By Brian Doherty
Is Ron Paul the next "pro-immigration libertarian" to bedevil conservatives? VDare's Washington Watcher columnist surveysLiberty Defined, Paul's latest book, and finds a "tragic turnaround on immigration." In an email to supporters of his PAC Friday, Tom Tancredo accused his former congressional colleague and fellow 2008 Republican presidential candidate of doing a "180 turn" on immigration and "standing with La Raza and the Chamber of Commerce."
"I have served with Ron Paul in Congress for ten years and consider him a friend," Tancredo continued. "While we have differed very publicly on issues such as the threat of Radical Islam, he had generally been an ally on immigration in Congress. He was a solid vote against amnesty, a leader in ending birthright citizenship, and joined my Immigration Reform Caucus."
According to these critics (I haven't read Liberty Defined yet), in his book Paul repeats cliches about illegal aliens only doing jobs Americans won't do, canards about using the Army for mass deportations, and comes out for some kind of "generous visitor worker program" that bars participants from receiving government benefits. Paul remains opposed to amnesty -- though Tancredo characterizes this last position as "amnesty with an 'asterisk'" -- and birthright citizenship, but is also against Arizona's SB 1070, E-Verify, and employer sanctions against hiring illegal aliens.
While Tancredo might be angry that there is no concentrated tone of anger or vilification toward immigration, Paul specifically does in the book tip his hat toward Hans-Hermann Hoppe's theories that in a fully libertarian world of nothing but private property, that free migration would be highly restricted.
And when Paul lays out imigration policy in the book, it goes something like this: abolish the welfare state to eliminate incentives to freeload; have a generous visitor work program for those who want to come here to work; also have more border guards to enforce current laws, and permit states to enforce current immigration law. End birthright citizenship. Stop all federal mandates for free education and medical care for illegal immigrants. No legally compelled bilingualism.
Do not, however, punish employers for not enforcing immigration laws themselves. No citizenship for current illegal immigrants, but grant them some sort of "in-between status," which he grants might be problematic but he sees as better than trying to ship millions of them out. And police should be able to determine someone's citizenship if they have already been "caught participating in a crime."
This all might not be as harsh and angry as Tancredo likes toward people who cross borders without proper papers, but it's far from the more free-wheeling attitude toward immigration that is often pushed around these parts and that really aggravates the Tancredos of the world. Paul refers to "completely closed borders and totally open borders" as "two rash options."
It seems to me the Paul approach that just might work in GOP primaries even if it doesn't meet 100 percent no borders libertarianism, an idea that Paul also refers to as "the ideal libertarian world" solution, but one he thinks this ol' world isn't ready for.
Jim Antle raises the idea that Paul is deliberately shifting his immigration focus "perhaps in anticipation of competition with the more conventionally open-borders libertarian Republican Gary Johnson." This strikes me as extremely unlikely; read Liberty Defined in its entirely and its hard to detect any pandering to any audience about anything in it. It doesn't read like a campaign document seeking votes or voters; it reads like a committed man explaining what he thinks about things. Besides, there is probably little juice to be gained in GOP primaries by being even mildly pro-immigration.
And while Johnson told me he repudiates the idea on further thought, an early pamphlet from his "Our America: The Gary Johnson Initiative" says that he believes "Verification systems must be used for all workers," a restrictive idea Paul with his opposition to Real I.D. and to forcing employers to help enforce immigration laws has always been against.
My review of Liberty Defined will be in Reason magazine's July issue. Subscribe today!