Ever since FFF was established in 1989, there have been those who have said to me, “Jacob, you’re just asking people to bite off more than they’re able to chew with FFF’s call for open borders. Why don’t you just argue for increased immigration? You’d find a lot more support for that position.”
There are two major reasons why we have long advocated open borders: It is the only policy that is consistent with the principles of freedom, and it’s the only policy that works.
Open borders simply mean freedom, free markets, and free enterprise. Libertarians know that free markets and free enterprise work. They enable people to pursue happiness in their own way. They provide a peaceful means by which people can harmonize their interests and pursuits with others. They raise people’s standard of living.
Then there are socialism and interventionism. The world now recognizes that they don’t work. They produce economic crises. They distort people’s plans. They generate chaos.
Ever since I was a child growing up in Laredo, which is on the U.S.-Mexico border, there has been an ongoing immigration crisis. Sometimes it has subsided and people have settled down and accepted the ongoing crisis. Then suddenly the public anxiety surfaces in a big way and people get angry and upset all over again. But the one constancy in all this for at least 60 years is that immigration has involved one great big, continuous, ongoing crisis.
People tend to forget that. They operate as if the immigration crisis is something brand new and demand a solution now. In the process, very few of them ask a very important question: Why is there an immigration crisis and why has it never gone away?
There is one answer to that question: There is an immigration crisis because the United States has immigration controls. If there were no immigration controls, there would be no more immigration crises. That’s because immigration controls are a form of socialist central planning, a system that always results in crisis and chaos.
Every day, countless people cross the border, back and forth, between Maryland and Virginia. No one keeps track of it. No one is making sure that there is a balance of trade between the two states. No one worries about whether people are moving to Maryland to receive more welfare or take jobs away from Marylanders. No one lives in fear about all the terrorists who could be coming into Virginia from Maryland, or vice versa. No one worries that everyone is suddenly going to move to Baltimore.
It’s the same with all the other 50 states. People cross state borders (and county borders and city borders) every day of the year, and it’s all peaceful, harmonious, and economically beneficial.
It doesn’t have to be that way. The Constitution could be amended to empower every state to enforce its borders against the citizens of other states. If that were to happen, each state border — and state border crossing — would have the same types of enforcement measures that exist in the American Southwest—i.e., highway checkpoints, roving state border patrol searches, warrantless searches of farms and ranches, etc. And there would be a much bigger immigration crisis, this one involving domestic borders.
The American experiment of domestic open borders shows that freedom, free markets, and free enterprise really do work.
The free-market principle works just as well internationally. If there were open borders with Mexico, for example, Mexican citizens could freely come to the United States to visit, tour, work, open businesses, and engage in any other peaceful pursuit. If they chose to do so, they would retain their Mexican citizenship, just as American citizens would who would be traveling or moving to Mexico would retain their U.S. citizenship. They could stay as long as they wanted and freely return to Mexico.
It would all make for a very peaceful, harmonious process. Except for election officials on Election Day, no one would really care who was a citizen and who wasn’t. After all, how many times do people ask other people to identify what their citizenship is? Only the feds ask that question.
One of the most interesting aspects of the immigration debate over the years has been with respect to libertarians who are reluctant to call for open borders. I just don’t get it. If anybody is in favor of freedom, free markets, and free enterprise, it’s libertarians.
Yet, we all know that there are libertarians who simply will not publicly call for open borders. The most they’ll do is call for the government to let in more immigrants, which, of course, is implicitly arguing in favor of immigration controls and immigration central planning. Every libertarian knows that the government should not be involved in peaceful activity, including economic activity. So, why the exception for immigration?
I have recently been involved in an immigration debate with Jonathan Goodwin, a libertarian also known as the Bionic Mosquito. My most recent response to him, which has links to our previous articles is: “Bionic Mosquito’s Bite Misses the Mark.”
In the past few days, I’ve been involved in a spirited and friendly debate with Bionic and friends in the comment section of his website.
Most of them seem to be libertarian anarchists. Ironically though, many of them are also proponents of immigration controls. Although Bionic himself has said that he is not a proponent of immigration controls, he is nevertheless unwilling or reluctant to call for the abolition of immigration controls because, he says, he’s concerned that some immigrants will go on welfare, which will mean that he might have to pay higher taxes. The possibility of increased welfare taxes seems to be the driving force behind his commenters’ support of immigration controls.
I find that position ironic (and somewhat humorous) given that these anarchists, who wish to abolish the entire government, are arguing in favor of a vast and powerful governmental apparatus that is involved in immigration law enforcement. They want to keep the Immigration Service intact until they can be certain that immigrants can’t go on welfare and thereby cause them to pay higher taxes.
That leads to another irony: these immigration-control libertarian anarchists never show any concern for the taxes they are paying to enforce the immigration laws. According to an article in the Huffington Post, “The United States spends more money on immigration enforcement — nearly $18 billion in the 2012 fiscal year — than on its other law enforcement agencies combined.” Since 1986, “the U.S. has spent $187 billion on immigration enforcement.”
That’s a lot of money. That’s a lot of taxes. It would all disappear under open borders. $18 billion a year in tax savings. Given that libertarian anarchists are so concerned about paying higher welfare taxes, wouldn’t you think that they would prefer to save all those enforcement taxes and abolish a big part of the government at the same time?
Moreover, the reality is that most immigrants come to American to get rich. No one gets rich on welfare. In fact, the type of person who goes on welfare is not going to be the type of person who uproots himself from his country, his culture, and his friends and family to move to a country where immigrants are insulted, reviled, and abused. That type of person is generally going to choose to remain at home.
Moreover, there is no inherent reason why the welfare rolls have to be open to immigrants. I recently spoke to an Iraqi immigrant who told me that he came here under an official U.S. government refugee program and that the only assistance he received once he got here was from Catholic Charities and local Iraqi-American groups. No government welfare at all.
Moreover, if libertarians are going to abandon their libertarian principles (and libertarian anarchist principles) out of the possibility that a few immigrants might go on welfare, then what about drug laws? It is a distinct possibility that if drugs were legalized, the government would provide free needles and free rehab services. That means higher welfare-state taxes. So, do libertarian anarchists say that we should support both drug laws and immigrations laws until we are certain that welfare is permanently ended? That would mean, of course, that libertarian anarchists would be supporting both drug law enforcement measures and immigration law enforcement measures at the same time they are trying to convince people to abolish the whole government.
Bionic and some of his commenters say that as long as you have government, you’re going to have immigration controls. Therefore, he seems resigned to that and simply calls for the abolition of government.
But his assertion is patently untrue. As previously noted, we have borders between the respective states as well as between counties and cities. They are all open. That is, they don’t have border guards, fences, walls, inspection stations, etc that exist on our international borders.
Moreover, throughout the 19th century, America had a system of open borders internationally. The federal government was in existence during that entire time.
So, yes, a nation can have government and open borders at the same time. It’s just a question of: What should government be doing and what should it not be doing. When enough people decide that government shouldn’t be controlling the peaceful movements of people, both domestically and internationally, then the international borders will be as open as the state, county, and local borders are.
The same is true for drug laws: You can have government and no drug laws. That’s in fact the way it was throughout 19th-century America.
Open borders are consistent with moral principles and principles of free markets and free enterprise. They are also consistent with our heritage of economic liberty. America is in a perfect position to lead the world out of the statist morass in which it has been mired for more than a century. One of the best places to begin leading the world to freedom, free markets, and free enterprise would be by simply opening America’s borders to the free movements of goods and services. It’s the moral and practical solution to America’s immigration woes.