Conservative Perspectives on Immigration Reform

US Border Patrol officer at work beside US/Mexican border. Robert E Daemmrich/Getty Images
In 2006, liberal documentarian Morgan Spurlock devoted a segment of his show 30 Days to the issue of conservatives and immigration reform. Spurlock chose as the protagonists of this one-hour episode, a family of seven people, some of whom were living in America illegally and some of whom were born in the US and were thereby natural citizens. The antagonist of the show -- and the main subject -- was a man named Frank Jorge, a member of a citizen border patrol group called "The Minuteman Project" and himself a legal immigrant of Cuban descent.
Frank was referred to as "anti-immigration," a term many people supportive of illegal immigration use to define those opposed to it. In fact, Frank was "anti-illegal immigration," or more accurately, "pro-law."

The episode was engaging for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that it put a face on the issue of immigration in all its forms, both legal and illegal. By the end of the show, this very welcoming, friendly and happy family had pulled Frank's heart-strings and captivated the public. It was easy to sympathize with the family and the desperation of illegal immigrants everywhere portrayed quite clearly when Spurlock visited the family's former home in Mexico and documented its squalor.

Frank welled up several times during the show, but despite efforts by the the program's editors to portray him as a "changed man," he stated after the show that he remains convinced illegal immigration is wrong and does more harm to America than good.

Latest Developments

His resolve may seem surprising, considering how close he became with the Gonzalez family, but his position was vilified in 2009 as a rash of kidnappings occurred in Arizona as a direct result of illegal immigration. Members of Mexican drug cartels, in the US illegally, would kidnap American citizens for ransom, and send the money across the border, where its value was inflated.

While the kidnap victims were often the relative of a drug-trafficker, they were just as often the relative of an immigrant smuggler. Phoenix became the kidnap capitol of the US in 2009, with more incidents than any city in the world -- except for Mexico City.

Immigrant smuggling has become more popular in US states bordering Mexico because a load of 30 immigrants can net the smuggler anywhere from $45,000 to $75,000.

Very often, conservatives favoring immigration reform will couch the issue in terms of "national security." Illegal immigration goes well beyond the US/Mexico border, and kidnapping isn't the only problem. In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, it was revealed that all 19 hijackers entered the US with valid documents. Some, however, had committed fraud to obtain them. The fraud was easily perpetrated thanks to glaring and easy-to-fix loopholes in the US visa system.


The issue of illegal immigration is very different from the issue of immigration itself. While most conservatives have no problem with immigrants, there are conflicting opinions about illegal aliens. Conservative opinions are as complex as the issue itself.

So-called "law and order conservatives" favor tightening the US border and deporting illegal aliens back to their countries of origin -- wherever they may be.

Reflecting the growing dependency on illegal labor in the US, so-called "business interest conservatives" favor easing immigration restrictions and acknowledging the economic importance of immigrant workers.

Americans willing to work hard should be able to make a decent living.
-- President Barack Obama
Unfortunately, the problems with illegal immigration interfere with this idealistic point-of-view. High-paid American workers "willing to work hard" are often laid off, because illegal immigrants are willing to work just as hard, but for a lot less money. Illegal laborers actually drive wages down -- and ultimately take jobs away from American workers.

While many illegals are indeed doing the work most Americans don't want to do, many other undocumented immigrants are climbing the economic ladder even in a tough American economy. This can actually create a problem for INS officers seeking to deport illegal aliens. With millions of them gainfully employed and failing to draw attention, their undocumented status makes them difficult to find to deport.

One of the major contributing factors to illegal immigration is the fact that the employment rate in Mexico, which has never been especially sturdy, is reaching alarming lows.


Resolving illegal immigration isn't easy.

For example, most people, even immigration reform advocates, would agree that denying anyone emergency medical care is morally wrong. Yet, they would also agree that access to American medical care shouldn't be a perk for illegal immigrants -- and yet it is. Illegal laborers injured during the course of a menial job are treated by top=notch American physicians.

