Libertarian Republicans Split from National Party on Immigration

Members of the Republican Liberty Caucus in Los Angeles County rose to national prominence late in 2014 with an appearance on the Glenn Beck Program. (LAC RLC)
Members of the Republican Liberty Caucus in Los Angeles County rose to national prominence late in 2014 with an appearance on the Glenn Beck Program. (LAC RLC)

EspañolThe Los Angeles chapter of the Republican Liberty Caucus (RLC) has issued a stinging critique of immigration policy in the United States — targeting both the measures taken by President Barack Obama to address illegal immigrants, and the stance of the GOP itself.

“When a staggering 52,000 kids (toddlers to teenagers) were detained by US Customs and Border Protection last summer, it was an unprecedented crisis in American history…. [Obama] actually gained popularity in his handling of the migrant/refugee situation. How could conservatives and Republicans drop the ball?” the briefing released on Sunday, February 22, asks lawmakers.

The article, titled “The Immigration Crisis Solved: A Liberty Republican View,” first appeared in Voices of Liberty, a media network promoted by former US Representative Ron Paul (R-TX). It states that “not a single elected Republican voice of rationality offered the pro-liberty alternative,” and tasks liberty-conscious Republicans with “rais[ing] the level of the immigration crisis debate.”

Preventing “yet another unmanageable influx of migrants” should be a priority, the RLC chapter argues; but they reject policies such as the mass deportation of immigrants, or Obama’s “irresponsible allusions to amnesty” without deeper reform.

“So, what to do now?” it continues. “When pundits from all around are screaming at Washington, DC, ‘Don’t just stand there! Do something!’ that should trigger our collective instinct to reply, ‘No! Undo something!’”

Members of the Los Angeles chapter explain that the US federal government has been “ignoring the root of the problem,” by not seeing the presence of widespread illegality as a symptom of a greater disease. Current immigration policy, it suggests, amounts to little more than combining “federal mandates to provide welfare to illegals, with the violence in Central and South America exacerbated by the War on Drugs.”

Instead, the RLC emphasizes a “libertarian tradition” within the GOP that Republicans must “resurrect.” Following the philosophy of key figures such as Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan leads to one inescapable conclusion, they assert: openness towards would-be migrants.

There’s a caveat, however: “Open borders doesn’t mean no borders. It doesn’t even necessarily mean no immigration laws. It certainly doesn’t mean amnesty. What it means is recognition of human liberty and respect for the US Constitution,” the paper explains.

(LAC RLC / Facebook)
(LAC RLC / Facebook)

The RLC chapter assert that the US Constitution grants no specific authority to the central government to regulate immigration — although Article I Section 8 does note a uniform rule of naturalization — and that “every single person now on American soil who isn’t a criminal ultimately has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — altogether that’s the right to work.”

As a result, the group advocates for states taking the lead on proactive immigration reform, by offering residency and work permits to illegal immigrants.

Finally, the statement reads, “the key is understanding that government intervention in the economy and personal behavior has far-reaching consequences.”

“So let liberty Republicans lead the way to winning America a great deal. One based in free trade, free labor, and free markets that will focus on downsizing and abolishing the welfare state and War on Drugs.”

The GOP and Migration: An Evolving Tale

Nick Hankoff, chair of the Los Angles County Chapter of the Republican Liberty Caucus, argues that Republicans have lost their libertarian streak on migration relatively recently. The GOP “seemed to be transformed on the immigration issue sometime in the mid/late-90’s Rush Limbaugh era.”

“A lot of grassroots conservatives are very confused by the Us/Them mentality, so they forget that non-citizens actually were born with the same liberty, no more and no less, than people who were born in America. I’m still trying to understand the hostility to immigration in the GOP because it’s usually based on leftist logic,” he adds.

According to Hankoff, Representative Justin Amash (R-MI) and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) have distinguished themselves by proposing liberty-oriented solutions regarding the immigration crisis. However, “the problem is ultimately any comprehensive immigration bill in Washington, DC, comes with a catch.”

“The better strategy is for states to become proactive and register immigrants on their own, blocking the federal government from deporting or entitling immigrants.”

Finally, Hankoff concluded that Obama’s biggest mistake on immigration is “his fundamental commitment to the status quo.”

“The War on Drugs, welfare state, and closed borders are our status quo, and those are his tools for fundamentally transforming America. That’s what leads to tens of thousands of refugees flowing in. Then, his proposal is to reform the immigrants, never the immigration system.”

Watch members of the Los Angeles County Republican Liberty Caucus on the Glenn Beck Program (5:40).

Edited by Laurie Blair and Fergus Hodgson.

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