Question for Anti-Illegal Immigration Activists

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

I regularly catch flack in the comments section for using the label “anti-immigrant” when I’m referring to people who say they’re only opposed to illegal immigration.

So here’s the question: If you’re adamant that you only oppose illegal immigration, then do you also support vastly expanding the number of legal visas the federal government grants to low-wage, low-skill workers (which at the moment is an exceedingly small number)?

The problem with the argument that Mexicans and other Hispanics should “wait their turn” before coming here is that there’s no “turn” for them to wait for. It just isn’t possible for the overwhelming majority of people who want to work low-wage service jobs to get legal access to this country, and to the jobs we need them to fill. So would you support vastly expanding the number of visas we hand out to them, consistent with something like the Cato plan?

My experience has been that people who get angry about illegal immigrants also recoil at the thought of making it easier for Mexicans to come here legally, too. Which really only leaves the option that their real problem is with Mexicans coming here in general. I remember an email exchange I had a few years ago with the paleoconservative Steve Sailer. Sailer wrote flat out that he is not anti-immigration. He supports immigration from countries with populations he considered more intelligent and productive, like–um–Europe. Which in addition to being rather racist, also means he supports the one form of immigration that really would take jobs from American citizens.

In any case, if you’re anti-illegal immigration, and don’t support expanding the legal means for Mexicans to come here to do low-skill labor, then it’s pretty hard to argue that you aren’t “anti-immigration.”

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76 Responses to “Question for Anti-Illegal Immigration Activists”

  1. #1 |  drobviousso | 

    I’m on of those you paint as “anti-immigration”. Yes, absolutely, I am in favor of a vast overhaul of the immigration system, with an eye toward making it easier for those who want to obtain a visa to do so.

    Undocumented workers are an artificial subsidy on a number of industries, paid for with the payroll taxes of those who don’t happen to work in one of those industries.

    The current system makes it easier to redeport a violent criminal suspect, instead of either keeping them out in the first place, or giving them a fair trial.

    I could go on, but my wife pulling me out the door.

  2. #2 |  Jeremy | 

    Very well put. This really boils down to “culture war conservatism” that has been going on for over a hundred years, since the Know-Nothings.

    Disappointed that you had no comment on the Cato/Amentano debacle. Maybe you think UFOs are silly, or you’re just loathe to critique your former employer (that’s understandable), but this kind of censorship and don’t-rock-the-boat libertarianism is precisely what distances Cato (and often you as well) from a large part of our movement. If we can’t have a conversation about it, then that’s genuinely sad.

  3. #3 |  Jim Harper | 

    Such a thing may exist, but I have yet to find an anti-illegal-immigration advocate who is not opposed to immigration generally. Opponents of illegal immigration should feel just as strongly about our low caps on legal immigration and the profound bureaucratic delays and hassles put before legal immigrants. They don’t exhibit outrage at these things, and that has driven me to conclude that they’re just anti-immigrant.

  4. #4 |  Mike Schneider | 

    This site is being overrun by Italics — somebody build a wall!

  5. #5 |  Michael Pack | 

    I have a question.How many of our families would be here now under todays rules?Mine would not.This has happened before with the Irish[my mother’s side],Italians,Asians,Poles and Jews before WW II.Now it’s Mexicans.It’s racism,as always.

  6. #6 |  Kukulkan | 

    I’m what you would label an anti-illegal immigration proponent. And, yep, I’m totally for a total rework of the immigration system — including low skill labor. You preconceptions highlight one of the reasons why a rework would be better than the current system. Low skill labor does not need to be Mexican. Lots of low-skill workers would love to immigrate from China, Viet Name, India, Nigeria, Turkey, Brazil, etc. But gosh, that would lead to a melting pot instead of an undigestible influx of illegal immigrants which has resulted in the following situation:

    o In Los Angeles, the #1 radio market in the country, Univision Radio stations, rank #1 and #2 in all key adult demos in total market with a third station in the top 10. Three of the top five stations, Adults 25-54, in LA are Univision Radio owned.
    o In Miami, WAMR-FM ranks #1 with Adults 18-49 and #2 with Adults 25-54 in the total market. Univision has 2 of the top 10 stations in the total market with Adults 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54.

    o In Chicago, WOJO ranks #1 in total market with Adults 18-34 and Univision Radio owns 3 of the top 10 stations in the total market. Univision owns 2 of the top 10 stations in the Adults 18-49 and 25-54 demo as well.

    o Univision has at least 2 of the top 5 stations of the total market with adults 18-34 in Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, San Antonio,. Fresno, San Diego and Albuquerque.

    o Univision Radio ranks #1 or #2 with Adults 18-49 in AM Drive in the total market in 9 out of the 10 U.S. Hispanic markets.

    o Univision Radio has a station within the top 5 in the total market in Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Phoenix, San Antonio, Albuquerque, Fresno, Las Vegas, San Diego and Puerto Rico.

    When you have such an unevenly balanced influx of immigrants, our melting pot model stops working. Let’s give some of the other poor, unwashed masses an opportunity.

  7. #7 |  Michael Pack | 

    Kukulkan,What exactly does Univision have to do with this.It seems you have a grudge against them,or is it Spanish speaking people.With any policy Mexicans will be the largest segment do to our borders being so close. I’m not sure what your point is besides you hate Univision.

  8. #8 |  Hattie Mccoy | 

    Illegal Border Crosser is a better term. Yes I support a guest worker program. Yes the employer must provide for his sponsored worker. Taxes must be paid and medical care provided. No this is not a method of immigrating.

    If you satisfy argument that you need workers and none available locally – you should be able to import laborers.

  9. #9 |  Jeff Hallman | 

    For the first 150 years of our history, there were no restrictions on immigration, and thus no illegal immigrants. Everybody was legal.

    So, if you want to stop illegal immigration, just abolish all the restrictions. There’d be many more immigrants, no doubt, but they’d all be legal.

    Of course, if you propose this to any of the people who claim “I’m not anti-immigrant, just anti-illegal!”, you’ll quickly discover that they are, in fact, anti-immigrant. The anti-illegal gloss is just an attempt to make racism respectable.