Separating families is also morally wrong, yet when two illegal aliens have a child in America, the child becomes a US citizen, which means deporting the parents creates an American orphan. Here's an example of illegal aliens accessing US medical facilities, and also creating an avenue to permanent US residency without the necessity of becoming an American citizen.

Americans consider things like medical care and family unity basic human rights, but for many immigrants who aren't afforded the same rights in their countries of origin, these rights are often seen as rewards for making it to America.

While rewarding people who come to America illegally only encourages more people to come illegally, the solution is not to deny them their basic human rights.

If the giant moat we call the Atlantic Ocean isn't enough to deter illegal immigration, building bigger and stronger fences at the US/Mexico border won't be either.

As conservative humorist PJ O'Rourke observed, "Fence the border and give a huge boost to the Mexican ladder industry."

About the only viable solution to the problem of illegal immigration is removing the incentive to emigrate to America. If people have no reason to leave home, they won't. Poverty, persecution and opportunity are the main reasons people flee their country of origin.

Better foreign aid and a more engaged foreign policy may be the only options to stem the tide of illegal immigration.

The Trouble With Amnesty


An amnesty for illegal aliens forgives their acts of illegal immigration and implicitly forgives other related illegal acts such as driving and working with false documents. The result of an amnesty is that large numbers of foreigners who illegally gained entry into the United States are rewarded with legal status (Green Card) for breaking immigration laws.
People who receive US citizenship through amnesty have no reason to follow US laws, considering they've just been rewarded for their illegal immigration activities, which -- beyond just their illegal status -- could include associated crimes ranging from forgery to fraud. While many illegal laborers are honest and hardworking, others may learn the wrong lessons.

For example, their condition as illegal laborers teaches them that to run a business employers must hire cheap illegal labor and pay poverty-level wages. Their reward of amnesty teaches them that it's OK to create false documents to get what you want -- like welfare checks.

This may seem far-fetched, but these are actual problems associated with amnesty and illegal immigration.

Perhaps the most harmful aspect of illegal immigration is the misinformation spread by its advocates. Their push for "multiculturalism" is really a push for amnesty. Their calls for things like bilingual education, foreign language election ballots and racial quotas in the work-place only serve to undermine the legitimate immigration process. Even the most open-minded of Americans tend to feel threatened by the idea of cultural dominance by a foreign influence.

Most conservatives support immigration reform that combines the elements of increased border patrol, workplace enforcement and a guest worker system for legal resident aliens seeking citizenship.

Just as important, from a conservative perspective, is the idea of a multi-year path to citizenship for resident illegals requiring them to pay taxes, live crime free and learn English.

Where It Stands

Liberals claim that resident illegals do pay taxes, albeit indirectly. When they pay rent, their landlord uses that money to pay property taxes. When they buy groceries, clothing or other household items, they pay sales tax. This, the liberals say, supports the economy.

What they do not realize, however, is how much illegal immigration costs as a result of the taxes illegal immigrants do not pay.

For example, when children are brought into the country illegally and use the American educational system, their parents are not paying the local municipal taxes that provide for their children's education. The problems are more than financial, however. As we've shown, American citizens in the employment sector are denied opportunities every day thanks to illegal immigration. Opportunities are also blocked in the academic community, as well. A college mandated to meet a racial quota may reject an American citizen or a legal immigrant in favor of an illegal immigrant with the appropriate cultural background.

Despite the urgent need to pass comprehensive immigration reform, President Barack Obama recently announced his administration will do nothing to address the problem "this year." Somehow Obama believes the trouble with the economy and the trouble with immigration are mutually exclusive.

Don't expect to see much from the Obama administration on immigration reform at all, unless it is to ease the way for illegals. There are rumors that Obama will make some sort of policy statement regarding illegal immigration in May.

It's important to remember that in 2006, Obama's support for a national amnesty movement was apparent as he marched down the streets of Chicago arm-in-arm with illegal immigrants. Then, last year, he promised Latinos that he would develop a plan to make legal status possible for an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants. If the rumors are true, conservatives should brace themselves for a proposal from the administration along these lines.