"Worse than A Crime—A Blunder": Ron Paul's Tragic Turnaround On Immigration

Congressman Ron Paul's apparent entry into the presidential race will certainly be welcomed by many on the anti-Establishment "Alternative Right".  Paul's heterodox views on foreign policy and the Federal Reserve, along with his consistent opposition to government spending, had earned him an army of loyal supporters since before his long-shot presidential campaign in 2008.

(Indeed, VDARE.com columnist and patriotic immigration reform leader Rev. Chuck Baldwin has just proclaimed: "The Tea Parties Now Have Their Man.")

VDARE.com wrote extensively about Ron Paul's mixed but interesting immigration record during the 2008 campaign, including an interview he did with Peter Brimelow. Back then we noted that he was generally good on the issues of amnesty, sovereignty, welfare for illegal aliens, and above all birthright citizenship (of which very few professional politicians had then heard). He was bad on E-Verify and Real ID. And his positions on legal immigration were disturbingly vague.

But as the 2008 campaign wore on, it became clear that Paul had no idea how to use the immigration issue, with the result that the chameleon Mike Huckabee and the amnestiac John McCain (!!) regularly outpolled him among self-reported immigration patriots—greatly to the disgrace of his campaign managers.

Since the presidential primaries, Paul has been virtually silent. His post-campaign book, The Revolution, did not mention immigration at all.

Paul's congressional website's platform for 2010 was identical to that for 2008. He called for increased border security, rejection of amnesty, an end to birthright citizenship, no welfare for illegals, and a vague "true reform" of legal immigration.

On the legislative front, Paul has been Missing In Action. He voted against the DREAM Act, but has not co-sponsored any significant piece of immigration legislation.

Now, at last, Paul has finally given a comprehensive discussion of his views on immigration—in his latest book Liberty Defined, where he lists his positions on fifty different issues.

But what he—or the left-libertarian faction that seems to have his ear/ byline after the strange death of Rothbardian paleolibertarianism—actually says about the issue of immigration is a profound, and in fact tragic, disappointment.

Ominously, Paul begins by trying to triangulate between the Open Borders Left and a non-existent restrictionist straw man.

Thus his immigration chapter opens: "There seem to be two extreme positions on immigration: completely closed borders and totally open borders."

Bunk! No patriotic immigration reformer want a "closed border." We want a secure border—where we control who comes in and does not. No-one wants to get rid of tourists, cross-border commerce, or even all legal immigration. We just want to keep out drugs, illegal aliens, and terrorists out, while limiting and selecting the inflow of legal immigrants.

Paul's triangulation continues:

"One side says use the US Army, round them up ship them home.  The other side says give them amnesty... The first choice—sending twelve to fifteen million illegals home—isn't going to happen and shouldn't happen…if each case is looked at separately, we would find ourselves splitting up families and deporting some who have lived here for decades, if not their entire life, and who have never lived for any length of time in Mexico. This would hardly be a Good Samaritan approach to the problem. It would be incompatible with human rights."

Baloney! Far from offering a "third way" between the Left and Right, Paul sounds exactly like both Barack Obama and the GOP establishment:

"If the majority of Americans are skeptical of a blanket amnesty, they are also skeptical that it is possible to round up and deport 11 million people.  They know it's not possible.  Such an effort would be logistically impossible and wildly expensive.  Moreover, it would tear at the very fabric of this nation—because immigrants who are here illegally are now intricately woven into that fabric.  Many have children who are American citizens.  Some are children themselves, brought here by their parents at a very young age, growing up as American kids, only to discover their illegal status when they apply for college or a job"

[Remarks by the President on Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Whitehouse.gov, July 1, 2010]

To his discredit, Ron Paul echoed Obama all the way down to the clichés about splitting up families and children without Mexican roots.

But at least Obama and Gingrich didn't pretend that deporting illegal immigrants would require violating the Posse Comitatus Act.

Paul, Gingrich, and Obama set up a false dichotomy. Most patriotic immigration reformers, certainly none in Congress, do not advocate for mass deportations—much less employing the army in the task. They simply argue that stepping up interior enforcement and sanctions against employers will encourage illegal aliens will go home on their home—"attrition through enforcement".

Additionally, it now turns out that Paul now opposes all employer sanction laws. He writes:

"Don't punish third parties for not being keen to act as law enforcement agents in regard to illegal immigration.  Blaming American employers and fining them for hiring an individual, directly or indirectly, with counterfeit identification strikes me as a compulsory servitude not permitted under the constitution. Determining who is legal or not is police and court function, not a responsibility of private business."

Of course, E-Verify would get rid of the problem of employers having to deal with counterfeit identification. But Paul was one of just two Congressmen to vote against reauthorizing E-Verify. And how is asking employers to follow a very simple regulation "compulsory servitude?"

Paul doesn't mind illegal aliens working anyway—he argues "Many claim that illegal immigrants take American jobs.  This is true, but most of the jobs they 'take' are the ones unemployed Americans refuse at the wage offered."

Of course, a believer in free markets should understand that this is merely another way of saying American labor has been underbid. The real question: why should a Paul Administration ally with the owners of capital against labor, by increasing its supply? Particularly when immigrant labor is cross-subsidized by the taxpayer-funded welfare state—a complication that Paul, like most modal libertarians, rarely address. (For that matter, modal libertarians never even acknowledge that a powerful libertarian critique of immigration has been developed, for example by Han-Herman Hoppe.)

