Protestors for immigration reform outside the White House on July 24.
Associated Press/Photo by Evan Vucci
Protestors for immigration reform outside the White House on July 24.

Everybody loves immigration … or should


Ann Coulter this week tweeted, “[Bill] O’Reilly can’t be that smart, he’s pro-immigration.”

Perhaps she meant “pro-immigration reform bill” or “pro-accommodation for illegal aliens.” But even so, how did we get to the point where someone who appears to be a patriotic, freedom-loving conservative could utter those words? Most Americans are pro-immigration because it’s the American way.

Support for immigration itself stands at 63 percent. Forty percent are satisfied with current levels, whereas a record 23 percent advocate even higher levels. A poll to be released Tuesday shows, state-to-state, 61 to 78 percent support the current immigration reform bill.

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Since illegal immigration became an issue again, those on the left have rhetorically blurred the distinction between legal and illegal immigration. They tend to speak simply of “immigration.” If you oppose their policies, which for the most vocal activists involve ignoring border security and instantly naturalizing 11 million stowaways with the expectation they will register as Democrats, you are against “immigration.”

It would help the conversation if more conservatives would vocally support expedited and expanded legal immigration and give reasons for their support, connecting it with the cause of liberty. This would give greater credibility to their own immigration reform proposals, and they could appeal to the inclination of many Democratic-leaning ethnic communities toward the entrepreneurial advantages of liberty-oriented policies. People tend to come here for freedom and opportunity, not welfare. That’s an opening for politicians who share their interest in a free country.

Immigration is not only a political opportunity but also an economic necessity on account of America’s demographic problem. Our fertility rate (2.08 births per woman) is not as low as Canada’s (1.59) or China’s (1.55), but it lags behind the replacement rate (2.1). Enough Americans have adopted the “one and done” attitude that we need immigration for an expanding economy. Otherwise, future retirees will have too few workers to pay for their Social Security and keep the economy growing while they play golf.

Activists on the evangelical left exploit vague rhetoric of their own. Their term for blanket legalization of international turnstile-hoppers is “welcoming,” and if you are uncharitably against it you should be denounced. But if a salesman came to my door, I might welcome him into my home and hospitably offer him a seat or a drink. If he let himself in an unlocked back door or broke in through a window, I would be under no Christian obligation to show him hospitality, but rather a quick exit, regardless of his economic distress.

Most illegal aliens in America are simply honest people looking for work who cannot find it back home. Like Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, they break the law out of desperation. If charity were the concern, it would be more effective and less-myopic policy to work diplomatically with Mexico to liberalize its economy and free up credit so the Mexican economy can grow to match its workforce.

The common good has a way of being good for everyone.

D.C. Innes
D.C. Innes

D.C. is associate professor of politics at The King's College in New York City and co-author of Left, Right, and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics (Russell Media). Follow D.C. on Twitter @DCInnes1.


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