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Libertarianism and the Child Immigrant Crisis


Last week I received an interesting email from an irate woman who said: “Well you have your open border now. It remains to be seen how it will work out.”

She was obviously referring to the child immigrant crisis in which tens of thousands of immigrant children are illegally crossing into the United States, where they are being arrested by U.S. authorities, incarcerated, and prepared for mandatory deportation.

As I responded to the woman, that’s about as far from open borders as one can get. In fact, as I told her, the border region is about as similar to a police state as one can find. Domestic checkpoints where people must show their papers, roving Border Patrol checkpoints, arbitrary searches and seizures, DEA agents, ICE agents, Customs officials, and local drug-war law enforcement agents. Those things are precisely what a police state is all about.

Open borders? That’s a way of life in which there are none of those police-state activities. Instead, people are free to the border back and forth, peacefully and harmoniously. No checkpoints, no demand to see papers, no searches and seizures, and no federal or state officials harassing and abusing people.

Under open borders, everyone retains his citizenship, unless he wishes to apply for citizenship. It’s sort of like tourism. People come here to the United States to tour for the summer. They don’t become citizens. They just tour and then return home. Or it’s like the million or so Americans who have retired in Mexico. They retain their American citizenship. Or it’s like those Americans living and working in Paris. They retain their U.S. citizenship too.

One of the fascinating parts of the child immigrant crisis is how desperately statists want to blame the crisis on libertarians. That’s because it is extremely difficult, from a psychological standpoint, for a statist to accept responsibility for the adverse consequences of his statist programs. Oh, sure, statists, especially conservative ones, love to preach the virtues of personal responsibility but they are notorious for never accepting personal responsibility.

There are two common theories for the most recent immigration crisis. The first one—the drug war—is almost certainly the biggest factor involved in this particular crisis. As everyone knows, the U.S. government, especially the U.S. military and the CIA, has been waging a brutal war on drugs throughout Latin America. That drug war has given rise to drug lords, drug gangs, gang wars, and all sorts of violence. And the more they crack down, the worse the violence becomes. That’s one big reason that parents are sending their kids away — in the hopes of saving their lives from drug war violence.

But notice something important here: The drug war is a statist program, and it’s at the root of the latest immigration crisis. But do statists take personal responsibility for that? Of course not. Instead, they lash out against libertarians for favoring open borders.

The second theory for the child immigrant crisis is a policy by the Obama administration to stop deporting young illegal illegal immigrants if they met certain requirements. If this policy is the reason that Latin American parents suddenly began sending their children northward, then notice something important here: The Obama policy is just one in a long series of statist reforms that have been implemented over the decades to deal with the latest immigration crisis produced by the latest immigration reform.

I grew up in Laredo, Texas, which is situated on the border. I have seen these paroxysms of immigration crises and reforms play out for more than 60 years. Crises are inherent to statism. As long as we have immigration controls, one thing is certain: there will be immigration crises. So, what do they do to deal with the crisis? They enact or implement a new reform. But then the reform itself makes matters worse. It produces a new crisis. Everyone goes ballistic again, and so new reforms are adopted. If there wasn’t so much misery and suffering involved, the entire process would be rather comical. What’s that old saying about the definition of insanity?

The child immigrant crisis also reveals the extent to which statists have a woeful lack of understanding of what libertarianism is all about. The statist will ask: What’s the libertarian solution to the child immigrant crisis?

Our answer: We don’t have a solution to the child-immigrant crisis.

Needless to say, that exasperates the statist. He replies: “Oh, you libertarians. You’re so impractical. If libertarianism doesn’t offer solutions to the crises produced by our statist programs, what good is it?”

But libertarianism doesn’t purport to solve the problems produced by statism. Instead, it establishes a set of principles that avoid the crises produced by statism.

Consider, for example, Iraq. The statist will say, “What is the libertarian solution for the debacle in Iraq?” The statist just doesn’t get it. Libertarianism doesn’t offer a solution to the debacle in Iraq. Libertarians would never have invaded Iraq in the first place, which means that there never would have been a debacle in Iraq.

It’s no different with respect to immigration. For decades, libertarians have been saying: Get rid of immigration officials, DEA agents, the drug war, immigration controls, checkpoints, illegal searches and seizures, and all the other police-state programs along the border. Open the borders to the free flow of people, much as we have between the respective states. If that had been done, there wouldn’t be a child-immigrant crisis or any other immigration crisis.

But so far, the statists have won the day. We still have the drug war and we still have the war on immigrants. And, of course, we still have the statist crises.

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.