Congressman Chris Cannon of Utah and his open-borders cronies at the Wall Street Journal, who have embarked on a smear campaign against mainstream immigration-control groups, should learn to differentiate between real xenophobes (as found in an August 2004 Tennessee primary election) and the vast majority of people with legitimate rationales for favoring lower, tighter immigration.

The vast majority of Cannon’s House Republican colleagues are both strongly pro-life and favor immigration control.  However, an outright racist named James Hart won the GOP primary in Tennessee’s 8th congressional district.  He bases his immigration views on eugenics, a discredited pseudoscience of racial superiority.  State Republicans have distanced the party from Hart.

Earlier this year, Cannon faced opposition in the GOP primary from pro-life immigration reformer Matt Throckmorton, a former state legislator, because of Cannon’s stance on mass immigration.  (Americans for Better Immigration has given Cannon a grade of D.)  Throckmorton hammered Cannon’s pro-amnesty stance and, remarkably, forced Cannon into a June 22 primary by robbing him of renomination at the Utah Republican state convention.  Cannon—heavily outspending his opponent—won the primary election 58 to 42 percent.

Attempting to change the subject, Cannon issued a March 24 press release composed of snippets purporting to link some immigration-reform groups to the pro-abortion agenda.  The Journal repeated the calumnies on its editorial page.

Cannon attacked two groups at a spring hearing of the House Immigration Subcommittee.  The heads of the Center for Immigration Studies and NumbersUSA, who were testifying before the subcommittee, stated flat-out that their groups do not take positions on life issues and instead focus solely on immigration.  Neither organization advocates coercive population-control policies, sterilization, abortion, eugenics, or euthanasia, as Cannon tried repeatedly to imply.

Without solid facts to back their assertions, Cannon’s and the Journal’s detour through the mud has failed to silence critics of their open-borders policies.  This does, however, provide an opportunity to consider why so many people are both pro-life and pro-immigration control.

While Cannon and a handful of immigration extremists such as Reps. Jeff Flake (ABI grade: D+) and Jim Kolbe (ABI grade: C) and Sens. Chuck Hagel (ABI grade: D-) and Sam Brownback (ABI grade: D) represent the Republican fringe, most of his GOP colleagues are like “consistent conservative” Reps. John Hostettler (ABI grade: A) and Todd Akin (ABI grade: A-) and Sens. Saxby Chambliss (ABI grade: A-) and James Inhofe (ABI grade: B).  Of all the politicians mentioned, only Kolbe is pro-abortion, according to the National Right to Life Committee scorecard.

House Republicans, by and large, who are evangelical Christians, reject the “culture of death” mentality, and belong to caucuses such as the Values Action Team, vote overwhelmingly for immigration reform.

Representative Hostettler, the chairman of the House Immigration Subcommittee and an ardent Christian, explains the consistency between limited immigration and pro-life views.  “It has to do with the value that is accorded to human life in America,” he says.  “People aren’t coming to America just to get a job.  People come to America because at some level they see that our culture values individual human life.”

Hostettler, who was named the 2004 Christian Statesman of the Year, believes that assimilation is vital to America’s future.  Immigration must not outrun the capacity for assimilation.  Those people who come from cultures where human life is not valued, where governments cannot or do not control violence or protect innocent people, may not naturally hold to traditional American standards.  Congressional conservatives say America’s future rests in part on immigrants embracing fundamental concepts such as respect for law, valuing individual human life, and ordered liberty.

This concern reflects a view widely held among the Founding Fathers.  George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and others shared Thomas Jefferson’s fear that immigrants

will bring with them the principles of the governments they leave, imbibed in their early youth; or, if able to throw them off, it will be in exchange for an unbounded licentiousness, passing, as is usual, from one extreme to another.

“The notion of limited immigration is related to the notion of assimilation,” Representative Hostettler says.  “We want immigrants to adopt the value we place as a culture on innocent human life.  Limited immigration promotes assimilation, the valuing of innocent human life.”

Currently, the United States admits more than one million legal immigrants each year.  Illegal aliens add another half-million annually.  These are unprecedented levels of sustained immigration, compared with the traditional average of about 200,000 immigrants per year.

Immigration control involves our republic’s admission or exclusion of those people whom the citizens of this society determine to admit or exclude.  Since colonial times, American Christians have believed themselves to be fully within their rights to exclude or deport beggars, public charges, prostitutes, disease carriers, anarchists, and the like.

For many legislators, illegal immigration presents a clear case with moral implications.  “Where morality comes in is we have laws on the books, and I don’t want to reward those who break the law,” says Sen. James Inhofe. 

Liberals believe punishment isn’t necessary for criminals.  But people who break the law are by definition immoral people.  Obeying the law is a moral thing, and you can find Scriptures to back that up.

Senator Inhofe believes that granting illegal aliens amnesty rewards their lawlessness: “To allow amnesty on any basis is a slap in the face to those who’ve done it the right way.”

Reducing the current exorbitant flow of immigrants into this particular nation to more manageable numbers is a reasonable, humane policy.  The large segment of Americans with low skills and education face the greatest economic harm from mass immigration through direct job competition.  Harvard economist George Borjas has found that the mere presence of huge numbers of foreign-born workers—“legal or illegal, permanent or temporary”—lowers the wages of the most vulnerable Americans.  Borjas has determined that immigrant workers cost American citizens $1,700 each in average annual wage earnings between 1980 and 2000.  Immigrants in the U.S. workforce drove down the pay of the poorest tenth of U.S. workers—“natives without a high school education”—by 7.4 percent, and that group suffered the toughest job competition.  Mass immigration’s economic harm hits most heavily on native-born blacks and Hispanics.

It is difficult to face these facts and still argue that unfettered immigration does not create losers as well as winners or that placing limits on the flood of immigrants somehow shows a lack of compassion since it means attending first to the welfare of our countrymen.

Could most congressional Republicans articulate this view?  “It’s intuitive, reflexive, a subconsciously held view,” says Representative Hostettler.  He echoes Senator Inhofe’s belief in the rule of law.  “There’s also the principle of a nation of laws, the rule of law that’s so important in our country.  That also comes into play in people’s thinking and voting.”

Licentious extremes, such as forcing oneself on a society through immigration or aborting the unborn, undermine an ordered society.  The fairest way to govern is for citizens to determine the future of their own nation.