  10. #10 |  JJH2 | 


    Your thinking is a bit muddled. A subsidy is “artificial” if it’s obtained by coercion (or political means), rather than the consent of all parties involved. It’s true in a sense that undocumented worked represent a “subsidy” to certain employers — for the reason that undocumented workers are often too fearful to take advantage of the legal system to obtain redress for broken contracts and wage agreements, on-site abuse, and are so fearful of employer retaliation that they are often afraid to organize for mutual benefit.

    The solution, though, is not to introduce more coercion against peaceful people through deportations, fining employers, etc. The enforcement of immigration laws is nothing less than a gigantic artificial subsidy to domestic workers (at least for those workers who don’t lose their jobs when their businesses relocate).

    The only way to get rid of artificial subsidies entirely is to open the borders and allow free migration of all people consistent with private property rights. If Miguel from Mexico City wants to live in Larry Landlord’s apartment and work at Ollie Owner’s business, but is prevented from doing so by restrictions on immigration, the property rights of 3 people have been violated. That large subsidy to other workers in the area is clearly the artificial one.

  11. #11 |  Jaybird | 

    My attitude is that the strict immigration laws are actually making the whole “Mexican” thing worse. By tightening laws for immigration, you’re making it tougher for Canadians, Australians, Brits, Danes, Czechs, Poles, Swedes, Frenchies, Somalis, Thais, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Samoans, or Icelanders to come here.

    When it’s tougher for those groups to come here, there are fewer of them doing so.

    Mexico, however, is right there. Folks who want to come here from Mexico just need a good horse.

    And so the politicians are upset at the amount of illegal immigration (which, of course, means Mexico because Mexico is right there) and they say “WE NEED TO TIGHTEN IMMIGRATION LAW!” and so they make it tougher for Canadians, Australians, Brits, Danes, Czechs, Poles, Swedes, Frenchies, Somalis, Thais, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Samoans, or Icelanders to come here.

    So there are fewer of those groups coming over here.

    And Mexico is right there, so people who want to come here from there just up and come over.

    Which makes people scream about illegal immigration.

    And so on and so forth.

    With the end result being pretty much exactly the same number of Mexican immigrants as there would have been otherwise, with a lot fewer Canadians, Australians, Brits, Danes, Czechs, Poles, Swedes, Frenchies, Somalis, Thais, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Samoans, and Icelanders.

    I’m pretty sure that if all of the groups came here and were forced to pretty much interact at, say, city hall or the DMV or what have you, they’d find people screaming for forms in Spanish, yes… but they’d be standing next to people screaming for forms in French, or Italian, or Russian, or Tagalog, or what have you and, eventually, some of those groups would just say “We’re all screaming for 24 different forms… maybe we should just learn English for the official stuff and we can speak our crazy moon language at home and in our favorite restaurants.”

    But… the Canadians, Australians, Brits, Danes, Czechs, Poles, Swedes, Frenchies, Somalis, Thais, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Samoans, and Icelanders aren’t here because it is too much of a pain in the ass to deal with the immigration process.

    So we just have one group of people agitating for new forms.

    And, hey, is it too much to ask to have two forms instead of just one? One in English, one in Spanish?

    And that very suggestion is enough to make the heads of the anti-illegal immigration people explode. And they call for tightening of immigration law. Which, of course, results in fewer Canadians, Australians, Brits, Danes, Czechs, Poles, Swedes, Frenchies, Somalis, Thais, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Samoans, or Icelanders to come here…

    But I begin to repeat myself.

  12. #12 |  Peter | 

    OK, I’m one who is anti illegal immigration and very pro legal immigration. I myself am the child of legal immigrants, so I know many legal immigrants and other children of legal immigrants. At the same time, I see a LOT of illegal immigrants at work.

    There is a HUGE difference between the legal immigrants, who at least had to have the organization to jump through the immigration hoops, and many of the illegal immigrants.

    The vast majority of the legal immigrants I know (and, again, I know a lot) speak English. I have yet to meet an adult legal immigrant (not including those who got amnesty after illegal immigration) who is not literate in at least some language. The vast majority of the legal immigrants I know are educated professionals, including my father, who came alone to the USA as a 17 year old war refugee, and eventually became a civil engineer who had a part in designing some of America’s best known structures.

    By contrast, most of the illegal immigrants I see and interact with display no sign of similar organizational skills / desire for education / potential as citizens. I repeat, I have yet to meet an adult LEGAL immigrant who is illiterate, even if only in his or her home language. Even that literacy in only one language is limited to some of the old grandparents who were sponsored by their children. I have never met a working-age legal immigrant who is not literate in English. By contrast, approximately 75% of the Mexican and S. American illegal immigrants I come across are barely literate in any language; i.e. they can write a few words in Spanish, but can’t write a complete sentence in any language. Approx. half of those (i.e. just over 10% of the total) are illiterate to the point of not being able to name a single letter, in any language (as on an eye chart). We have to use a chart with a stylized arrow pointing up or down to test the vision of these people.

    The illegals that I come across (again, from Mexico, Central America, or S. America) do not represent the best, or even the average, of their home countries. I’ve traveled all over Mexico, Central America, and S. America, and I would love to have more of the intelligent and educated people I’ve met there come to the USA. However, the educated, organized, intelligent people in Mexico aren’t willing to give up their lives, wander through deserts, swim the Rio Grande, etc, for the chance to live as an illegal here in the USA. Rather, the people that we get as illegal immigrants are those who have no other choice, because they don’t have the skills to make it at home, and there is no social safety net there to compensate for that lack of skills.

    In other words, our current immigration policy is, like all policies, a filtering mechanism. We reject the intelligent / educated / productive citizens of the world with a Byzantine immigration system. We effectively let in those who are ignorant and desperate enough to go through the uncomfortable and potentially dangerous border crossings on our Southern border. In my opinion, this is exactly backwards; we should have a LOT MORE immigration of intelligent, educated people, and NO immigration of illiterate and barely-productive people.

    I haven’t even mentioned other factors like the tuberculosis
    brought in by illegals, but this comment is already too long, so I leave that for someone else (though I am published in a major academic journal on the topic of TB spread).

  13. #13 |  Ron W | 

    I am anti-illegal immigration and pro-legal immigration.

    My wife is Russian. It took a lot of time and money to get her here legally. There were background checks, a physical, lots of forms, payments, interviews, etc. to make this happen. Some of that I agree with, some not.