Nor, now, does Paul support interior enforcement. He comes out against SB 1070. He asserts:

"Arizona-type immigration legislation can turn out to be harmful. Being able to stop any American citizen under the vague charge of 'suspicion' is dangerous even more so in the age of secret prisons and a stated position of assassinating American citizens if deemed a 'threat,' without charges ever being made."

Paul's line about assassinating American citizens refers to the Obama administration's decision to deem Al Quaeda Cleric Anwar al-Awlaki an enemy combatant, whom the CIA can lawfully kill. Ironically, Al-Awlaki is an "anchor baby"— born to Yemeni parents here on a student visa. He is currently working with al-Qaeda in Yemen.

Whatever your views on Obama's terrorism policy, the concept of "reasonable suspicion "is not a "vague charge" made up by Kris Kobach and Russell Pearce in SB 1070. Police power to question individuals where they believe there is "reasonable suspicion" was established in the 1968 Terry v. Ohio case, and local police had been using this authority in criminal investigations long before then. SB 1070 simply applied this pre-existing standard, which was used by police in other crimes and federal immigration authorities, to local immigration enforcement.

Along with Paul's imaginary calls for the US Army to round up illegal aliens, this analogy can only be seen as an intentional attempt to conflate basic interior enforcement with the most extreme hypothetical "big brother" violations of civil liberties.

So if we aren't going to have deportations, interior enforcement, employer sanctions, or amnesty, what's Paul's plan? He writes:

"Immigrants who can't be sent back due to the magnitude of the problem should not be given citizenship. Maybe a 'green card' with an asterisk could be issued.  This in-between status, keeping illegal immigrants in limbo, will be condemned by the welfare left as too harsh and condemned by the confused right as being too generous.  It will be said that it will create a class of second-class citizens.  Yet it could be argued that it may well allow some illegal immigrants who come here illegal a benefit status without automatic citizenship or tax-supported benefits—as much better option than deportation."

Paul is right about one thing: after reading this, I am a member of the "confused right". How does this proposal not create "second-class citizens"? And how is it better to have a mass of semi-legal immigrants in this country than not to have them here at all?

Worst of all, Paul calls for increasing legal immigration from its present record levels. He writes: "With free markets and private property, a need for immigrant labor becomes obvious.  Make it legal and easy with a generous visitor work program."

And Paul attacks the motives of immigration patriots. Thus he claims that immigrants

"have a work ethic superior to many of our own citizens who have grown dependent on welfare and unemployment benefits. This anger may reflect embarrassment as much as anything."

This is just immigration enthusiast anti-American myth-making. The reality: despite the fact that illegal immigrants and newly arrived legal immigrants are ostensibly barred from most means tested welfare, the Center for Immigration Studies reports that 57% of immigrant households with children are on welfare—compared to just 39% of native-born households (and 30% for native-born whites).

And, disgracefully, Paul insinuates that there are "racist" motives behind immigration restriction. He writes: "It's hard to hide the fact that resentment toward a Hispanic immigrant is more common than toward a European illegal immigrant." (Link added.)

This, again, is a completely hypothetical assertion. Some 77% of illegal immigrants come from Latin America—and less than 5 % of illegal and 9% of legal immigrants come from Europe.

There are a few good things in Paul's book. While he opposes Arizona's law, he does assert the rights of states to enact their own immigration bills. He calls for ending all aid to illegal aliens, including public education. (Great—but how would it work, exactly?) He reiterates—albeit in just one sentence—his opposition to birthright citizenship.

Nevertheless, Liberty Defined clearly shows a shift towards open borders libertarianism by Paul. This is a truly saddening development.

Why the shift? Paul is very principled man. He does not usually shift his core beliefs based on political expediency.

But he has shown a willingness to wiggle on issues such as race and immigration, where he does not seem to have very strong beliefs one way or the other.

Note that Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson has also thrown his hat into the GOP presidential nomination race—and he is promoting a more left-wing libertarian view on both gay marriage and immigration.

Paul has a cult following among libertarian college students around his group Young Americans for Liberty. The majority of them dogmatically support open borders, as do most of the Beltway Libertarian Establishment.

Thus Reason Magazine's Shikha Dalmia explains her support of Johnson over Paul:

"Like Paul, he is anti-war, anti-big government and pro-civil liberties. But unlike Paul, he is pro-choice (except for late-term abortions), pro-immigration, pro-trade and untainted by bizarre conspiracy theories that NAFTA is a prelude to the dissolution of North American borders." [Reason Writers Around Town: Shikha Dalmia on Gary Johnson for President, April 28, 2011]

It is possible that Paul—or his handlers— worry about these dedicated libertarians loonies defecting into the Johnson camp?

Paul's shift on immigration could be a costly mistake. As he discovered in 2008, dedicated libertarian loony followers do not necessarily translate into popular votes. And the vast majority of Republicans support patriotic immigration reform.

Recent polls show that Republicans want an Arizona style immigration law in their state by over a 7-1 margin. And they oppose birthright citizenship by over a 5 to 1 margin.

Losing a few pot-smoking college students who might pass out campaign flyers between bong hits is not worth alienating these voters. Nor is the condescending tolerance of the MSM.

Napoleon's police chief Joseph Fouché famously said of the duc d'Enghien's judicial murder: "It was worse than a crime; it was a blunder".

Ron Paul needs every vote he can get in his insurrectionary candidacy. In spurning immigration patriots, he has blundered.

"Washington Watcher" [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.