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Building a Better Burrito with Healthy Immigration

However, people were violating the law. That seems to be the only point carrying any weight with most conservatives, including those in the Tea Party. Leading up to the Iowa caucuses, the Tea Party Immigration Coalition has encouraged recipients of its newsletter to bombard talk radio with a message of crackdown on illegal immigrants and those who would employ them. Talking points include securing the border with a fence and the military, securing the workplace with E-verify, and securing the interior by apprehending and deporting illegals, among other measures.

The frustration which drives conservative angst regarding illegal immigration is understandable. At root lies our reverence for the rule of law. People who break the law ought to face consequences. Yet immigrant illegality is tolerated while citizens are held to a different standard. There is also a serious national security concern when millions of foreign nationals are pouring over the border without any scrutiny of their health, conduct, or character.

However, these and other concerns surrounding immigration conflate in strange and unusual ways which contradict free market principles. For instance, how is life under E-verify an expression of the free market? Would not a mandate of E-verify place the federal government in direct oversight of every employment relationship in the country? Where’s that in the Constitution? Aren’t conservatives typically arguing against such intervention in the marketplace? How could we insure against abuse? Imagine your E-verify status being “turned off.” How could you fight that? How would you feed your family in the meantime?

Zeal to crack down on illegals too frequently crowds out such questions. The assumption is that decent hard-working Americans have nothing to fear from an E-verify system or other measures to handle illegals. That’s a dangerous assumption, particularly when you cannot say with certainty who may come to power tomorrow.

Of greater concern than unintended consequences are our first principles, the foundation upon which we ought to base our policy prescriptions. As conservatives, we tend to recognize that laws are not made just through their passage. We would not argue that a law restricting speech, if passed, ought to be enforced. Our first concern is that policy flow from natural law and secure individual rights.