    She is now a citizen. Her parents are now here legally and mostly self supporting. She took 10 years of English in school before coming. Her parents didn’t, but after 3 years of being her father speaks well enough to hold a job. Getting them here was also costly in both time and cash.

    I have hired legal immigrants and several still work for me. (including Mexicans.) So you see I have nothing against legal immigration. Illegals are a different matter. Mine fields and machinegun towers are the border probably aren’t too much to ask for.

    The legal immigrants I know are hard working, law abiding people. Illegals cause many problems: crime, disease, break down of neighborhoods, over-crowding of schools and prisons, using up medical resourse meant for poor Americans, etc.

    The strongest opposition to illegal immigration I see comes from legal immigrants. My first foreign employee was from Ghana. He was here working on his doctorate in computer science. He saved up his money and bought a very nice, new car for his very first one. Less than a month later he was hit by a drunk illegal Mexican. No license, no insurance. He had several things to say about illegal aliens that cannot be repeated here. With his accent that was quite amusing.

  14. #14 |  JJH2 | 

    re: Kukulkan

    Beware anybody that justifies coercion against innocent people by appealing to lame metaphors for the US that are evocative of fondue. It’s not every day someone gives you such a clear vision of the thought process behind the empty metaphors that they peddle.

    Of course, by “melting pot,” Kukulkan actually means “people not speaking Spanish.” This is a view of the “melting pot” where if you add Gruyere and Jarlsberg, you get processed American cheese slices as the result. It’s not a melting pot at all; Kukulkan doesn’t care about incorporating other languages and customs into HIS culture — he wants everything to be processed out until the only thing that’s left of other cultures are hot dogs and 4th of July parades.

    Even if you accept the strongest and most sophisticated version of the ‘melting pot theory’ — that pluralistic societies can only remain coherent if its members share a baseline understanding of the same political ideology — that says nothing at all about different cultures speaking their own languages, having their own parades, celebrating their own holidays, etc. Adhering to democratic Constitutionalism has nothing to do with what language you speak or whether you celebrate Cinco de Mayo, despite what the prepackaged Wonderbread Cultural Supremacists would have you believe.

  15. #15 |  CFisher | 

    “If you’re adamant that you only oppose illegal immigration, then do you also support vastly expanding the number of legal visas the federal government grants to low-wage, low-skill workers (which at the moment is an exceedingly small number)”


    I favor both enforcement and a massive overhauling of the current broken immigration system.

    If Mexican or Central American nationals desire to come here and become citizens of the US and build a new life here, that’s great. America has had waves of immigration in the past, and we’ve done just fine.

    But given the economic climate in the United States, this might be a moot point. If the government continues to spend into bankruptcy, there might not be enough jobs in the US to inspire folks to come here.

  16. #16 |  Jay | 

    I like Mexicans just fine; it’s those damn Canadians we have to watch out for. ;) (you all know I’m kidding, don’t you?) Okay, seriously:

    The challenge we face when dealing with immigration, legal or otherwise, in a rational manner is that it is fundamentally emotive. It’s difficult for it to be anything else because A) it is about people, B) it’s about money and jobs, and C) it is about maintaining a cultural status quo, i.e. “people fear change,” especially cultural change.

    Well, we can argue about item C) all day, but it really is in our human nature and it defines us. It is why we have formed societies, towns, cities and countries, and borders for all of them. Most folk feel more comfortable around others that are most like themselves, people who share common values and goals and life experience. Not everyone, but certainly the majority. Perhaps this biological tendency to form groups of like-minded people is an inherent survival trait. And if we really want to have a debate, we could all have a good argument over whether what we consider “racism” might actually be better described as a “an irrational fear of different cultures.” I don’t know, “culturist” doesn’t sound quite as nasty as “racist.”

    Anyway, until we can truly shed (or at least suppress) our instinctual fear of things we know almost nothing about, we will never be able to deal with immigration in a rational, non-emotive manner. No amount of worker visas will change how human beings react towards others, and how we perceive those who are not like ourselves.

    The problem with immigration is not solely our government’s policies; the problem is also deep within ourselves. We are territorial creatures; we build walls and fences instead of pissing everywhere (er … most of us, anyway). Within these human-made boundaries, we choose to surround ourselves with people we identify with. This remains a fact regardless of whether we want to admit it.

    The good news is that our brains are more than capable of overriding our instincts when it suits us. The bad news is it rarely suits us to do so.

  17. #17 |  Shon | 

    I am for legal immigration but strongly against illegal ‘immigration’. I work in the Tech industry and with many people who have H-1’s from India. They have told me the crap they have to go through just to have gotten to where they are. To continue to allow illegals to come here and live here is an insult to the people who follow the rules. Yes the rules need to be changed but I do not think we should allow a large amount of unskilled laborors into the country. We have plenty of people here in the US that will do the work. They are students and people who need a little experience before moving into ‘industry’ That is what Idid and it helped a lot. The problem I find as a manager is that most people coming out of college do not even have simple work experience and do not know how to act professionally.

  18. #18 |  Scott | 

    Is it really that hard to find someone with an anti-illegal immigration stance who simultaneously believes that the entire immigration system needs to be overhauled?

    Seriously. A cynic might suspect you’re deliberately painting with far too broad a brush. I mean, one of the very few specific roles granted the Fed is to secure our borders. So I wonder if your Libertarian credentials are, you know, legit.

    (see what I did there? :D )

    And don’t throw the “would your family be here if the current system was in place 100 years ago” canard at me. 100 years ago we (the citizenry) were not co-opted by the Fed to pay for all and sundry social services extended to anyone fortunate enough to make it to these shores. Cut social security, welfare, medicare/medicaid and every other entitlement program and I’d be perfectly happy to gut the INS and border patrol. Until then, I’m perfectly comfortable railing against illegal immigration while also fuming that our legal immigration policies need to be far more accommodating to anyone who wants to repatriate themselves to the US.

  19. #19 |  chsw | 

    The best way to handle prospective immigrants is to treat immigration as a national security issue – that is, vet the prospect very carefully and if he/she passes, let them in. Country of origin should matter only if that country presents national security issues.


  20. #20 |  Peter | 

    Whoops. Please change “Approx. half of those (i.e. just over 10% of the total)” to simply “just over 10% of the illegals I see.”

