Tags: Biden Administration | Immigration | Joe Biden | citizenship

The Conservative Case for Biden's Proposed Path to Citizenship

The Conservative Case for Biden's Proposed Path to Citizenship
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas looks on as President Joe Biden signs an executive order on immigration, in the Oval Office of the White House on Feb. 2. (AP/Evan Vucci)

By Monday, 08 February 2021 10:33 AM Current | Bio | Archive

In a recent column I upped the ante on conservative big shot Charles Koch's proposition to let the Dreamers stay, endorsing Joe Biden's call for an eight-year path to citizenship for America's tax-paying, otherwise law-abiding, undocumented residents.

That's not your everyday conservative doctrine. It should be. Here's why.

Most of the 11-million stranded undocumented foreign-born residents are conservative-leaning, especially so on social issues where we most need support. They will be a conservative El Dorado.

As I wrote here, they hold "core American, and conservative, values, including pro-life, traditional marriage, family and community minded, hard-working, entrepreneurial, respectful of property rights, religious and deeply patriotic." It makes no political sense for conservatives to oppose bringing 11 million new conservative-leaning voters onto the voting rolls.

There's more. We conservatives exalt the founders of America such as Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, both of whom were even more enthusiastic about giving immigrants a fast path to citizenship than is President Biden. Let's attack Biden for delaying citizenship by eight years rather than making it immediate, as Jefferson proposed, or imposing a five-year wait, per Hamilton.

Hamilton, himself an immigrant from very humble Caribbean origins, writing in 1802 under the nom de plume of Lucius Crassus, in The Examination Number VIII, called for a five-year residency before citizenship. That's a considerably more generous stand than that of the Biden proposal.

He wrote: "But there is a wide difference between closing the door altogether and throwing it entirely open; between a postponement of fourteen years and an immediate admission to all the rights of citizenship. Some reasonable term ought to be allowed to enable aliens to get rid of foreign and acquire American attachments; to learn the principles and imbibe the spirit of our government; and to admit of at least a probability of their feeling a real interest in our affairs. A residence of at least five years ought to be required."

Jefferson and Hamilton are two of our most revered founders, Jefferson with a temple-like memorial on the Tidal Basin, Hamilton with a smash hip-hop hit on Broadway. Honoring the Jeffersonian/Hamiltonian call for a path to citizenship is the conservative way.

Further, legalizing our stranded residents is consistent with the signature conservative issue of "law and order." Overstaying your visa is a synthetic "crime," not the kind of thing that true small government conservatives admire. As conservative icon Grover Norquist has observed, real conservatives are for repealing, not reflexively enforcing, stupid laws like the former 55 mph national speed limit.

Small government, anybody?

The former conservative talk show host (and convicted Watergate burglar) G. Gordon Liddy used to make a distinction between "malum prohibitum," acts criminalized by statute — a Big Government practice that most conservatives deplore — rather than malum in se, something traditional values condemn as morally bad like theft and murder.

A prohibition on "overstaying your visa" is nowhere to be found in the Ten Commandments. I haven't been able to find it even in Leviticus. It's no biblical abomination. My ancestors, the Hebrews, strangers in a strange land, got trapped in Egypt in ways rather reminiscent of America's undocumented. Hello?

Evangelical Christians and Catholics take note! These are your people, mostly themselves evangelicals or Catholic. Are they akin to trespassers? My dear Christian friends! When did "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" get cancelled from the Christian canon?

Last but not least, there's the matter of justice. Justice is a profoundly conservative value. As Anatole France ironically observed, in The Red Lily: "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal loaves of bread." Any true conservative would argue, following Blackstone, that a "law" that works injustice is unworthy of the name.

President Reagan signed the last big immigration reform law, providing citizenship to around 3 million who were then here stranded. It also adopted standards for future legal immigration … which America studiously failed to enforce.

There's a doctrine at law called "equitable estoppel." In plain words, "use it or lose it." By not asserting a right for a long time you become "estopped" from doing so. It's very much woven into the order of the law in the service of justice.

Bottom line: Providing a path to citizenship for the stranded will add 11 million mainly conservative voters to the U.S. electorate. Most of our revered founders were all for a path to citizenship. The path is a small government imperative. It is essential to law, order and justice. Providing a path to citizenship, while seriously enforcing smart, clear, beneficially written immigration laws, is the conservative way.

Ralph Benko, co-author of "The Capitalist Manifesto" and chairman and co-founder of "The Capitalist League," is the founder of The Prosperity Caucus and is an original Kemp-era member of the Supply Side revolution that propelled the Dow from 814 to its current heights and world GDP from $11T to $88T. He served as a deputy general counsel in the Reagan White House, has worked closely with the Congress and two cabinet agencies, and has published over a million words on politics and policy in the mainstream media, as a distinguished professional blogger, and as the author of the internationally award-winning cult classic book "The Websters' Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World." He has served as senior adviser, economics, to APIA as an advocate of the gold standard, senior counselor to the Chamber of Digital Commerce and serves as co-founder of and senior counselor to Frax.finance, a stablecoin venture. Read Ralph Benko's reports — More Here.

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