You may have heard off and on that immigration reform is being discussed in the U.S. Senate. Ideas swirling around within that include expanded guest worker visas (which themselves are structured as to belittle & restrain the immigrants using them), a “path” to citizenship including various fees over several years for those in the country undocumented, and the always ubiquitous “Secure The Borders” call. The other day, Painfully Obvious 2016 Presidential Candidate/Senator Rand Paul chimed in — of course — to criticize what looks like a route to a national ID card system:
I think there are better ideas that err on the side of individual privacy while still strengthening our borders. We should scrap a national identification database and pass immigration reform that secures the border, expands existing work-visa programs and prevents noncitizens from access to welfare. These simple ideas will eliminate the perceived need for an invasive worker-verification system and a government citizenship database.
I am against the idea that American citizens should be forced to carry around a National Identification Card as a condition of citizenship. I worry that the Senate is working to consider a series of little-noticed provisions in comprehensive immigration reform that may provide a pathway to a national ID card for all individuals present in the United States — citizens and noncitizens. These draconian ideas would simply give government too much power.
The invocation of “Papers, please” has the commonly understood root of authoritarian government holding a constant cloud of suspicion on the populace, the state as ever-seeing eye — that eye waiting to send signals to the brain which then result in swinging of fists. For the relative, right-libertarians within his base, this understandable fear serves the same purpose as the smell of weed at a Redman concert: you just know. The gathering has been signified. Yet Rand Paul is not for the ultimate immigration reform of open borders. In fact, he wants a fence on every inch of that imaginary line. This, plus his remark about undocumented immigrants and welfare, which conjures up a stereotypical Latinofied version of the Reaganite Welfare Queen meme (swarthy young machos in lowriders eating steak tacos!), are the wink & nod delivered to the section of Paul backers known as Hardcore Conservatives.
Ladies & gentlemen, this is what Triangulation looks like.
Now, ponder the concessions made to each subgroup being pandered to. The relatively libertarian inclined oppose a national ID card specifically, and oppose the idea of government demanding a trail for your every move in general. The hard-right types oppose… the free movement of people & the slight possibility immigrants may get something. In order to police this, you need ways of distinguishing immigrants from citizens, and what distinguishes immigrants that have not been documented from everyone else is lack of papers. So asking for those on a regular basis gets tedious & time consuming, and next thing you know you’re saying “how about we have a—” you get the rest.
This is just a sign of the large blind spot in conservatism. Somehow in the U.S., conservatism has an undeserved reputation for opposing “big government”, while having a tight attachment to the defining features of state authority. The policeman. The soldier. There is also a revulsion against the intermingling & gradual change of cultures, a nostalgic attachment to Country (As It Is Right Now). The idea of their neighborhoods and their Country browning is a nightmare, one they believe it is just fine for state power to combat however possible. Fighting to freeze culture is like herding cats with laser beam eyes.
Regardless of what Rand Paul, in all his ambition, emits from his cakehole, the conflict is clear: You can have individual liberty, or you can have cultural protectionism. Pick one.