We need to win minds not votes

The Supreme Court recently ruled against the Obama administration’s expanded deferred action program. The program, first announced in November 2014, would have granted de facto amnesty and work authorization (but not a pathway to legalization!) to a large portion of the illegal aliens in the United States. The program was an expansion of an earlier program that granted similar benefits to Dreamers, illegal aliens who came over as children. The decision was tied 4-4, meaning that the earlier appellate court ruling was upheld. Since it was a tie the Supreme Court may review the case again in the future.

Within minutes of the announcement my mail box was being filled by Dreamer and other migrant advocacy groups. United We Dream, one such Dreamer advocacy group, sent a mass email declaring that:

“Make no mistake – the GOP took DAPA away from us, and now they’ll come after DACA. We need your help to stop the hate and defend the immigrant community… This November we need to vote to ensure that we never face a defeat like this again. We will remember this day and these conservative politicians when we turn out our allies to take to the polls in November.”

Note the emphasis on getting votes to punish the GOP. This is not an isolated message, but part of a wider trend among Dreamer networks. The feeling I often get when I interact with other Dreamers is that what they want is a president who is willing to enact their preferred policies regardless of the political institutions in place.

This would not be a problem if they were arguing that the constitution never gave the federal government the power to regulate migration – see here, here and here. I greatly sympathize with this latter reading of the Constitution.

However in my interactions with other Dreamers I get the impression that they have a view of the Constitution painted by their close attachment to the progressive political machine. To be fair Dreamers hold their reservations against the mainstream Democratic Party, but they have no love for conservatives. One survey found that roughly 50 percent of Dreamers consider themselves Democrats, 45 percent identify as independents, and 5 percent as other. This close attachment to progressives means that the Dreamer’s version of the Constitution is missing the 9th and 10th amendments, along with other key parts restricting the power of the executive. As far as most Dreamers are concerned they are not advocating a reading of the Constitution that denies the federal government the power to regulate migration. Dreamers are advocating the expansion of executive power.

Seeking an increase in executive power isn’t the answer though. By promoting the increase of executive power we may get a pathway to legalization for ourselves, but we also weaken the institutions that have made the United States a prosperous nation. Our parents left their countries because of how awful the governments there are. If anyone wishes to live in a country run by strong man politicians they have plenty of choices south of the border.

It is true that the United States’ political institutions have led to several injustices. Slavery and institutionalized racial segregation were both upheld as legal before they finally began to be dismantled. It is saddening to think how long it took the United States to outlaw slavery.

The same institutions have also served as safeguards for minority groups. The United States is a country where communists, and KKK clansmen alike can protest and preach their beliefs without fear of legal reprisal. Dreamers in the United States have an untold amount of privilege compared to their counterparts worldwide.

Indeed, where else has a Dreamer culture developed? Where else could a Dreamer culture develop? Where else could illegal aliens hecklethe President and get away with it? Illegal immigration is not unique to the United States, but the Dreamer culture is.

In Mexico, and other countries with poor institutions, the government has no qualms simply killing student protesters. In 1968 an unspecified amount of student protesters were killed before the Olympics were scheduled to start in Mexico City. In 2014, 44 student protesters in southern Mexico were kidnapped and killed under the orders of the regional government.

By all means the United States is not above harassing student protesters. It is easy enough to find stories where Dreamers have had their work authorization denied due to past political activities. The Kent State shootings show that the United States is capable of using violence against student protesters. Even at its worst though the magnitude and the response of the public has been drastically different when the United States tries to pacify student protesters versus other nations. I for one would feel safer protesting in the United States than Mexico.

Life as an illegal alien is terrible, but it is preferable to life in a banana republic. The Supreme Court ruling is disappointing, but we should not think the Supreme Court and other institutions are antiquated because of it. We should certainly not try to swap those institutions for a stronger president. Instead we should concentrate our efforts to spreading the case for open borders. In the end it will be ideas that lead to lasting change.

Open Border advocates, especially libertarian OB advocates, in turn have a duty to reach out to Dreamers. Dreamers have a painted view of the Constitution, but can they be blamed when libertarians and conservatives have failed to reach out to them? Worried about Dreamers voting for progressive politicians when they get the vote? Don’t donate to Numbers USA or CIS. Instead buy a few pocket constitutions and send them to your nearest Dreamer group.


Further Reading:

OBAG coverage of the Expanded Deferred Action Program
Ilya Somin on the SCOTUS decision [External]
Is There a Downside to Presidential Nullification? By Nathan Smith
Executive Action, Not Legislative Reform, Is How U.S. Immigration Policy Gets Made Now by David Bennion

Michelangelo Landgrave is an economics graduate student at California State University, Long Beach.

3 thoughts on “We need to win minds not votes”

  1. Nice post, Michelangelo. Somewhat tangentially related to your post: how many DREAMers have you met who self-identify as libertarian? I recall a recent poll suggesting that Latinos are well represented among self-described libertarians, with the vast majority being white men while African-Americans are few in number.

    1. Pardon the late reply. Besides myself I have met two self-described libertarian Dreamers. I have seen similar claims that hispanics are well represented among libertarians, but I am skeptical about that claim. Whenever I have attended libertarian gatherings (SFL, YAL, IHS seminars, etc.) I am often times the only hispanic, even when these events occur in states with large hispanic populations.

      On the occasions that I have met other libertarian hispanics they tend to be visiting from abroad.

      I suspect that most self-described hispanics are 2nd or 3rd generation and are actually conservatives who wish to distance themselves from the GOP.

  2. immigration law is widely misunderstood as regulating the lives of people living in the several States when all it really does is regulate ports of entry. its completely irrelevant once the purview expires- it doesnt take forever to “immigrate” at some point we must be “settled”.

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