The Conservative Shame on Immigration

The Conservative Shame on Immigration

Jacob G. Hornberger

by Jacob G. Hornberger
April/May 2000

The moral decline of the conservative movement was recently reflected in a syndicated column entitled “Goofy may be a Libertarian” by Don Feder, one of the conservative movement’s leading lights. Feder’s critique, which in part took the Libertarian Party to task for its position favoring open immigration, displayed not only the hypocrisy of conservatives but poor analysis as well.

Unlike the Republican Party platform, the Libertarian Party platform has always taken a consistent and uncompromising approach to the principles of individual freedom, private property, free markets, and limited government. Here’s what the Libertarian Party’s platform says in part about immigration (

“We welcome all refugees to our country and condemn the efforts of U.S. officials to create a new ‘Berlin Wall’ which would keep them captive. We condemn the U.S. government’s policy of barring those refugees from our country and preventing Americans from assisting their passage to help them escape tyranny or improve their economic prospects…. We therefore call for the elimination of all restrictions on immigration, the abolition of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Border Patrol, and a declaration of full amnesty for all people who have entered the country illegally. We oppose government welfare and resettlement payments to non-citizens just as we oppose government welfare payments to all other persons.”

Here’s what Feder said in his article: “If 50 million Mexicans chose to move to California and Texas, resulting in chaos and the obliteration of national identity, why should that concern Libertarians?

Feder’s analysis is typically conservative and Republicanesque: faulty, fallacious, and hypocritical.

Let us first never forget how the power to control immigration has been abused. Recall the infamous “voyage of the damned,” when on the eve of World War II the Franklin Roosevelt administration prohibited Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany on the St. Louis from disembarking at Miami Harbor. The justification: immigration controls. In fact, Feder, who has noted the “deafening silence that greeted the Holocaust,” surely has reflected on why millions of Jews didn’t try to escape their Nazi fate. Why try to escape when there’s no country that will accept you – because of immigration controls?

Today, the moral degeneracy and hypocrisy of the conservative movement is evidenced by the forcible repatriation of Cuban refugees into communist tyranny. Calling themselves “compassionate conservatives,” who love Hispanics during every election cycle, Republicans have for several years supported the repatriation of Cuban refugees into Cuban communist tyranny. And this after sending 60,000 American men to their deaths in Southeast Asia supposedly to fight communism.

For decades, conservatives have jailed Mexicans and other Latin Americans who have crossed our Southern border in search of work, trying to sustain or improve their lives and the lives of their families through labor. At the same time, conservatives have continued trying to get the Bible – perhaps even “Love thy neighbor as thyself” – into public schools.

Historically, Mexican immigrants have had the qualities that conservatives claim to hold dear: family values, work ethic, and religion. They have enriched both our culture and our economy with their labor, music, and literature. While maintaining natural cultural and family ties with friends and relatives in Mexico, Mexican-Americans have historically reflected a deep reverence for their adopted country. Perhaps Feder is unaware that 300,000 Mexican-Americans served our country during World War II and that more of them served in combat divisions than any other ethnic group. Or that 17 of them earned the Medal of Honor, 5 posthumously.

Feder’s fear of “chaos” and the obliteration of “national identity” is, well, goofy. Was there chaos or loss of “national identity” when the United States acquired the northern half of Mexico in 1848? Or when there were no immigration barriers between Mexico and the United States for the succeeding 75 years, meaning that Mexicans could freely travel to the United States, live here, own businesses, and never become American citizens?

And to which “national identity” is Feder referring? New York City? Charleston? New Orleans? San Antonio? San Francisco? Salt Lake City? The fact is that the United States has never had a “national identity.” Ours has always been a culture of liberty, which has been one of our nation’s greatest strengths.

Feder also declared, “If these new Americans (then constituting a majority in the states where they settle) wanted to secede and unite the territory with Mexico, presumably Libertarians would not stand in their way.” Of course Libertarians would not stand in their way because, unlike conservatives, libertarians don’t force people to associate with those with whom they don’t wish to associate.

For decades, conservatives such as Don Feder pleaded for the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. Yet, today, that’s exactly what conservatives want to build along our Southern border. The American people should reject the morally bankrupt conservative paradigm of government walls and instead embrace libertarian efforts to re-ignite the beacon in the Statue of Liberty.

Mr. Hornberger is president of The Future of Freedom Foundation ( and co-editor of The Case for Free Trade and Open Immigration.


by Jacob G. Hornberger

Copyright © 2000 the Future of Freedom Foundation. All rights reserved.

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