All my life I have witnessed America’s ongoing, never-ending, perpetual immigration morass, along with the endless laments, anguish, anxiety, and depression among American statists that have accompanied it. All of this mental anguish has caused immigration-control advocates for the last several decades to ceaselessly cry out for Congress to enact “comprehensive immigration reform” designed to finally — finally! — bring an end to this permanent morass in American life.
It’s never going to happen. “Comprehensive immigration reform” is nothing but a pipe dream. If there were a way to fix this morass, they would have done it by now. What these people simply do not understand is that there is no possible way to fix this system. That’s because this system is not “broken,” as statists always assert. It’s because this system is inherently defective and, therefore, cannot possibly be fixed no matter what “comprehensive immigration reform” is adopted.
One could put the top 100 immigration experts and the top 100 best Border Patrol agents in a room for six months with 100 of the fastest computers in the world with the assigned task of coming up with a “comprehensive immigration reform” plan that would finally — finally! — bring an end to America’s permanent immigration crisis, but it wouldn’t make any difference whatsoever. At the end of that six months, the immigration crisis would continue even if the Congress adopted the recommended reform plan in its entirety.
This is what I’ve been saying for some 40 years. America’s immigration system will never be made to work. If only that point would sink into the heads of the American people. If it did, so many of them would no longer spend their time, effort, or money trying to come up a “comprehensive immigration reform” plan that would finally — finally! — bring an end to this perpetual crisis. They would realize that all such efforts are futile and simply resign themselves to the perpetual crisis and chaos that comes with this system.
Why is it impossible to come up with a “comprehensive immigration reform” plan that will work? The answer is simple: America’s immigration system is a socialist system. It is based on the core socialist principle of central planning. Government officials plan, in a top-down, command-and-control manner, the movements of millions of people in one of the most complex labor markets in history.
It simply cannot be done. As the libertarian Nobel Prize–winning Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek observed, central planners have a “fatal conceit.” They actually think that they possess the requisite knowledge to centrally plan complex economic activity.
The result of central planning is, and always has been, what the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises called “planned chaos.” What better term to describe America’s decades-long immigration crisis than “planned chaos?” I certainly can’t think of a better term. Planned chaos and perpetual crisis come with immigration socialism.
But chaos and crisis are not the only things that come with immigration socialism. Death and suffering also come with this dysfunctional system. Every year, decade after decade, people die from drowning in the Rio Grande, thirst in the deserts in the American Southwest, asphyxiation in the backs of tractor-trailers, or bullets fired into them by Border Patrol agents. All of these deaths are a direct result of America’s system of immigration socialism.
Death and suffering are not the only consequences of immigration socialism. There are also the rapes and robberies of people at the hands of people who operate in the black market by ostensibly helping people to enter the United States in violation of its immigration laws.
There is but one solution to America’s forever immigration morass. Let me repeat that for emphasis: There is but one solution to America’s forever immigration morass. That solution is open borders — genuine open borders, not the perverted “open borders” used today in the context of America’s failed socialist immigration system.
Genuine open borders means the abolition of the Border Patrol, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, and all restrictions on the free movements of goods, services, and people across borders. The adoption of genuine open borders would bring an immediate end to America’s perpetual, ongoing, never-ending immigration chaos and crisis along the border, along with an end to the death, rapes, robberies, and suffering that come with immigration socialism.
The United States has the largest open-border system in history. People can travel thousands of miles within the United States without encountering any immigration official or customs official. It is truly a remarkable system, one that we all take for granted because we have all been born and raised under it.
It didn’t have it to be that way. Let’s assume that the Framers had decided that each state would have the power to control the movements of people into the state. In other words, each state would have the same immigration system that the U.S. government has with respect to foreign citizens.
The state of Texas, for example, could decide how many people from other states would be allowed to enter the state each year. Quotas would be assigned to each state. No more floods of people moving from California into Austin. The number of people that would be permitted to enter from other states would be tightly managed and controlled. Credentials would be set by the state, with priority given to people with education and money. Texas could prohibit any person from moving into the state for the purpose of getting on welfare.
There obviously would have to be an enforcement of this system. There would be immigration stations wherever a highway crossed the border into a state. Of course, that would not be sufficient because people seeking jobs or seeking to visit family or friends could easily circumvent those stations by simply trespassing on people’s private property. Thus, there would have to be a state Border Patrol that would have the authority to travel the highways and roads near the state border and to enter onto people’s private property along or near the border to look for people who were illegally entering the state.
