“In 2001, when I was the new Washington correspondent for The Arizona Republic, I attended the annual awards dinner of the National Immigration Forum. The forum is a left-right coalition that lobbies for unauthorized immigrants and expansive immigration policies. Its board has included officials of the National Council of La Raza, the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, as well as the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Restaurant Association and the American Nursery and Landscape Association.
After dinner, the group’s executive director, Frank Sharry, made a pitch to business allies who wanted Congress to allow them unfettered access to foreign workers. “You guys in business get all the workers you want, whenever you want them,” he proposed. “No bureaucracy.”
“Sold!” yelled John Gay, a lobbyist for the American Hotel and Lodging Association. Mr. Sharry quickly added that the deal must include advocacy for “three little, tiny pieces of paper: a green card, a union card and a voter registration card” for unauthorized immigrants.
For me, a reporter who had long covered immigration in the Southwest and Mexico, the exchange was a revelation about the politics of immigration in Washington. Business lobbyists like Mr. Gay — conservatives who seek loose labor markets so employers can keep wages down — align themselves with liberal activists like Frank Sharry to pursue policies that serve their groups.
This mismatch of political influence, combined with the social and fiscal consequences of a wave of low-skilled immigrants, led me to believe that immigration should be restricted so that its power to invigorate our country is not eclipsed by its potential to harm workers. I think immigration, like capitalism itself, should be regulated in the national interest, not shaped to serve the free-market libertarianism of the right or the post-national humanitarianism of the left.
That’s why I call myself a liberal restrictionist.I have long considered myself a moderate liberal, in part because Democrats have always been the allies of working people. For many decades, liberals were outspoken in their alarm about illegal immigration.”