Monday, January 16, 2012

Strange Bedfellows: Immigration's Unlikely Alliances

Have you ever wondered why the immigration issue makes for such a wild debate?  I wondered this myself.  Part of me wondered how Tea Party activists could join ranks with the Sierra Club while Libertarians joined with Immigrant Lobby groups to advocate very disparate points of view.

What has been made most clear to me during this last year debating and studying the immigration issue, is that this issue, more so than any other, makes for the strangest political bedfellows one could imagine.  To help illustrate my point, I created this chart (click to enlarge): 

The left to right axis is the political ideological spectrum ranging from big-government-flaming-liberal on the left to small-government-tea-totaler on the right.  The verticle axis represents views on immigration.  At the top we have the restrictionist perspective which might reflect a view of limited immigration policy and/or a heavy enforcement preference in policy.  The bottom of the spectrum would be dominated by a laissez faire policy view with more open borders.

This chart is by no means scientific but I tried to place the parties and institutions where I felt they belonged on the grid.  Despite it's imperfections, I think it illustrates the point.  The liberal-conservative axis almost becomes meaningless when applied to the immigration issue.  Recent immigrants oppose new immigrants coming and competing for their jobs; liberal humanitarian groups and conservative religious organizations support allowing people the freedom to free themselves from tyranny in their homelands by coming to America; the Tea Party supports the stern rule of law while the Republican Party tries to balance the interests of business and the economy.  It would seem that politics doesn't get any more interesting and rancorous than this.   

However, it doesn't necessarily have to be that way in our discourse.  I am always a big advocate for civil debate on the issues.  Even emotionally charged issues deserve level headed discussion to help create reasonable solutions to policy questions.  This civility is best practiced in our own personal lives.  So, the next time you engage someone in a debate on this or any heated issue, think about their perspective and try to understand their argument before you engage in advocating for your position.  You will be surprised at how much more respect that person will have for you and your point of view...even if you disagree in the end.


  1. I can simplify the immigration debate- If you have a house party you will have your family and invited guests, if a few uninvited guests show up there might be enough food and room for them. As the party goes on more uninvited guests, who have homes and resources of their own show up and ask for dinner, you may have enough to feed them too. As this is an ongoing party and food and other resources are limited you may ask that the door to the home be locked so that everyone you invited does not go hungry or lack resources. The American people have spoken, the party is full, we have no more to give to uninvited guests until a future point in time when things are better. The uninvited guests have homes and families to help them and that is where they need to seek these things.

  2. If America waited for an invitation, the party you refer to would be taking place on another continent, if at all. The issue here is not resources; America has plenty, including land. And, your comment has me wondering .. is the problem with the giving, or the whom we are giving to? Individuals (of any kind) ask for, and receive far less than big American business, and the notion that they contribute more overall is simply untrue.
    If we put this ideological argument aside however, and instead, take a look at current population growth dynamics, the big picture becomes a bit more clear. Our middle aged population far outnumbers those reproducing, and in the not-so-distant future, there is going to be a highly disproportionate number of citizens entering retirement; collecting, and not contributing. The immigrant population (illegal or legal), has the highest reproduction rates of any group in the U.S., and this is vital to the future of our nation. And no, they are not reproducing to collect more welfare; they are reproducing as a result of biological imperatives, as well as cultural pressures. Americans simply are not having enough children to offset the trend. Immigration may be the only solution to this very real problem. We cannot irrationally fear the inevitability of change and expect to remain stable. Stop clinging to what you think America should look like; it's un-American.

    - Mr. Peterson, I enjoyed your perspective. Thank you for sharing.


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