The other important decision handed down this week had to do with the power of states to impose their own sets of rules and penalties with regard to illegal immigration. While many conservatives are upset that the Court struck down key provisions of Arizona's tough anti-illegal immigration law, SB 1070, they should be more angry at Congress for failing to pass legal immigration reform that would end up to 90 percent of illegal immigration by expanding legal immigration and temporary work visas. But instead of adhering to their basic understanding of free market principles when it comes to immigration policy, many conservatives have jumped on the bandwagon of intrusive big government to solve immigration problems.
There is no question that Americans have a right to be concerned about border security and the large number of illegal immigrants that are living in the United States. But the solution is not for states to try to impose their own versions of immigration law -- which are the exclusive provenance of the federal government -- but for Americans to push Congress to act on meaningful changes to our immigration laws. The answer to combatting illegal immigration is to base legal immigration laws on the country's economic needs and to make it flexible. The best policy would be to increase immigration when there is high employer demand and not enough domestic workers to fill the need, and decrease it when there supply exceeds demand.
Unfortunately, those on both sides who have dominated the debate in the last few years have been hostile to a free market approach. Liberals favor higher immigration under all circumstances, motivated in large part by their desire to enlarge their own constituency, which they believe will happen naturally if more immigrants from Latin American countries come.
Just as problematic, many conservatives who oppose expanding legal immigration have lost faith in the ability of the United States to assimilate new immigrants, despite overwhelming evidence that current immigrants -- including Latinos -- are assimilating at rates that are as high or higher than previous immigrants from Europe. Instead of adhering to basic conservative principles, these anti-immigration conservatives end up favoring bigger government to patrol our borders and increased regulations for everyone who wants to work in the U.S, including American citizens. We've tried these methods now for more than twenty years, and they haven't done the job.
The Supreme Court's ruling on immigration should motivate conservatives to demand genuine immigration reform at the federal level -- but most importantly, reform that preserves conservative principles on individual liberty and the free market.
When it comes to both decisions this week, conservatives need to follow their own advice: don't rely on the Courts to fix policies that have gone astray.
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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