What would you think of a boyfriend who promised “I love you…as long as you do what I want”? One would hope young women would flee someone so obviously selfish and manipulative.

When it comes to spreading the American Dream, however, that is exactly the approach of left-wing immigration activists.

Take the story of a community in Oaxaca, Mexico. Many feared the town would die because many left to find work in the United States. The left claims they welcome those immigrants.

Two of those immigrants, however, returned home to start a distillery. Sadly, restrictive laws make it impossible for individuals to buy their liquor, Mescal Tosba, because of Washington state’s restrictive laws.

The left only respects the wishes of immigrants as long as they leave everything behind – their family, their home, their language and their culture. When those same people try to make their life better by sharing the benefit of their talents and trading their products, the left sees them as a threat.

That is the contrast between how the left and right treats the American Dream. The left sees the American Dream as something the government gives people as long as you follow their rules.

Conservatives understand the American Dream appeals to people from across the world who want the opportunity to make their lives better by working hard and earning success.

The left’s insincere approach to spreading the American Dream with everyone, should be a cautionary tale to immigrants as we discuss immigration reform. The left’s approach denies the basic dignity of human beings, denying them the freedom to make choices about their life.

At a fundamental level, immigrants and conservatives share a basic worldview.

First, immigrants and conservatives believe success is earned. Immigrants understand the United States offers the opportunity to work hard and earn work’s rewards. They open small businesses, push their children to go far in school and live better than they did.

By way of contrast, the left celebrated recent news that Obamacare would destroy the incentives to work, discouraging the kind of success that has been shown to improve lives and create life satisfaction.

Second, while the left believes politics is the way to bind people together, conservatives and immigrants understand there is no substitute for strong families. Barack Obama has gone so far to call government bureaucracies our “federal family,” substituting implementation of government regulation for the personal caring of those we love. Few immigrants or conservatives fall prey to this self-serving redefinition by politicians.

Finally, conservatives and immigrants believe that education is the best way to lift people out of poverty. After the left blocked charter schools in Washington state, voters overrode them. Immediately, immigrant communities applied to open charters, recognizing that the current system was failing them. One new charter, Rainier Prep, is catering to immigrants. Another charter, proposed by many in the Somali community, was denied because the law still limits the number of charter schools that can be opened.

While Republicans are working to expand such educational opportunities, the left and their benefactors in the teachers’ union actually sued to prevent immigrants from having these opportunities, forcing them into failing schools.

Spend a little time with immigrants and you hear much that echoes conservative values and little that sounds like the left-wing victimization mindset. I know this from first-hand experience.

Traveling across Washington with one of Cesar Chavez’s original campaigners, I heard stories of his work with farm workers and the sacrifices they made to create a better life. Never did I hear him demand more government services. He expressed the hope that government would get out of the way, so workers and farmers could create mutually agreeable contracts. That trip was a wonderful experience and I still work with an organization that helps provide immigrants access to health care.

On the other hand, in a choice between the left’s ideology of government control and compassion toward foreigners looking to share the American Dream, the left repeatedly sacrifices immigrants and chooses government.

And Democrats even try to block people around the world from sharing the American Dream.

Witness the left’s opposition to free trade that allows Americans to enjoy products made by people who have chosen to stay with their family and their community. Instead of seeing them as humans, looking to create a bit of the American Dream in their own country, the left treats them like enemies to be crushed.

They have many excuses for this obvious contradiction.

They claim labor and environmental rules in the United States are superior to those in other countries. This arrogantly substitutes the judgment of liberal activists for the intelligence and wishes of the people whose lives are actually affected.

If a worker in Peru or Ghana chooses to live with their family despite the obvious shortcomings of their laws, who are we to punish them for making such a decision? Who are we to see that decision as less noble than those forced to sacrifice everything to come to the United States for an uncertain shot at a better life? It is fundamentally disrespectful of the very people the left claims to support.

The great Muhammad Yunus, winner of the Nobel Prize for his work creating microloans and alleviating poverty, notes that “protectionism is built up in each nation in the name of the poor, but its real beneficiaries are the rich and clever people who know how to manipulate the system.” Free trade, he says, gives the poor the best chance to improve themselves.

It is true that some conservatives are nervous about immigration. The justifications they offer, however, generally echo the left’s arguments, not conservative ideology. They worry that immigrants will take jobs from U.S. citizens and overuse social services. This does not match the history of immigration.

During the economic boom of the 2000s, immigration – legal and illegal – soared. Unemployment fell even as the flow of immigrants increased. The two decades after NAFTA were some of America’s most prosperous. Despite the claims of many of the left, Americans manufacture more today than at any time in our nation’s history. As the recession hit, immigration declined. Immigration followed, it did not cause, the economic trends.

To be clear, I do not support simply ignoring immigration law, but believe the law needs to be changed to welcome those who embrace the American Dream.

The self-righteous and politically motivated chanting of left-wing activists like Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn’s wife, does little to share access to the American Dream. It actively blocks it for those immigrants looking to create better schools, those trying to start small businesses and those who choose to remain with their family and share their hard work through trade.

Left-wing lectures about how much they care for immigrants sound too much like that selfish boyfriend. They welcome foreigners but only if they have sacrificed almost everything to come here. Supporting illegal immigration and opposing free trade rewards those born to countries adjacent to the United States, punishing those unlucky enough to be born overseas. It is arbitrary and unfair.

Conservatives should not be cowed by the left’s conditional support for others looking to share the American Dream. In the election year of 2014, immigration will be used by the left to attack their political opponents. They will label those who disagree with them as “racist” to hide their own desire to keep foreigners dependent on government and politics.

The left will loudly proclaim their support for the narrow group of immigrants in the United States even as they oppose policies that could create a better life for many millions more around the globe – the economic opportunity that, in the words of Bono, “takes more people out of poverty than aid.”

That insincerity about helping others live the lives they choose on their own terms, is the central contradiction of left-wing immigration policy. As conservatives, we should not let it dominate the discussion about how to share the American Dream we recognize is the objective of people across the globe.


[Featured image under standard license, iStockphoto.com]