  21. #21 |  JJH2 | 


    There are two sets of actions here, one perfectly legitimate (the free movement of peoples’ consistent with private property rights, that is, an open borders position), and one perfectly illegitimate (the coercive transfer of wealth mandated by the so-called “welfare state). One would have to be either profoundly confused or intentionally dishonest to argue that _coercively opposing the just actions of the former_ is a legitimate response to the manifest injustice of the latter. Imposing a wrong (the restriction of their right to move consistent with private property) on innocent third parties who have had ZERO SAY in the creation or the welfare state is a perfect example of “two wrongs don’t make a right” — or rather, imposing an injustice as a response to an injustice is EVEN MORE unjust. By all means, oppose the welfare state. But while it exists, don’t multiply the injustice by creating a new one.

  22. #22 |  Grrr | 

    The DRASTIC overhaul of current regulations and procedures is so long overdue, IMO. Those poor souls who are currently wading through this disgusting legal quagmire and “playing by the rules” must retain their places at the head of the line. The old INS thoroughly failed them, as well as the taxpayers. It would be an additional outrage for them to be endure additional waiting, when they’re trying to jump through all the bureaucratic hoops.
    We need the enthusiasm and creativity that immigrants bring here. It’s also true that we cannot afford every basic need for every person who manages to reach American soil. If that makes me “anti-immigration” in your view, so be it.
    Along with others here, I have always said that we have no business getting draconian about our borders until we perform a stunning overhaul and simplification of the visa and citizenship APPROVAL process.

  23. #23 |  Li | 

    That would be me, as I support both ending illegal immigration and vastly increasing worker visas, but my motivations for trying to end illegal immigration are a bit different. I’ve worked in the migrant camps, distributing food and medical care, and I want that whole system of slavery to end. You might think that slavery is too strong a word, but when you work that hard, but may get nothing for your labors; when you have to live in a tin shack with 10 people to get by because what money you do get goes back to your elderly relatives in Mexico; when you might be seperated from you children or your freedom by the law at any time, there is no better work for it. The fact that it drives down the value of American labor at the same time is only another good reason to end this cruel and stupidly greedy system.

  24. #24 |  TLB | 

    Unfortunately, this time I have to agree with Radley Balko: there’s no reason not to massively increase legal immigration and/or “guests”.

    Of course, like Radley, I’m completely ignorant of all the many steps the MexicanGovernment takes to obtain PoliticalPower inside the U.S.

    And, like Radley, I have no problem with giving a foreign government PoliticalPower inside the U.S. and basically giving them some degree of control over our policies. “One world, one people!” as Radley would say.

    And, like Radley, I haven’t seen this latest example of what the MexicanGovernment really thinks: (that’s a spokesman for the MexicanConsulate in SD saying that SD will be Mexico once again).

    And, like Radley, I haven’t read this summary of the actions of the MexicanGovernment:

    For instance, like Radley, I have no problem with a foreign government giving “free” textbooks to students in U.S. schools that teach that foreign government’s viewpoint. “One world, etc.” as Radley would say.

    If you’d like to know much, much more than Radley does, scroll through my archives.

  25. #25 |  Ted | 

    I have recently received a crash course in our immigration system and I have to say that even for what should be the most forward method of bringing someone into the country, that is to say I married my girlfriend who I met while living in Australia, it sucks. Bringing a spouse into the US right now can take upwards of a year, most of that time waiting with no information from the government and no progress being made on your paperwork while you just sit there and wonder.

    And this is for bringing in a person who tv and movies would have you believe should be able to just head right in. If it is so much of a hassle for what is supposed to be a “priority” form of immigration how can you be surprised when low skill, low wage workers completely bypass the system and come in illegally?

    The system needs to change, there is no reason not to allow people that want to come and live and work in our country to do so. Make no mistake that the people that do want to come here are by and large going to be your hardest workers. I work in the hospitality field which has its own share of illegal immigrants, they are some of the hardest works I have seen. On the otherhand their children, who are often legal citizens by birth, are often very lazy and take what their parents go through for granted. Based on that another change that needs to be made to our system is how you get birthright citizenship. Personally I think it needs to be changed so that at least one of your parents needs to be a naturalized or legal resident or citizen for the child to have birthright citizenship.

  26. #26 |  Robert | 

    My position is that the immigrants aren’t really needed (at least not so many of them). The demand for them is created by the welfare state. Why work a low paying job for low money when you can do nothing and the government will take care of you? Their desire to come here is also a factor of the welfare state. If you can manage to have children in the US, they are eligible for free food, healthcare and education. So why not head on over?

    I don’t believe that any actions taken on immigration are going to solve the problem. What is needed is reform of the welfare state, and more sound fiscal/monetary policy by our government, but that’s not likely to happen. Okay, it’s never going to happen unless our government collapes.

    In reality, as our economy continues to spiral around the drain, people will continue to look for something or someone to blame. Immigrants make great scapegoats, so our politicians, in an effort to appease the masses will continue to enact more and more strict laws. Treatment of illegal aliens will get worse, I would not be supprised to see more vigilante justice done upon illegal immigrants. It might even come to good old fashioned lynchings before all is said and done.

    Don’t take my predictions as support of said actions, just that I can definitely see a time in our near future where conditions will be right for that type of behavior.

  27. #27 |  First Little Pig | 

    You are just now realizing that Steve Sailor is a racist?

    Your post is, of course, absolutely correct. Personally I would prefer no borders and no welfare state.

  28. #28 |  TGGP | 

    You left the italics on.

  29. #29 |  Greg N. | 

    A better question would be, “Do you support UNLIMITED legal immigration?”

    I’ve been asking that question of these types of people for years now, and the response is always the same, “Uh, well, I don’t know if I’d support …” and more stammering and stuttering in the lame attempt to cover up that, (not so) deep down, they just don’t like brown people who don’t speak English.

  30. #30 |  TGGP | 

    He supports immigration from countries with populations he considered more intelligent and productive, like–um–Europe. Which in addition to being rather racist

    Do you actually disagree on that being the case? Were you unaware of the different IQ scores between Europeans and Latin Americans, or do you think those scores are irrelevant to the issue of “intellligence”? Regarding productivity, Garett Jones has shown it closely tracks the average intelligence of the country the immigrant came from.