What would have been the result of this central-planning-style domestic immigration system? The result would be the same as the result we have with America’s socialist system of immigration controls today: chaos, crisis, death, and suffering, along with a domestic immigration police state.
Moreover, we would have the same incessant anxiety and mental depression that has accompanied our national immigration crisis. People would be ceaselessly calling for “comprehensive immigration reform” within our nation to deal with the never-ending interstate immigration crisis. They would be pleading with Congress to fix our “broken” domestic immigration system.
Then imagine that a libertarian were to come along and say: “Let’s have open borders between the states. Let’s abolish all the state immigration controls, departments, and agencies, and just have free movements of goods, services, and people across the states. This is the only solution to this never-ending, 200-year-old domestic immigration crisis.”
It is not difficult to predict the response. “Are you crazy? Open borders between the states? Why, you would let any number of people move from California to Texas? You would let any number of people from Mississippi move to California to get on welfare? You libertarians are so impractical. Get your heads out of the clouds and help us to come up with a ‘comprehensive immigration reform’ plan that will finally resolve this 200-year-old domestic crisis.”
An immigration police state
I grew up on a farm outside Laredo, Texas, that was situated on the Rio Grande. We hired illegal immigrants. I worked out in the fields with them bailing hay. They were the hardest-working people I have ever seen. They lived with us there on our farm. They were also buddies to my brothers and me.
One day the Border Patrol entered onto our property without a search warrant and busted our workers, carting them away for arrest and deportation. That was a difficult experience for my brothers and me, who witnessed the whole thing.
What good did it do to bust our workers? Did it “secure” the border? That, of course, is laughable. It did no good at all. It accomplished nothing but inflict suffering on innocent people who clearly wanted those jobs. After all, let’s not forget that was more than 50 years ago. The war to “secure” the border is still going on today.
But there is something important to note about that experience: With America’s socialist immigration system comes an immigration police state. Just think: Those Border Patrol agents entered onto our private property. They had no permission to do so. They had no search warrant. If we had put a lock on our gate, they would shoot it off.
That’s what life is like under a police state. Immigration agents don’t need search warrants. They have the authority to enter onto any property they want and search without a warrant, so long as the property is within 100 miles of the border. Just think about that: warrantless searches of any private property located within 100 miles of the border. Try reconciling that with the Fourth Amendment!
That’s not all. Our immigration police state also comes with highway checkpoints at which travelers are required to stop, respond to questions from immigration officials, show their papers, and have their persons and vehicles searched — all without a warrant. Keep in mind: This is for people traveling America’s highways — not people who are returning from Mexico. If a traveler refuses to roll down his window and be subjected to this type of totalitarian treatment, immigration officials bash in his car window, pull him from his vehicle, charge him with a crime, and cart him away to jail.
This is what life is like under an immigration police state. As an aside, many years ago, I traveled to Cuba, which has a totalitarian communist system. They have these same types of highway checkpoints there.
There are also roving Border Patrol checkpoints along the border. These consist of Border Patrol agents simply stopping whatever vehicle they want that is traveling on highways several miles away from the border. No broken taillight violation. No speeding violation. The agents just turn on the flashing lights on their vehicle and direct the driver of a vehicle to pull over to the side of the road to be searched without a warrant. I was a victim of one of these types of searches when I was in high school.
Keep in mind something important: These are all “comprehensive immigration reforms” that have been adopted over the years to finally — finally! — bring an end to America’s permanent immigration morass. None of them have succeeded in doing so. But rather than remove or dismantle them, they remain part of our permanent immigration police state. Then, more such reforms are adopted to deal with the continued failure of the system to work, thereby making the police state even more fortified.
One of the biggest reforms they adopted was to make it a criminal offense for American employers to hire illegal immigrants. The assumption was that if there were no job opportunities, immigrants would no longer be willing to come to the United States illegally.
Sounds logical, right? Did turning American employers into immigration criminals bring an end to America’s permanent immigration crisis? Of course it didn’t. The crisis continued, but they left that particular reform on the books, thereby making it another permanent part of America’s immigration police state.
The same thing happened when they made it a felony to transport or harbor immigrants who were here illegally. That, too, accomplished nothing, but it was left on the books to serve as a police-state hammer that could be used against anyone who was caught violating these laws.
