warming is caused by human activity, and Cafaro, an immigration skeptic, believes that and supports curbs on immigration as a way to reduce global carbon output, since the whole reason people immigrate here is to increase their carbon footprint by buying a car, a refrigerator, etc.

Personally, I don’t buy that. Human activity is not likely contributing to any significant degree to the warming that is certainly occurring, and there are no realistic policy options that could yield the magnitude of reductions in human-generated carbon output that could have any meaningful effect on the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

But what if I’m wrong? If the reduction in global carbon emissions that would inarguably result from curbs on immigration to the U.S. (or any other advanced industrial country) actually did have some salutary effect on the environment, this would in no way compromise my desired outcomes from reducing immigration. Regardless of any effect on the environment, less immigration would still promote assimilation of immigrants already here, would still tighten the labor market for the less-educated and for teenagers, would still reduce the burden on taxpayers for social-service costs, and so on. (These are all different aspects of the same problem — the incompatibility of mass immigration with modern society; check out Amazon’s digital remainder bin for my book making that argument.)

Now look at the other side. Grover Norquist, Jeb Bush, Linda Chavez, and others are allied with President Obama, the National Council of La Raza, and George Soros (whose Open Society Foundation has given $70 million to pro-amnesty groups in just the past eight years). I’m not saying this is necessarily wrong; I’m sure Norquist et al. sincerely believe their vision for immigration is better for the country and are happy to work with people who agree with them on immigration but disagree on other issues. But the desired outcomes of Grover’s immigration allies on the left are fundamentally in conflict with his own. They explicitly support immigration as a way to “solidify and expand the progressive coalition for the future,” in the words of Eliseo Medina, vice president of the SEIU and an honorary chairman of the Democratic Socialists of America.

Naturally, Grover and other right-expansionists don’t think that would be the outcome of amnesty and continued mass immigration (though no one on their side has ever presented a convincing case for how it could possibly turn out otherwise). But what if Grover’s wrong and Medina is right? In contrast to the situation among restrictionists, immigration policy is a zero-sum gave for the expansionists. Either Grover et al. are right, and mass immigration will create the large group of entrepreneurial, pious, traditionalist, anti-government voters that can undermine the Left; or Medina, Obama, Soros, et al. are right, and it will result in a clientele and constituency for expanded government, the continued erosion of moral traditionalism, higher taxes, income redistribution, increased regulation, a bigger welfare state, and socialized medicine.

In short, there’s an asymmetry of risk for conservatives allying with liberals on immigration. If my allies on the left are correct about the outcome of a more moderate level of immigration, my other policy preferences are in no way affected. But if Grover’s allies on the left are correct about the outcome of expanded immigration, his entire life’s work goes down the tubes.

Grover, why take the chance?

Mark Krikorian — Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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