June 15, 2010

Me and the Gipper!

I'm proud to stand with a conservative, America-loving, free-trader, Californian hero of mine on the issue of immigration.

My arguments are economic but I do enjoy, on occasion, throwing some juicy quotes from President Reagan at my conservative interlocutors. So I sent today's editorial by Peter Robinson to my (biological) brother and brother-in-law today. I'll sit back and wait for the thanks to come pouring in.

Robinson wrote a superb book on our 40th President, What I Learned from President Reagan. I highly recommend it. The book is about applying Reaganís beliefs and principles to everyday life, and curiously, I read it in the hospital after my MS diagnosis and left it there (In Boulder that may or may not be a mitzvah).

Robinson worked for and carries a deep appreciation for President Reagan. As in his book, he assembles quotes, actions, and anecdotes to portray a belief. He starts with Reagan's signing -- dare I use the word? -- Amnesty!

Anyone who retains a high opinion of Reagan, whom John McCain himself has described as one of his heroes, can hardly help wondering. In 1986, Reagan signed legislation granting amnesty to millions of illegal aliens. Instead of denouncing the undocumented, Reagan invited them to become citizens. If Reagan was right then, isn't Sen. McCain wrong now? To attempt an answer, I've listed what we know for certain about my old boss and immigration. Then I've done my best to figure out what each item tells us about where Reagan would have stood on the issue today.

What we know for certain, item one: Ronald Reagan was no kind of nativist. In a 1977 radio talk, for instance, Reagan dismissed "the illegal alien fuss," arguing that we need immigrant labor. "One thing is certain in this hungry world," he said. "No regulation or law should be allowed if it results in crops rotting in the fields for lack of harvesters."


If that story is behind wicked Rupert's pay wall, let me know -- I'll be happy to email it to you.

You're welcome.

Immigration Posted by John Kranz at June 15, 2010 11:35 AM

I'll always have a soft spot for Reagan. He wasn't perfect, but he was far better than just about anyone else who's occupied that office in the last century.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at June 15, 2010 1:25 PM

And yet Reagan's "amnesty" for "certain illegal immigrants who entered the United States before January 1, 1982 and had resided there continuously" also made it a crime to hire illegal immigrants (with the stated intent that dim prospects for work would stem the flow of future illegal immigrants.)

So if what you're saying is correct, that Reagan believed there should be no "lack of harvesters" then the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act may have been intended to fail and was therefore a fraud upon the public.

Why not just annex Mexico and add thirty-one new stars to the United States flag?

Yes, I do know I risk excommunication from the blog for questioning Reagan's motives and/or intelligence. I'm not making a value judgment on the effective merger between the USA and Mexico. If it is to happen though I think it should be out in the open and acknowledged rather than the creeping, dripping, unspoken inevitability it appears to be.

Please, explain how I'm wrong. Alternately, explain why I should want it. (Keeping in mind that my perspective is not of a nativist, but a Constitutionalist.)

Posted by: johngalt at June 15, 2010 3:10 PM

Actually, I would like to offer statehood to Mexican states and Canadian provinces, if we could bring them in such that the Senate balance would be intact. But that's just crazy talk.

I think the '86 eal was meant to be "one and done." Okay, Skylark, you can have that hot dog you stole off my plate this time -- but it's not going to happen again! One can discuss whether that was hubris, naivete, or just a chance to kick the can down the road.

But it was the "comprehensive immigration reform" of its day and it is funny to me that the dirty word "Amnesty!" that sends politicians cowering in fear was embraced in concept by the man worshipped by about every man who wants to "complete the danged fence."

Not trying to duck your question, but I don't know the antecedent of "it." Why would you want more Mexicans living and working here? Because you enjoy prosperity and trust Ricardian economics that the larger sphere of workers and traders will make us all richer.

Why do you want to annex Mexico? To offer the benefits of freedom and rule of law to 111 million people, to secure the area as a stable political force, to facilitate trade, and to tax all her economic activity and mineral wealth. But again, I'm talkin' crazy.

Posted by: jk at June 15, 2010 4:02 PM

McCain was on the Reagan side of this issue two years ago, if one cares to remember. He has had to veer hard right recently -- his position on immigration is a direct result of the pressure the AZ tea party types have been placed on him over the last year. A great boon to the Republic, I am sure.

Posted by: T. Greer at June 15, 2010 7:01 PM

Senator McCain's name is not held in high esteem ‚Äėround these parts. I found this the most disappointing. He stuck to his guns against incredible adversity for years. And he lost far more GOP votes on immigration than on McCain-Feingold or opposition to the 2k3 Bush tax cuts,

I used to suggest that you had to respect his dedication to principle even if you disagreed. Whoops. I guess one more Senate term is worth more.