  31. #31 |  JJH2 | 

    Oh Jesus. I will never understand the vulgar libertarians who manage to blame every possible societal evil on the amorphous, all-encompassing “welfare state” (for poor people) while ignoring the thousands of ways in which government-corporate nexus systematically preferences large-scale, capital-intensive corporate organization over the more competitive and egalitarian forms of organization that would likely result in a true free market.

    Or as Kevin Carson would say… (

    “For too many mainstream libertarians, the evils of corporate-state collusion are something to tip one’s hat to, and corporate welfare is kinda sorta bad, in principle, I guess, and maybe we oughta do something about it someday…. But welfare that helps the poor, instead of the rich, is Flaming Red Ruin on Wheels!…

    If I thought “free markets” and “free trade” really meant what neoliberal talking heads mean by them, I’d hate them too.”

  32. #32 |  Thomas Paine's Goiter | 

    If I close the italics tag, will this stop?


  33. #33 |  Thomas Paine's Goiter | 

    Radley, close your italics tag in your post!

  34. #34 |  ClubMedSux | 

    Look, I grew up in one of the last white families in a Chicago neighborhood that was quickly becoming all Mexican. I still see car after car flying Mexican flags on Mexican Independence Day and billboard after billboard in Spanish. I can understand people’s fears of our country losing its culture. It’s human nature. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s also irrational. Read the book “Beer: A History of Brewing in Chicago” by Bob Skilnik. It’s full of anecdotes from the late 1800’s involving resentment towards Germans for–among other things–publishing newspapers in German, opening German schools, congregating at Biergartens on Sundays, drinking Lager instead of whiskey, etc. It’s impossible to read and NOT realize it’s the same attitude many have towards Mexicans today. Mexican immigrants may not be highly educated or skilled (as was the case with many European immigrants in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s and, hell, today) but in two generations they’ll be as “American” as German-Americans are today.

  35. #35 |  Michael Pack | 

    If you look at Europe and Japan the low birth rates and immigration rates are a looming problem.Their welfare states will collapse due to low worker replacement.Simply put,there will not be enough workers to pay for the retired in forms of S.S and medicare.Birth rates are flat in Japan and the western world.Italy,and others,are trying to pay couples to have more children.Also,I feel the comparison to 100 years ago is valid.We have had many waves immigration and always the same reaction.Besides,not all of Mexico is moving here.Their birth rates has fallen and standard of living increasing.It will eventually level off.

  36. #36 |  Blue | 

    Free countries have open borders. Authoritarian countries have walls and fences. Which would you rather live in?

  37. #37 |  TLB | 

    ClubMedSux writes: “…it’s also irrational… It’s full of anecdotes from the late 1800’s involving resentment towards Germans for–among other things–publishing newspapers in German, opening German schools, congregating at Biergartens on Sundays, drinking Lager instead of whiskey, etc. It’s impossible to read and NOT realize it’s the same attitude many have towards Mexicans today.”

    Not to smear the Germans in particular, but I’m sure there were plenty of useful idiots/traitors/quislings/collaborateurs in Poland and other countries who said the same thing a few decades later.

    The analogy is fairly apt since, for instance, 58% of Mexicans in Mexico said in a ZogbyPoll that the U.S. southwest rightfully belongs to that country. And, see the video I posted above ( with a spokesman for the MexicanConsulate in SD saying that SD will be Mexico once again. We’re basically allowing Mexico to resettle the lands they see as their own, and useful idiots/traitors/quislings/collaborateurs inside the U.S. are allowing or even encouraging it to happen.

  38. #38 |  Saladman | 

    I’m actually a dues-paying libertarian, but there’s a serious order of operations problem with permitting legal or illegal immigration given the size of our welfare state. Increasing legal immigration would not result in a free market in migration, it would result in a further subsidy for immigrants at the expense of working, tax-paying residents. When we end welfare, end mandatory non-critical medical care and end tax-subsidized schools then we can talk.

    I accept that the open-borders libertarians mostly do want to end welfare payments and wealth transfers, but I don’t believe we have a realistic shot of actually doing it soon, while support of open borders does have a realistic chance of influencing policy now.

    I object to the term anti-_immigrant_, because I don’t have a personal animus towards immigrants, but neither would I favor increasing legal immigration in the current climate. I know I’m jumping in to a longer-running debate, but your suggestion seems like just a slick way to control the terms to your advantage.

  39. #39 |  Andy H | 

    A couple of people have mentioned that the legal immigrants they know are among the most strongly opposed to illegal immigration.

    This is a hazing mentality ‘I had to do these ridiculous things, so you should too!’ it really has no value.

    That said there is an ‘anti-immigration’ argument with some merit, and that is the one about the possibility of immigrants causing negative political change within the U.S.

  40. #40 | | 

    Immigration policy and libertarians…

    Radley Balko’s question for anti-illegal immigration activists today illustrates some of what I don’t like about libertarian thought – and why I generally don’t get involved in libertarian activism anymore. The question,

    If you’re…

  41. #41 |  Observant Bystander | 

    “Free countries have open borders.”

    Does any country currently have an open border policy?

    “Mine fields and machinegun towers are the border probably aren’t too much to ask for.”

    Mine fields? Really? Killing people is your preferred solution? Or do you assume no one would cross the border if it were mined?

  42. #42 |  Brad | 

    Why is that so many Libertarians have no problem understanding the linkage of property rights, free-markets and capitalism that enables a free society yet a similar linkage of democracy, citizenship and nationalism that enables a free society escapes them.

    Lurking underneath the Libertarian position on iillegal immigration is a desire for uncontrolled borders, a belief that anything less than unlimited immigration is unjust, and that ultimately the nation-state itself is unjust and less preferable to anarchy. But that is not a path to a society which would maximize libertarian virtues.

  43. #43 |  RobertT | 

    I’m in favor of immigration where the immigrant has to do 4 to 6 years of service before getting citizenship. Cleaning up after national disasters, fighting forest fires, military service, restoring national parks and othe infrastructure, etc.

  44. #44 |  Alex | 

    Very well said, Brad.

  45. #45 |  Brad | 

    To Ted, the #25 commenter

    I’m sorry to hear of your families difficulties regarding the legal immigration process. But the system has been backlogged ever since the illegal alien amnesty of 1986. No doubt a new amnesty will make the legal immigration system function even worse than it does today.

