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Catholics, Libertarians, and Immigration


This week, I have been focusing on why Catholics who wish to remain true to Christian principles should be libertarians rather than statists. This series of articles is in response to an conference recently held at the Catholic University of America entitled “Erroneous Authority: The Catholic Case Against Libertarianism.”

In the first two segments of this series, I focused on two areas — charity and drug laws — to show that libertarianism is consistent with Christian principles and that statism is contrary to Christian principles.

Today, I wish to focus on immigration, another area in which the state, with the full support of statists, is actively engaged in violating God’s laws, thereby once again placing Catholics (and other Christians) into having to choose between pursuing God’s laws or Caesar’s laws.

As Thomas Jefferson pointed out in the Declaration of Independence, every person has been endowed with certain fundamental, inherent rights that pre-exist government. These natural, God-given rights include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

These rights necessarily include sustaining one’s life through labor and exchange, improving one’s economic lot in life as well as that of his family, traveling and moving with the aim of bettering one’s life, entering into mutually beneficial economic transactions with others, accumulating the fruits of one’s earnings, and deciding for one’s self what to do with his own money.

What the state does with immigration controls is infringe on those fundamental, God-given rights. Caesar — the organized means of coercion and compulsion we know as the state — says:

We prohibit you from exercising your inherent, fundamental, God-given rights unless you come to us first and seek official permission to exercise them. If you cross into the United States without our permission and seek to better your life by accepting a job from a willing American employer, we will come after you with the full force of the U.S. government. We will raid private businesses and arrest you, incarcerate you, fine you, and deport you. If you resist arrest, we will put you down.

So, for decades the federal government has abused and mistreated people whose “crime” has been to exercise the fundamental God-given rights to which Jefferson referred — freedom of movement, freedom of travel, freedom of trade, freedom of association, and economic liberty.

That’s what immigration controls do. There is no way to avoid it, no matter what immigration “reform” is adopted. After all, let’s not forget that decade after decade has been filled with all sorts of immigration “reforms” and that immigrants are being treated worse than ever. People are still being deported, families are still being separated, immigrants are still being mistreated and abused, and they’re still dying on lonely deserts or in the back of 18-wheelers.

I ask you a very simple question: How in the world is it possible to reconcile the statists’ war on immigrants with God’s second-greatest commandment: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself?

Answer: It cannot be. Immigration controls, along with the arrests, searches, seizures, raids, jails, fines, and deportations that come with them, constitute a direct violation of God’s second-greatest commandment.

And don’t forget what Jesus said: The second-greatest commandment is just like the first: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Thus, when one abuses and mistreats immigrants or supports their abuse and mistreatment, isn’t that an accurate reflection of how the abuser feels toward God and, for that matter, toward himself?

That’s the statist position on immigration — waging war against peaceful people who are simply trying to better their lives, help their families, and pursue happiness by offering their labor services to others who are willing to pay for them.

I also can’t help but think about the following passage from Matthew:

For I was hungry and you gave me not to eat: I was thirsty and you gave me not to drink. I was a stranger and you took me not in: naked and you covered me not: sick and in prison and you did not visit me.

Then they also shall answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not minister to thee?

Then he shall answer them, saying: Amen: I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it to me.

Given the negative mindset and attitude that statists have toward immigrants, how can any Catholic in good conscience be a statist?

Of course, the statist would say, “Jacob, the law is the law. People have to obey the law.”

Really? Wasn’t segregation the law? Wasn’t slavery the law? Wasn’t apartheid the law? Didn’t the law require the round-ups of Jews in Nazi Germany?

When man’s laws violate God’s laws, man’s laws become null and void and are not deserving of respect or compliance.

What is the libertarian position on immigration? It’s the position that is consistent with Christian principles. Open the borders to the free movements of people. Leave people free to exercise their God-given rights to travel, move, better their lives, go to work for others, open businesses, and engage in any other peaceful actions by which people pursue happiness in their own way.

Thus, the question once again naturally arises: Given that statism violates Christian principles and given that libertarianism is consistent with Christian principles, how in the world can a Catholic who wishes to remain true to the words of Our Lord be anything but a libertarian? Why would any Catholic who wants to pursue God’s laws choose to be a statist?


This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.