Leviathan on the Border

Republicans plan to use big government to protect limited government from immigrants.


House Speaker John Boehner last week pulled the plug on his immigration reform "principles" after his fellow Republicans refused to go along.

One reason why the proposal received a cold reception was that the GOP's self-appointed moral guardian Ann Coulter bandied surveys showing that immigrants will "wreck the country" with their Big Government-loving ways. "It's not their [Republicans'] position on amnesty that immigrants don't like," she harrumphed. "It's Republicans' support for small government, gun rights, patriotism, the Constitution and capitalism."

But if Republicans love liberty and small government, they sure have a weird way of showing it.

There is no better example of that than the GOP's immigration reform "principles" themselves. Under the guise of "fixing" the immigration system, there are at least four ways in which they'll grow Big Government, big time.

1. "It is the fundamental duty of any government to secure its borders," the principles declare, "and the United States is failing in this mission."


But the best border security is a workable guest-worker program with Mexico that eliminates the incentive for border-jumping. The GOP, however, insists on a "border security first" approach.

This means that before such a program can go forward, Uncle Sam will be required to erect an unimpeachable wall on the Rio Grande. If last year's Senate bill is any indication, this will require 24-hour drone surveillance and doubling of federal border patrol agents from 20,000 to 40,000.

How much will this Berlin Wall cost? The Senate authorized $45 billion last year so nothing less than that. That's on top of the $90 billion the country has already spent on border security since Sept. 11, 2001.

So, conservatively (no pun intended) speaking, when all is said and done, this Party of Austerity would have upped federal border spending 100-fold since 9/11!

2. Behind every illegal foreign worker is an American employer who benefits. So apart from fortified walls, what does this pro-liberty, anti-regulation party want? "Interior enforcement" is the buzzword and its chief feature is the E-Verify program.

Under it, employers will be required to check the work eligibility of all potential hires – foreigners and citizens alike — against a federal database. This effectively forces Americans to obtain a permission slip to work from Uncle Sam. It'll also cost employers about $150 per hire, a de facto employment tax.

3. The GOP pretends to be the party of free trade and free markets. But conservative writer David Frum this week cautioned against allowing an "influx of foreign workers" because that would threaten American wages and jobs just like "robots." (By that logic, women should never have been allowed out of the kitchen and ATMs should have been outlawed to preserve bank teller jobs.)

Although Boehner's principles don't explicitly go down Frum's protectionist road, Senate Republicans did. Their bill was fully on board with a union plan to give Labor Department bureaucrats new powers to harass employers.

How? Basically, by handing these bureaucrats the authority to at whim launch investigations against companies to ensure they weren't firing American workers to make room for foreigners. No complaint from an aggrieved American worker would be necessary, as is currently the case. Basically, the minute a company hires a single foreign worker, it'll forfeit control over its personnel decisions.

4. In order to deprive Democrats of new voters, Boehner's principles recommend offering illegal workers legal status but not citizenship. But the problem with this Solomon-like solution is that it will create on American soil a new class of people whom Uncle Sam could tax but who couldn't vote – shredding America's bedrock commitment to "no taxation without representation."

So, to recap, the GOP's immigration "reform" plan involves: greater federal border spending, more federal border agents, de facto federal employment taxes, sweeping new powers for federal bureaucrats to harass American employers, federal permission slips for American workers and an abrogation of checks and balances.

Other than that, the GOP is a party of limited government.

Can Coulter spell l-e-v-i-a-t-h-a-n?

This column was originally published in the Washington Examiner