Like the earlier progressives, these immigration restrictionists believe that government regulation is the answer to almost everything. In 1986, they devised a plan to end illegal immigration by turning employers into gatekeepers and forcing every American who wants to hire a babysitter to be treated the same as a Fortune 500 company. And the whole scheme didn't work, as many of us warned at the time. More illegal immigrants have entered the country since the passage of the 1986 immigration bill than entered before it was passed.
But like the true progressives that they are, these restrictionists believe the problem can be fixed with more regulation. Now they want every American to carry an identification card that signifies he or she is eligible to work and they want every employer to seek permission from the federal government before hiring anyone. And they are perfectly content to establish huge government databases with information on every person who hopes to be employed -- and to trust that the information is 100 percent accurate and secure.
I'm sorry, but there is nothing conservative in that approach. It fairly reeks of the kind of hubris that is the hallmark of progressivism.
A true conservative approach to legal immigration reform is one that assumes government isn't any better at predicting future labor needs than it is at predicting the weather. True conservatism trusts individuals and the free market to make better decisions than government bureaucrats.
We need a legal immigration system that works -- one that allows the numbers of immigrants and temporary workers we admit to move up and down with the unemployment rate. But groups like FAIR and CIS don't want that. They want to virtually eliminate legal immigration (though they'll settle for reducing it by 90 percent) and they'd prefer a population about half the size of the current U.S. population, according to their own pronouncements over the years. Restricting immigration is only the first step in their progressive program to perfect America.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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