  46. #46 |  Brian | 

    If I say I would prefer strict limits on all immigration–because the country does not have unlimited resources–does that make me a xenophobe?

    If you disagree with me, I’m sure it will.

  47. #47 |  Casey Lartigue Jr. | 

    The Casey Lartigue Show…

    Radley Balko asks a great question of anti-illegal immigration activists: “If you?re adamant that you only oppose illegal immigration, then do you also support vastly expanding the number of legal visas the federal government grants to low-wage, low-…

  48. #48 |  Justthisguy | 

    I’ll let anybody into my country, if and only if the country he comes from allows anybody into said foreign country.

    That’s my rational, libertarian opinion.

    My emotional, visceral opinion is that the 1924 Immigration law was about 100 years too late. Tomorrow being St. Paddy’s Day, and I also already having my orange shirt on, mebbee I should be wary of violent drunken Irishmen.

    With one exception (an Englishwoman) all of my ancestors in this country arrived here from the British Isles before steamships were invented.

    Fortunately for me and all others, I admit that my rational side tends to win, at least on the Internet, as I do love to read at The Donovan’s, a blog kept by a proudly self-consciously Irish person

  49. #49 |  anonymous | 

    It just isn’t possible for the overwhelming majority of people who want to work low-wage service jobs to get legal access to this country, and to the jobs we need them to fill.

    What jobs would those be? Building more houses?

  50. #50 |  anonymous | 

    Fred Reed is an American living in Mexico, and married to a Mexican.

    Read his thoughts on the matter here


    PS – In addition to correcting the italic problem, was Radley’s post edited to tone down charges of racism (eg – “anti-Mexican”)? Or am I thinking of something else?

  51. #51 |  JJH2 | 


    That’s because there IS no linkage between “democracy, citizenship, and nationalism” and libertarian freedom. That is, if by “democracy” you mean majoritarianism and nationalism you mean love of the nation-state. Majoritarian government is the antithesis of personal liberty, because it allows factions (whether majority of minority) to coercively expropriate the wealth of the rest of society and to rig the playing field in favor of special interests. The government is now, and has always been, the enemy of personal liberty and freedom.

    Constitutional republicanism was founded on the premise that government was, at best, a necessary evil (for all their faults, at least they got the “evil” part correct). Today’s “big government libertarians” seem to have forgotten even that. Most seem perfectly content to let the warfare and national security state spiral out of control in the name of cultural purity — I mean, “respect for the law” and concern for the “welfare state.”

  52. #52 |  Kevin | 

    It’s just such a terrible thing to have to not be able to get servants for an “affordable” cost to raise your kids for you and do the yardwork. Horrors, you might have to pay someone enough money that they didn’t have to live 20 people to a house. Worse, you’d have to pay taxes and maybe even provide benefits. And they would not be able to be intimidated if you threaten to turn them over to ‘La Migra’ and might go get a better job when they get tired of your petty tyranny.

    After all, we have such a huge shortage of people who will do manual labor that when they had to replace the arrested illegals at a meat packing plant and had to stoop to hiring americans only several thousand people applied.

  53. #53 |  Brad | 

    How typical to equate nationalism with “love of the nation-state”, which is to equate nationalism with fascism; and how typical to equate democracy with “majoritariansim”, which is to equate democracy with mob rule.

  54. #54 |  Brad | 

    What day was it that Libertarians decided to take a page from the left-wing-othodox playbook, and condemn border control as racism and condemn nationalism as fascism?

  55. #55 |  JJH2 | 


    It should come as no surprise. 40 years ago, arch-Libertarian Murray Rothbard recognized the liberatory potential of the New Left, and abandoned the rotting corpse of a Conservative movement which had fallen in love with Collectivism (nation-worship of the type that the modern anti-immigration movement is concerned with) and authoritarianism. See:

    Legitimate, principled libertarianism has NOTHING in common with small-government conservatism, despite what the increasingly irrelevant paleolibertarians continue to howl.

  56. #56 |  Alex | 

    “Legitimate, principled libertarianism has NOTHING in common with small-government conservatism, despite what the increasingly irrelevant paleolibertarians continue to howl.”

    Who are the new, relevant, neolibertarians?

  57. #57 |  Max Deployment | 

    Boy, what’s with the anti-foreigner posts and the typos?

  58. #58 |  Max Deployment | 

    Anyway, there’s a huge backlog of Filipinos waiting to get visas, and I’m sure they’d be willing to fill some of these low-wage, low-skill jobs. Ever taken a cruise?

  59. #59 |  MikeT | 


    You are seeing this from the perspective of a Northern Virginian, not from someone taking into consideration the entire country’s labor pool. Around here, you’re right, we do need a lot of Hispanic labor, but in rural Virginia, that’s not true. When I go back home to visit family in Western Virginia, I see mostly Americans working these jobs that “Americans won’t do,” not illegal immigrants. The only jobs that the illegals really do are ones like at the chicken plants that are just… nasty, and ironically, no one, not even white and black trash out there, minds that they do that.

    The United States does not really have that much of a labor shortage, but rather it has a shortage of extremely cheap labor. Duke university recently proved that there is no shortage of labor in IT, invalidating the claims for the H1B visa expansion, by pointing out that that there has been no pay or benefits increase commensurate with an increase in demand for labor. Law of supply and demand, right?

    Yes, there should be a low-skill worker visa program, but it should be limited to only a few million jobs. The United States government has to balance the needs of employers with the needs of workers. The Mexicans don’t just take over low-skilled jobs, but every sort of job, including skilled ones like construction jobs where there are plenty of American workers. Why should the federal government flood markets where the only reason that employers are “having a hard time” is because they just don’t want to pay the going rate for an American employee?

    There is always someone willing to work cheaper than your current employees, for the same quality of work. I bet you we could replace the Mexicans with workers from the poorest countries in Africa, but where does it stop? There is a human side of this that is ignored by libertarians, which is one of the reasons I suspect that the public is starting to reject libertarianism in a big way. Libertarians would do well to understand that freedom is not equal to security, in all of its basic forms, on the hierarchy of needs, and a system that sacrifices the wages of workers by flooding the labor market will not remain free for very long because the public will demand regulations–and get them.

