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Jeb Bush Pokes an Immigration Hornet’s Nest

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Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has the Republican establishment’s blood boiling, over comments about immigration. Bush pointed out that illegal immigrants come to the United States out of love for their families — that is, to get jobs from willing American employers with the aim of improving, perhaps even saving, their own lives and the lives of their families.

Obviously, that’s not the type of thing that is likely to garner support among conservatives if Bush decides to run for president. Conservatives are notoriously anti-immigrant and would love nothing more than to build a much better and more effective Berlin Wall along our nation’s southern border. When it comes to the rest of the world, conservatives would love to just isolate America with immigration controls, trade restrictions, tariffs, sanctions, embargoes, and visa restrictions, with the hope of making the United States a self-sufficient, autarkic, isolated society.

The problem with Bush’s position, however, is that it still leaves him in the position of favoring immigration central planning, which is just another variation of socialism. Bush, like other conservatives, believes that the federal government should be in the business of planning and controlling immigration.

While he undoubtedly favors increasing the number of immigrants who enter the United States, Bush wants it done pursuant to some government plan and under government permission and control. He wants the government to decide how many immigrants should be permitted to enter the country, what types of immigrants, the qualifications of the immigrants, and so forth.

While Bush, like other conservatives, will bend over backwards to show people that he’s a “free enterprise” type of guy, the last thing he’s going to do is embrace free enterprise in immigration, as libertarians do.

Why not simply apply the principles of free enterprise to immigration? American employers obviously like hiring immigrants. Immigrants obviously want to come here to work. What’s the problem with that? Why should government be interfering with such enterprise? Why shouldn’t it be free from socialist control and planning?

Bush pointed out that illegal entry isn’t even a felony. What he failed to point out, however, is that when Americans hire, transport, or harbor an illegal immigrant, they are committing a felony under U.S. law. That’s thanks to laws enacted by both Republicans and Democrats.

Bush ought to reflect on that and examine where his concept of immigration love fits in there.

Imagine: a church group lets a poor, illegal immigrant sleep in a church basement until he can get a job and a place to live. The minister and his coconspirators are guilty of a felony.

Imagine: a company hires an illegal immigrant whose family back home desperately needs the money to survive. The company officials are guilty of a felony.

Imagine: a housewife drives an illegal immigrant who has cleaned her home to the bus stop. The housewife is guilty of a felony.

That’s about as far from the concept of love and free enterprise that one can get.

If only Bush and other conservatives would also confront the moral argument, the one that involves the concept of freedom. Why shouldn’t a person be free to hire, transport, and harbor anyone he wants, so long as everyone’s conduct is peaceful? It’s his money, isn’t it? It’s his home. It’s his car. What business does government have telling people that they can’t do what they want with their own money and their own property?

Moreover, why shouldn’t people be free to associate with anyone they want? Isn’t freedom of association a core element of the concept of freedom?

Statists, both conservatives and liberals, say: “But the law is the law. It must be obeyed.”

Really? Wasn’t segregation the law too? Wasn’t apartheid the law? Should people have been obeying those laws too? When man has enacted laws that violate God’s laws, why should people choose to pursue the laws of man rather than the laws of God? Let’s not forget, after all, that the Lord’s second-greatest commandment is: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

Bush has it right when he implies that illegal immigrants do nothing immoral when they come to the United States to work. Unfortunately, like other conservatives, he cannot break free of the statist paradigm to which conservatives have long been wedded. But of course that’s what makes him a conservative rather than a libertarian.

Postscript: We had an incredibly lively session last night at Binghamton University in New York as part of our Libertarian Angle college tour. A diverse group of libertarian, conservative, and progressive students, all of whom were educated, thoughtful, polite, and eloquent. It was another really enjoyable evening discussing ideas on liberty. Thanks to the Binghamton Young Americans for Liberty chapter for putting the event together, including the free pizza and drinks! It’s on to the University of Albany tonight!

 

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Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.