Of course, tg, there is a real danger in a Populist movement becoming Populist. Yet after the primaries so far, the record number of candidates, and the newfound sophistication of a newly engaged electorate, I retain my pride in the Tea Party movement more than ever and ask you to rethink your position.

Not perfect, but the last chance. Rep. Paul Ryan said that if we fail this time, there may not be another chance. I'd upgrade the may not to will not.

Posted by: jk at June 15, 2010 7:17 PM

JK, so that we have 111 million more voters whose representatives in D.C. will sap the already sapped wealthy states?

Remember that reunification wasn't such a great deal for West Germany.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at June 15, 2010 9:41 PM

Perry: German reunification is a perfect parallel and should be studied closely before proceeding. Are you certain, totaling the seen and the unseen that it was a bad deal for the West?

As to your first point, this idea was big for me when Barack Obama was that young guy who gave a great speech at the convention. The exponential rise of government since has cooled my ardor for expansion. I would also suggest that there are Mexican Texases as well as Mexican Californias.

Posted by: jk at June 16, 2010 11:44 AM

Absolutely sure. West Germany was doing fine on its own. Imagine adopting and having to care for a long-lost sibling who was always down on his luck (and who was released only because his kidnapper was too broke to keep him). The Soviet Union was in its last days, broke because of the arms race and from trying to sustain (militarily and economically) its puppet states.

After reunification, the East German communists simply joined with West German social democrats, and why not? Two sides of the same coin. So what was East Germany started getting subsidies and welfare programs at the expense of West Germany. This is exactly the kind of "equality" that socialism seeks: the bottom is brought up by a bit, the top is brought massively down.

Annexing Mexico would be exactly the same: we'd be doing nothing but adopting their poverty, violence, and widespread belief in "social justice" (fueled by a resentful belief among poor Mexicans that the government should tax the evil rich). Do we want another 100 million people on our welfare programs, another few dozen senators who'd demand a "fair share" of federal highway funds that they'd barely pay into? Most Mexicans are so poor that under our tax system, they'd be getting huge tax credits. So then we'd adjust tax rules for ex-Mexico, right? As if that would happen! Their Congressmen and Senators would, no doubt in broken English, accuse their new "Anglo" countrymen of racism.

And then consider that suddenly the U.S. would be bordering Guatemala and Belize, whose millions would suddenly find it much easier to come to the U.S. and achieve their dreams of anchor babies. In the county north of me is one town in particular that's been all but taken over by Guatemalans in the last decade. 10 or so years -- they come here despite the difficulties of going through Mexico. But if we annexed Mexico, millions in Central America would find it easier to come here and achieve their dream of anchor babies.

So, no thanks. It's bad enough to have a bad neighbor down the street, but even worse to buy the house next door before realizing that it borders his garbage-filled lot.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at June 16, 2010 4:34 PM

On a slightly different note, I don't think the United States has the cultural capacity to assimilate 100 million Mexicans on the fly.

Don't get me wrong - America is a very good with assimilation. I roll my eyes at the demagogues who declare that the current batch of Hispanic immigrants refuse to become American. But that number is but a tenth of Mexico's entire population, and a self-selected one at that.

Imagine what would happen. Millions of Mexicans would move northwards - 'specially when American labor standards put them out of a job - in search of a better jobs. Odds are that they would get many of them too. And how does your average American react to that? What does your average American do when a bunch of foreigners who can't speak English come into his town and take "his" job? The country would turn into a great tinderbox.

And in this future either the government fails to manage the huge amount of internal migration and inter-racial strife and American society falls apart, or it gains the capacity to manage both of these things and the iron hand of the state becomes all the heavier.

Neither option sounds like an America I want to live in.

Posted by: T. Greer at June 16, 2010 9:01 PM

This we definitely agree on. It isn't a matter of their skin color or genetics, but that they're coming from a culture without a foundation of individual liberty. It is impossible for this land of the semi-free to adopt another nation whose history for at least the last 1000 years has revolved around entirely around central authority and warfare. To envision such a future, consider the hordes of Muslims who are effectively invading France. They riot because it's the government's fault they're poor -- they're poor because they don't have jobs, and they blame the government for not training and creating jobs. They riot and burn synagogues regularly.

But wait a minute, rioting over not having jobs (and ones they like, at that), blaming the government, and anti-Semitism? They fit right in with the native French!

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at June 17, 2010 4:12 PM | What do you think? [10]