The Spectacle Blog

Has Ron Paul Done An Immigration 180?

By on 5.2.11 | 11:00AM

Is Ron Paul the next "pro-immigration libertarian" to bedevil conservatives? VDare's Washington Watcher columnist surveys Liberty Defined, Paul's latest book, and finds a "tragic turnaround on immigration." In an email to supporters of his PAC Friday, Tom Tancredo accused his former congressional colleague and fellow 2008 Republican presidential candidate of doing a "180 turn" on immigration and "standing with La Raza and the Chamber of Commerce."

"I have served with Ron Paul in Congress for ten years and consider him a friend," Tancredo continued. "While we have differed very publicly on issues such as the threat of Radical Islam, he had generally been an ally on immigration in Congress. He was a solid vote against amnesty, a leader in ending birthright citizenship, and joined my Immigration Reform Caucus."

According to these critics (I haven't read Liberty Defined yet), in his book Paul repeats cliches about illegal aliens only doing jobs Americans won't do, canards about using the Army for mass deportations, and comes out for some kind of "generous visitor worker program" that bars participants from receiving government benefits. Paul remains opposed to amnesty -- though Tancredo characterizes this last position as "amnesty with an 'asterisk'" -- and birthright citizenship, but is also against Arizona's SB 1070, E-Verify, and employer sanctions against hiring illegal aliens.

What has long separated Paul from open-borders libertarians is his belief in borders and national sovereignty, plus his agreement with Milton Friedman that a welfare state cannot have unlimited immigration. But he has never to my knowledge been interested in restrictionism per se, though as a Rothbardian he ought to be familiar with libertarian arguments for it, and some of these positions that offend immigration restrictionists are nothing new. There are also legitimate civil libertarian concerns with some of the restrictionists' pet legislation, like Real ID.

But if these Liberty Defined summaries are accurate, it does represent a shift in Paul's immigration rhetoric away from the classic paleo position, perhaps in anticipation of competition with the more conventionally open-borders libertarian Republican Gary Johnson. Dan McCarthy worried last year that "instead of the Johnson-Paul tag team making anti-statist and anti-interventionist views more mainstream, Johnson might sidetrack Paul into discussions that would make it easier for the party establishment to marginalize both of them."  We'll see.

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