    One of the things that is just amazing about all of this is that libertarians tend to reject the claims of workers about how wages are doing, and how bad competition can be, but they embrace the anecdotes of employers like Bill Gates and Craig Barrett on the need for more immigration as gospel truth. Aren’t both inclined to represent their interests? This is why there has to be a federal policy of balancing both sides out, otherwise one will be unfairly advanced against the other.

    The simplest option would be to crackdown on illegal immigration systematically, to drive illegals out of the country, and then open up visas in Latin America for up to 2-3M workers, with preferential treatment given to skilled workers over unskilled workers.

    But as to why we’re not legitimately “anti-immigrant?” How many anti-illegal immigration people would get upset if we were flooded by 12M college-educated Indians instead of 12M barely, if at all, high school-educated Mexicans? People are upset over what sort of immigrant we are being flooded by, not the fact that we have them.

  60. #60 |  MikeT | 

    Considering what the political left gave us in the 20th century, any “libertarian” that finds common ground with them is a fucking idiot who should be drubbed out of the movement as a member of an ideological 5th column.

    The political left gave us the worst mass murders in human history. Oh yes, you put a new face on them, and call them the “New Left” and now they’re all shiny and new.

    Give me a fucking break. The New Left is the same movement as the Old Left. The only difference is that its leadership hasn’t had the opportunity to rise to true power, shock the useful idiot base, and repeat the cycle again.

  61. #61 |  David Chesler | 

    What if I think those that “And this time we really mean it” about the 1986 Amnesty, the one that gave us the I-9, which got us more used to having a national ID, ought to be held to it? What if I think instead of 12 Million, the correct number to have been admitted is closer to 6 Million? What if I’m even more concerned, because it hits my own pocketbook harder, with the large numbers of legal non-immigrant “guest workers”, imported because of false claims of a shortage of software engineers? What if I think there is a real difference between the assimilation of past immigrant groups, as compared to the bilingualism and other old-country ties that have been going on more recently? And especially what if I agree with the early comments that the country would be better able to retain its character while absorbing a more diverse group of immigrants? I must be one of those know-nothing xenophobic racists too.

    That’s a common fallacy, poisoning the well like that — if you disagree with me, you must agree with ____, and they’re obviously wrong.

  62. #62 |  JJH2 | 


    Alex, the new, relevant, hip Neo-Libertarians are those who took Rothbard’s radical structural criticism of the US (and Samuel Edward Konkin’s continuation of it) and have run with it — and who loosely identity themselves as “Left Libertarians.” ( Left-Libertarianism is the only branch of libertarianism currently offering deep, libertarian structural criticism of the US economy to explain both the disempowerment of workers at home, and also workers abroad — while the irrelevant vulgar libertarians continue to deliberately conflate the current US economy with a “free market” to continuously remind the most shat upon workers that they’re truly living in the best of all possible worlds.

  63. #63 |  JJH2 | 


    There are lots of valid criticisms to be made about many aspects and practices of the New Left — but seeing as how they were explicitly anti-War, anti-Bolshevik, and anti-Authoritarian, and that they developed largely in opposition to the Soviet and Chinese Communism, the one thing you CAN’T do, is to pin the Statist slaughterhouse of the 20th century on them. For all their faults, the New Left was advocating all the right things — opposition to racism, foreign adventurism, and promotion of civil liberties at home — all the things that the Old Right at the time was against (and surprise — all the things that the New Right today are against too!).

  64. #64 |  Luke | 

    The difference between present immigration and previous waves of Chinese, Irish, Germans, etc, aside from the welfare state and “free” healthcare is that these folks didn’t have militant groups akin to La Raza and MeCha claiming that large portions of U.S. territory were actually stolen Chinese/Irish/Polish/German land…

    As an aside, assuming we should let in anybody who wants to live here, who thinks the United States COULD accomodate the hundreds of millions of people around the world who’d like to come live here, and still be recognizable as the USA? Show of hands?

  65. #65 |  Alex | 

    JJH2, I don’t care. In college, when I was really stoned, I might have taken the bait. But honestly, I don’t really give a shit about your or any other Movement. I’m pretty much operating on the assumption that countries have borders until I see evidence to the contrary.

    Also, I think everyone on this thread likes the guest worker programs, and since that’s the most libertarian/conservative/liberal/left-libertarian/anarchist/anarcho-capatalist/agorist/you-need-a-hobby/whatever that has any chance of passing, shouldn’t we just be glad that there’s common ground with enough people to actual have solid pro-market, pro-immigration legislation?

  66. #66 |  Dave | 

    I am a legal green card holding Canadian.

    I am completely anti-illegal and pro expanded legal immigration policy. Those that come in illegally are metaphorically the same type that cut in line in front of you in the movie theater.

    We all want to see the movie, but when there are only so many seats you should be standing in line like everyone else.

    Yes they should be building more theaters. But until they do, skipping in front of me in line is not going to endear me to your cause.

  67. #67 |  Lyn | 

    Cute argument but it overlooks the most important aspects of the immigration debate.

    America is a White majority nation. Most of our ancestors are from Europe. It is natural, and it is just, for us to want this to continue to be a White majority nation.

    I oppose Mexican immigration. Some of them are admirable people. Other Mexicans settle in Colorado, Texas, and California just to expand their criminal activities. Mexicans are the main reason the western and southwestern US have problems with meth. In California and Texas many Mexicans are just welfare freeloaders.

    The stereotype of Mexicans being hard working and filling the lowest jobs is not completely true. Many Mexicans come here with nothing but contempt for the US. They either get on welfare, or they commit crimes, or they do both.

    Jobs and opportunity are precious things; White America should jealously guard these things.

  68. #68 |  Joseph | 

    I have to wade in. In reality there are several issues to be delt with.
    1. The people who are quite happy to have an “open” border are the large companies and goverment. It provides them really cheap labor that can be exploited. They pay below minimum wage, do not provide benifits and can make the labor work in unsafe or conditions that a citizen would not. If the illegal complains or refuses he is simply replaced. This is the sort of behavior that caused unions to be formed. The companies make additional profit on the suffering of others. Please don’t tell me that it’s better than in Mexico. The illegals are kept at a poverty level that makes them dependant on the state or others for their welfare and makes them succeptable to abuse. Additionally for the citizens this cheap labor had driven wages down and put them out of work. If you want to fix this you have to fine and jail employers who hire illegals and do not provide fair wages or work practices.