There is also their Berlin Wall along the border. Clearly, that hasn’t worked either. But have they dismantled their wall and given back the property they stole from landowners through the power of eminent domain? Of course not. The wall remains, along with all the other reforms that have produced America’s immigration police state along the border.
Advocates of America’s socialist system of immigration controls sometimes decry certain aspects of our immigration police state. They might say, “We oppose the separation of children from their parents!” or “We oppose the wall” or “We condemn the boarding of buses to check people’s papers.” But their cries are meaningless. The fact is that an immigration police state inevitably comes with a socialist immigration system, just as thunder comes with lightning. Imagine someone saying, “I am a firm supporter of lightning but I want to make it clear that I also firmly oppose thunder.”
Economic liberty and free markets
Would a system of open borders work? It’s the only thing that works. That’s because it is based on the principles of economic liberty, free markets, free enterprise, freedom of association, freedom of travel, and liberty of contract. Freedom works! It always works. It is socialism that doesn’t work.
America had a system of open immigration for more than 100 years. That’s because our American ancestors rejected socialism. That system was a major positive factor in the phenomenal increase in the standard of living of the American people, especially in the period from 1870 to 1910.
There is something important to note about that period of open immigration: There was no immigration crisis. Moreover, there were no deaths, rapes, robberies, and suffering arising from a socialist immigration system. That’s because such things don’t come with a system based on the principles of liberty. Freedom really does work.
A case study of open borders
When I was growing up in Laredo, the city had a system of open borders. No, not all year long but only for a short period of time each year.
Laredo was the only city in the United States that had a big celebration in honor of George Washington’s birthday. The celebration would last several days around February 22 every year. It consisted of a big downtown parade with big floats on which Laredo debutantes would be featured in their beautiful debutante gowns. The parade would be led by Pocahontas riding a horse and included school marching bands and drill teams and other participants.
The celebration also included a big debutant’s ball, a carnival, fireworks, mariachi bands playing in Laredo’s major downtown plaza,
St. Augustin Plaza, which was built during the time that Laredo was part of Mexico and the Spanish empire. It later included a jalapeño festival,
In the beginning and then later, it also included a big Noche Mexicana, which was introduced in 1925 by my grandfather, Matias de Llano, a Mexican citizen who had moved to Laredo during America’s system of open immigration and who was serving as acting president of the Washington Birthday Celebration Association.
According to a new book entitled Listening to Laredo by Mehnaaz Momen, San Agustin Plaza “was decorated like the floating gardens of Mexico City. Mexican music and dances were showcased to evoke a very different cultural identity. It drew record crowds from both cities, as it was held in a public setting for everyone to attend. People would meander around the plaza at night from food stand to food stand, socializing with each other and strolling to the churches.”
The reason people from both cities — Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico — participated in the celebrations is one that would shock and frighten people today: During the Washington’s Birthday celebration every year, the border would be opened to the people of Nuevo Laredo. Yes, you read that right: a totally open border between the two cities. The Border Patrol and the Immigration Service would stand down, and Nuevo Laredoans could freely cross the international bridge and enter Laredo to participate in the festivities.
Did Laredo fall into the Rio Grande with that open-border policy ? Did America disintegrate? Did the Rio Grande border disappear or dry up?
Actually, none of the above occurred. Instead, open borders made it a fantastic, fun, and harmonious celebration.
Was there a crisis? Nope. That’s because no one could tell who was from Laredo and who was from Nuevo Laredo. After all, keep in mind that Laredoans were about 95 percent of Mexican origin. Nobody cared who was an American citizen and who was a Mexican citizen. Everyone just walked around and enjoyed the festivities regardless of national origin.
Ending the crisis, chaos, and morass
And that is precisely what would happen if America’s socialist system of immigration controls was dismantled today. Tomorrow, there would no longer be an immigration crisis. People would simply be free to cross the border, back and forth. Foreigners would retain their citizenship, unless they desired to apply for U.S. citizenship. No one, except election officials, would know who was a citizen and who wasn’t, and no one would care. People would simply be dealing with each other as human beings, without regard to one’s citizenship, as they do today in their everyday dealings.
As long as we continue to maintain a socialist immigration system, we will continue to experience permanent immigration morass and an immigration police state. There is no possible reform that can fix this inherently defective system. There is but one solution: open borders — genuine open borders — the elimination of the Border Patrol, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, and all restrictions on the free movements of goods, services, and people across borders. The sooner everyone comes to that realization, the better off everyone will be.
This article was originally published in the December 2023 edition of Future of Freedom.