Hornberger's Blog

Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Libertarianism and Immigration Enforcement


For the past several years, there has been a running debate within the libertarian movement between libertarians who favor government immigration controls and those who favor open borders.

As an advocate of open borders, I have never been able to figure out how those libertarians who favor government-controlled borders are able to reconcile their position with the libertarian non-aggression principle, which condemns the initiation of force against others and holds that people should be free to do whatever they want so long as their conduct is peaceful.

I have also been unable to understand how the government-controlled-borders libertarians reconcile their position with the concepts of natural, God-given rights, private property, free markets, and limited government, all of which are bedrock political and economic principles of libertarianism. (My inability to understand the pro-government-controlled-borders position is even more pronounced with respect to those libertarians who favor no government at all.)

Under libertarian principles, I have the fundamental right to do whatever I want with my own money. That’s because it’s my money — my private property. I have the right to spend, invest, donate, or hoard it, or whatever. If I use my money to open a business, it’s my business. It is privately owned, by me. Under the non-aggression principle, I have the right to use my money to hire whoever I want, including someone from another country. No one, including any American citizen, has a right to force me to hire him. Again, that’s because it’s my money — my private property. I have the right to do anything I want with it.

What the government-controlled-border libertarian says is: Hornberger doesn’t have the right to hire whomever he wants, if his employee has not been approved by the government. Thus, if my employee is a Mexican citizen who hasn’t been approved by the government, they want the government to send armed agents to my place of business to arrest, prosecute, convict, fine, and incarcerate, my employee and me, and then forcibly deport him.

Needless to say, all those measures involve the initiation of force. That’s why immigration raids and arrests are carried out armed law-enforcement officers. That’s why they handcuff people they arrest. That’s what criminal prosecutions are all about. And fines and imprisonment. They’re all based on the concept of force.

Notice something significant about those libertarians who support the concept of immigration controls: While they openly support the intellectual concept of immigration controls, they always remain silent about the enforcement measures that come with immigration controls.

Theoretically, it’s possible to have nothing more than a law that says: “Illegal entry into the United States is prohibited.” That’s what pro-border-control libertarians support.

But a big problem arises immediately: People from other countries ignore the law. With no guards at border crossing points, they just freely enter the United States, without regard to what the law says.

That raises the concept of enforcement measures. If people aren’t obeying the government’s law, in order to keep them from freely entering the country, the government must post guards at the entry points, such as international bridges — ready to initiate force to prevent people from crossing the border into the United States.

But then another problem arises: Foreigners start entering the country by trespassing on farms and ranches along the border. So, the government takes the next logical step — sending its armed agents onto those farms and ranches, even without a warrant and without consent of the owner, to search for and apprehend the foreigners who persist in violating the illegal-entry law.

From there follow highway checkpoints where everyone, including American citizens, are forcibly stopped and papers are checked. And then laws criminalizing the transporting, harboring, and hiring of illegal immigrants. And then a fence and wall, which entail the forcible, non-consensual taking of people’s private property through eminent domain, another violation of libertarian principles.

Why do pro-government-controlled-borders libertarians openly proclaim support for immigration controls but always remain silent when it comes to immigration-control measures? Perhaps it’s because they don’t want to put themselves in the position of openly supporting measures that clearly violate the libertarian non-aggression principle, including immigration raids on private homes and businesses, highway checkpoints, immigration sweeps, criminal prosecutions of Americans who harbor, transport, or employ illegal immigrants, the deportation of illegal immigrants, government-owned fences and walls built on private property through the use of eminent domain, and other measures that are characteristic of totalitarian regimes, not free societies, and instill the type of deep fear, foreboding, and suffering that is characteristic of totalitarian societies.

In the midst of all the planned chaos, crises, totalitarian powers, and the untold fear and suffering that immigration controls and their enforcement continue to bring to American society, it is more important than ever that we libertarians continue hewing to principle by showing people that there is only one immigration paradigm that is consistent with both moral principles and libertarian principles — open borders, a paradigm that encompasses the natural, God-given right of people to cross borders in search of a better life, especially by entering into mutually beneficial, consensual, and peaceful relationships with others in a society based on free-market, private-property, limited-government principles.

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.