    2. Because the illegals are treated in this manner the are provided with welfare and healthcare at the expense of the citizens. This would not be so bad with just a few but with the staggering numbers it has put a strain on all our city and social services. The result is the taxpayer gets less and less service for their money. If you don’t believe me go to an emergency room or a school and look around. The reslult is more taxes on those who pay them and get little or no service for this increase. To fix this simply do not provide any, except emergency, services to non citizens.

    3. Illegals are also given a pass by our goverments (state and federal) because that are a dependent class of people and a potential new voting block. So the laws are not being enforced against illegals. Law such as allowing 30 people to live in a house or garage. Drunk driving laws. Penalties for not having driving insurance or a License. Health inspections and immunizations.

    I do not blame the illegals. I would jump the border too if I were in their situation of abject poverty with no way out. We simply need to enforce the rules on everyone and this problem will correct itself. I am for more visas so long as the rules for entry are enforced.

    By the way, this was the way things were done up until the 70’s or 80’s and we had an “open” border. Workers were allowed to come up from Mexico to work on a visa but were the responsibility of the employer who did not get a pass on the rules and the taxpayer did not foot the bill to care for them.

    So what’s stopping us from doing all this now? One word “GREED”.

  69. #69 |  Mike Schneider | 

    > Many Mexicans come here with nothing but contempt for the US.
    > They either get on welfare, or they commit crimes, or they do both.

    IOW, they’re just the same as many here-already Americans.

  70. #70 |  MikeT | 

    There are lots of valid criticisms to be made about many aspects and practices of the New Left — but seeing as how they were explicitly anti-War, anti-Bolshevik, and anti-Authoritarian, and that they developed largely in opposition to the Soviet and Chinese Communism, the one thing you CAN’T do, is to pin the Statist slaughterhouse of the 20th century on them. For all their faults, the New Left was advocating all the right things — opposition to racism, foreign adventurism, and promotion of civil liberties at home — all the things that the Old Right at the time was against (and surprise — all the things that the New Right today are against too!).

    They did a lot of good on the opposition to racism, but they have failed in many ways on civil liberties. It’s rare to ever meet someone who is a member of the New Left and actually believes in an expansive, full view of the entire Bill of Rights. Look at Obama, Mr. Constitutional Scholar Big Time Civil Libertarian. He’s great until you talk about the 2nd amendment, at which rate he’s two degrees of separation from every totalitarian who banned guns in the name of public safety.

    I am not here to defend the reactionary wing of conservatism. I just don’t see how the new left can be said to be right about much of anything from a libertarian point of view. The fruits of their policies have born out a great deal of collectivism, that in many ways outweighs the net good they have done for individual liberties. Why should I thank them for getting things like hardcore pornography declared free speech, when other members of the new left impose speech codes at state universities that make talking openly about anything that might offend anyone a dangerous proposition?

    Were the New Left to categorically repudiate Marxism and all of the isms that it spawned as ferociously as it has repudiated Fascism, I’d be sympathetic. However, too many members of the New Left just don’t see their forebears in the Old Left as truly evil ideologues whose policies were monstrous. We’re talking about political ideologies that managed in 1 century to mass murder more people at government hands than the previous 4,900+ years of history combined, so you’ll have to excuse my cynicism.

    I think we will truly know the heart of the New Left when the remnants of the libertarian wings of both major parties are finally drubbed out, and it’s just the Rockefeller Republicans and Neoconservatives on one side, and the New Left on the other. I suspect that we will find that the New Left is no where near as liberal as advertised.

  71. #71 |  Scooby | 


    WTF is your definition of “white”? Does it include me? I’m visibly Anglo, with mostly English and German heritage, but I also have quite a bit of aboriginal American ancestry. The only difference between me (whose ancestors were all off the boat by the early 19th century) and one of those dirty, no good, lazy, good for nothing Mexican welfare free-loaders is that my Euro component is Northern Euro & British vice Iberian, and my aboriginal component is from what is now the Southern US vice Southwest US and/or Central America.

    Most welfare free-loaders are “white”. Are you proud of them?

  72. #72 |  Questions at The Everlasting Phelps | 

    […] Bad form, Balko. […]

  73. #73 |  TGGP | 

    in two generations they’ll be as “American” as German-Americans are today

    Wrong and wronger.

  74. #74 |  JJH2 | 

    Mike T:

    Uh… what? The New Left as a significant mass movement hasn’t existed for over 30 years. Obama is not “New Left.” There are a few people floating around from the New Left who have managed to maintain, more or less, a consistent set of positions – Tariq Ali and Noam Chomsky come to mind. And frankly, both have contributed more to the cause of genuine libertarian-style freedom than all the small-government, warfare state conservatives and minarchist libertarians combined.

  75. #75 |  TGGP | 

    The New Left was in large part Maoist. Mao broke with the Soviets when Kruschev said Stalin had went too far (this was around the time the U.S supported them in the Sino-Soviet split). I don’t think they have much over the Old Left other than being more anti-establishment towards LBJ than FDR.

  76. #76 |  TJ | 

    I’ll take the low road.

    I don’t want them here unless they have undertaken the correct procedures legally to get here.

    As far as anti-immigration goes, yup, it should be hard to get to be a citizen of the USA, sort of a trickle effect where we are not overwhelmed by any particular group.

    I think that works better towards true assimilation. Many people are annoyed by what they see as pandering to the mexicans solely because of their numbers (press one for spanish, the protest marches waving the mexican flag, etc.)

    Moreover, I could just imagine on how I would get treated if discovered with a falisified drivers license based on bogus documents (fake social security nuimber, which is required to obtain a license in Arizona).

    Indeed it is against the law. I don’t agree with many laws, but that just tough…I have to follow them. They apparently don’t.

    As far as being painted or labeled by some fellow as this or that, I coulld care less….what is that to me? Just another opinion is all. Call me a racist or what?

    Like that makes a difference to either me or the labeler. Certainly, neither of us will change our opinions or actions because of some person on these internets.

    I will continue to vote for and support every illegal immigrant ballot initiative that Arizona can serve up, and I hope Sheriff Joe Arpaio and others that make life difficult for these criminals can keep up the good work.