Ron Paul Sums Up His anti-Wall, anti-Mass Deportation Views on Immigration
Not surprisingly, during the 2012 election, Ron Paul was the only laissez-faire candidate when it came to immigration. The Democratic candidates, naturally, wanted more subsidies for immigrants (in the form of welfare and citizenship benefits) while most of the other GOP candidates called for a variety of taxpayer funded, authoritarian schemes such as national ID cards, border walls, more police, and regulations on employers and entrepreneurs.
Ron Paul took a more humane and consistent approach and refused to support more government surveillance or more wall building. At the same time, of course, he also advocated for reducing or ending subsidies for immigrants, since, as with products and services, and laborers of all types: if you subsidize it, you'll get more of it.
In this video, Paul and Daniel McAdams discuss Paul's views on immigration in light of the current debate over immigration.
On Trump's plan to round up and deport 15 million people:
Ron Paul: How practical do you think this would be to round up 15 million people without any consideration for due process?
McAdams: You’d essentially need a police state because you’d practically have to be going to go door to door almost, because they don’t keep track of these people.
Ron Paul: I think it’s impossible.
On building a wall and controlling labor:
Daniel McAdams: When we worked on immigration in your office, you were generally friendly with people who wanted some controls on the border. But we ran into terrible troubles with the extreme on [the conservative] side which wanted an authoritarian state here. They wanted "E-Verify" which means every American would have to prove he has a right to work in his own country. And then there's the wall they want.
Ron Paul: You’ll need a really efficient wall and a coast guard that goes up and down the coast blowing boats out of the water…The idea of building walls around the country, I think it’s a joke. I could never take a position that we need more barbed wire to solve this problem.
On birthright citizenship, which he opposes, Paul points out that the legal claim that the 14th amendment guarantees citizenship to every person born in the United States is not true in all cases even now. He notes that it doesn’t apply to diplomats or to military personnel from foreign countries in the United States. He also notes that early on, it was accepted that the language of the amendment did not apply to members of Indian tribes in the US since they were citizens (technically) of foreign nations. In other words, the legal reality is not nearly as absolute as proponents of birthright citizenship make it out to be. “My position has been that the [14th amendment] has led to confusion, Paul notes, “But it is clear in Art I, Sec 8 that the congress has the right to regulate this matter, as in the case of diplomats.”
Paul goes on to discuss how so-called “anchor babies” do exist, and he notes that as an obstetrician, he has delivered them: “They get on the welfare rolls immediately.”
Citizenship "Rights" vs. True Property Rights
Paul assumes that there is an unhealthy emphasis placed on granting citizenship to immigrants, noting that people emigrate to countries like Japan without any expectation of obtaining citizenship. This does not mean they forfeit their property rights, however. Moreover, he notes : “A libertarian society would put less emphasis on citizenship because there would be no specific rewards [for being a citizen].”
Paul then proceeds to attack numerous economic arguments made against immigration and free trade. In particular he mocks Donald Trump’s claim that it’s a bad thing that immigrants make money and “send it home.” "Economically, who cares?", Paul asks. "They use that money to buy American goods." And he goes on with McAdams to recount entrepreneurs and small business owners they worked with in Congress who relied on immigrant labor, and who should continue to be allowed to access labor, as in any reasonably free economy.
At the core of the matter, however, Paul repeatedly notes that the central problem is a weak economy that cannot absorb new workers, and a welfare state that subsidizes immigration. Just as with anyone, migrants should be permitted to participate in the economy. But the welfare state distorts the benefits of labor moving toward jobs and capital. The solution to this, however, is not walls and government agents, but reductions in the welfare state, and limits on citizenship.
This position, of course, is consistent with Paul's usual laissez-faire positions in that it rejects government solutions in the form of ID cards, surveillance, regulation, and walls. At the same time, it calls for real reductions in government’s size and scope by reducing government controls on employment and labor, while reducing the welfare state. Limitations on citizenship are also consistent with this position since limiting citizenship (ceteris paribus) does not require an expansion of the state or intrusions in the free exercise of private property.
Ryan McMaken (@ryanmcmaken) is a senior editor at the Mises Institute. Send him your article submissions for Mises Wire and The Austrian, but read article guidelines first. Ryan has degrees in economics and political science from the University of Colorado, and was the economist for the Colorado Division of Housing from 2009 to 2014. He is the author of Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre.