Free Markets, Free People

Open Borders

Over the past few days, I’ve been watching with interest on Twitter as Doug Mataconis and Jason Pye have been moaning about the new immigration law in Arizona. Now, I grant it’s a bad law from a civil liberties perspective. I’ve seen to much of policing from the inside to trust police not to run a truck through any ambiguities that they find in the law.

But some of the links they’ve posted seem a bit overdone. For instance, one of them linked to an article that implied that there’s a white supremacist behind the movement to pass the law. But what really caught my eye was a link to an article that gave all the standard libertarian reasons for having open immigration.

There was only one thing wrong with the article. It made all sorts of arguments about natural rights and economics, but nowhere did it address national security.

So, I guess my question is this: If you are going to argue for opening the borders, how will you go about doing so in a world of hostile nation-states, whose citizens may wish to do us harm? Clearly, the framers gave some thought to the issue, as they gave Congress plenary power to regulate immigration.

So, even granting that the rights-based and economic arguments are correct, which, mainly, I do, I still would like to know how you would address the security implications of open borders in a hostile world.

Surely, our agreement on the general principles of liberty don’t require us to commit seppuku by allowing hostile foreign powers to take advantage of them, do they?

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32 Responses to Open Borders

  • I identify as a libertarian and I agree with the philosophical reasons behind open borders, but it’s probably utopian.  Perhaps if it is paired with some sort of libertarian foreign policy of non-intervention that might cause hostile nations to not be so hostile?

  • I think in today’s world you cannot have open borders.  Unfortunately, you must have very strict control over who or what comes in.  Not very libertarian, I know, but a reality given all the entities that mean to do us harm, or sneak in illegally.
    The USA border is a joke.  Anyone or anything can get in.

  • I don’t know, guess I’m just paranoid, but it feels to me like there is a rather large group of people in this country who are well organized and long term goal oriented. Their goal is to steal my labor and property through government infiltration and manipulation. I strongly suspect as they get closer to achieving their goal and attain solid majority status that they will want me and my libertarian ideas to go permanently underground, so to speak. I’m quite sure they will insist.

    Keeping my paranoia in mind, is a libertarian to be so ideologically driven that he, or she, gives up their heritage by protecting the liberties of those who would take it? 

  • Dale FranksIf you are going to argue for opening the borders, how will you go about doing so in a world of hostile nation-states, whose citizens may wish to do us harm? Clearly, the framers gave some thought to the issue, as they gave Congress plenary power to regulate immigration.

    It surprises me to find an aspect of libertarianism that I never encountered – or expected to encounter – before: internationalism.  I think it would be fair to say that the blog owners and most of the regular commenters are pretty ardent patriots, so the idea that our borders should be open (i.e. US territory is not especially sovereign) is bewildering.  Am I unfairly mischaracterizing the argument?

    It seems to me that it is far more difficult to protect ourselves from hostile governments / organizations if our borders are not secure.  Yes, we can and SHOULD employ police and counter-intelligence forces inside our country to actively search for hostile agents and cells, but the job is far easier if we can keep them out in the first place.  I’m sorry to say that political correctness has distorted the border security and immigration arguments into a brawl over racism.  As a personal matter, I welcome immigrants to our country, either those who want to become Americans and make their home here or those who simply want to work or study here.  But the welcome mat gets pulled in when those people try to come here illegally.  I’m sorry, but it’s a bit hard to consider somebody as intent on being a good citizen / resident when they break the law the instant their foot touches US soil, and likely continue to do so as they get phony ID and commit other crimes associated with illegal immigration.

    • This has long baffled me, too.  I’ve never seen open borders as being integral to libertarianism.

  • “Clearly, the framers gave some thought to the issue, as they gave Congress plenary power to regulate immigration.”
    Your copy of the Constitution must have fallen through a wormhole from an alternate universe or something. In THIS universe, the Constitution gives Congress no power to regulate immigration at all.

    • My copy of the constitution contains Art 1, Sec 8, which expressly gives Congress the power to “establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization.  Apparently your argument is the rather non-sensical one that Congress can pass laws to determine how an immigrant becomes a naturalized citizen but no power to determine how that person can actually enter the country.

      The power of Naturalization automatically includes the regulation of immigration, and I’m dumbfounded that you would seriously argue otherwise.

      • You are wasting your time arguing with Knappster.  This was the same character who once insisted on these pages that Iran was a true sister democracy to our own, just with theocratic guidance from its elders…

        • CR,
           
          It’s not nice to lie about people.

          • Right back atcha, Knappster ol’ boy.  In this thread you posit:

            Iran has a constrained democracy in terms of who is allowed to run for and be elected to office. But not as constrained as, say, Oklahoma. Is that democracy also a theocracy? Yes…

            So, in your own words Iran, a top down totalitarian regime as evidenced by post election riots and violence, is comparable OK, a US state with a fully functional multi-party electoral system that you went on to mis-characterize and libel horrifically.
            Indeed, it is not nice to lie about people, especially yourself.

    • This seems to be a comment from someone who don’t need no facts to support the One and anything his minions put out the call to support.  All over America urban liberals are nodding to each other over lattes and repeating:  “It’s un-Constitutional”, why Eric Holder even said so in the Times today.”  Facts?  The actual Constitution?  In this case, the actual grounds on which a Constitutional challenge would be mounted?
      Thanks for the comment from the LN world, where apparently the Constitution doesn’t give Congress the power to regulate immigration.  Doublecheck your source for this “information”.  You are being lied to..

    • Sarcasm, no?

    • Well then, if it’s not Constitutional for the Federal Government to regulate immigration, I guess it’s up to the state of Arizona to decide how it wants to handle the problem.
       
      Which is it – the Federal government is responsible for immigration enforcement, or they are not, and if they are NOT then the States may do as they will, according to the 10th amendment.  And yet….every time a State or city attempts to ‘regulate immigration’ they are slapped down and informed immigration enforcement is the function of the Federal Government.    There must be some basis for that belief.

  • I’ve seen to much of policing from the inside to trust police not to run a truck through any ambiguities that they find in the law.

    And I’ve seen to much of ‘national security’ truck driving through ambiguities in the law.  I seriously doubt you’ll make much headway against terrorists by harassing landlords and their tenants.
     
     
     
     

    • I seriously doubt you’ll make much headway against terrorists by harassing landlords and their tenants.

      Unless, of course, they are some of the instant protesters that can pop-up on demand all over the country, on a moment’s notice and then appear in America’s living rooms on the national news that evening. The press then swarms to their cause, informing us greedy citizens that we are ugly racists because we won’t surrender our labor, property and sovereignty to their illegality.  

      Because really, they’re just “undocumented”, right?

       

       

      • That is not the point.  There are millions of ‘undocumented’ illegal aliens the overwhelming majority of which are not terrorists.  I seriously doubt immigration enforcement will make much of difference on the terrorist/national security front.
        For example, some illegal immigrants commit murder while they are here.  The solution here is not more immigration law but quality homicide detectives.
        In short, I think you’ll catch more terrorists by investigating terrorist activities than you will by going on an immigration fishing expedition.  I don’t buy the national security argument.  But I do see a good bit of truck driving through civil rights going on about national security.

        • If that’s your angle, then you will have to define “terrorism”.

        • I see your point, but I suggest that the national security angle comes in from border enforcement, not from rounding up illegals.  As far as the left in concerned, these are the same dirty, racist, nazi thing.

        • Civil rights for who?  Where does it say you have a right not to have to prove you’re a citizen?

  • Establishing a uniform Rule of Naturalization is not the same as regulating immigration, guy.  According to both of my sets of grandparents, they just had to buy tickets on the boat, sign the book at Ellis Island and get on with their lives.  No advance permission, no pre-qualifying for H1B work visas in 1906.  Worked pretty well then and should work pretty well now.  Laws regulating (restricting) immigration only came into being in the 1920’s for Europeans and in the 1880’s (I think) for Orientals.   All of these laws were blatantly racist and/or nativist and it continues to amaze me to hear people (are you listening, Lou Dobbs?) go on about the blessings of freedom and then deny that same freedom to those born on the other side of an arbitrary line.

  • “But I do see a good bit of truck driving through civil rights going on about national security.”
     

    As McQ stated, you raise an excellent point.  Why do I think that if we asked you for the specific instances of this “truck driving through civil rights” you see (and you took the time to respond, always problematical with liberals) we would see a list of phony charges of civil rights violations that come directly from Daily Kos or a similar source?  I guess I am just a crank where liberals are concerned.  Sorry.
     
    It’s just that this mile-wide-and-an-inch-deep analysis of issues is what is wrong with liberal thought these days.  One liberal agrees with another who makes a statement like yours and they both nod;  neither having done more than read the NYT on the issue and being unable to name even one of these truck-smashed civil rights without checking back to the Times article.  They are so busy, you see.  They place too much trust in the NYT which is selling our country down the river.

  • Dale,
    You write: “Apparently your argument is the rather non-sensical one that Congress can pass laws to determine how an immigrant becomes a naturalized citizen but no power to determine how that person can actually enter the country.”
    There’s nothing “non-sensical” about it at all. The fact that the Constitution enumerates a very SPECIFIC power regarding immigrants (regulating how they become citizens) but doesn’t enumerate any other similar powers is a strong argument for the claim that no other similar powers were intended.
    If I owned a warehouse, and you worked there, and I gave you a job task list which informed you that you were in charge of/responsible for where incoming shipments would be stored, would you assume that this designation of authority also put you in charge of placing orders for those shipments?
     
     

    • If I owned a warehouse, and you worked there, and I gave you a job task list which informed you that you were in charge of/responsible for where incoming shipments would be stored, would you assume that this designation of authority also put you in charge of placing orders for those shipments?

      No, of course not. 

      It would, however, put me in charge of determining if an incoming order was incorrect, and returning it to the sender, rather than storing it in my warehouse.
      The Constitution also contains Article I Section 9 Clause 1: “The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.”

      Obviously, this is a veiled reference to slavery; however, the Framers clearly thought that, after 1808, Congress did in fact, have the power to regulate “The Migration or Importation” of persons in the existing states, and implies that Congress had that power prior to 1808 for any new states.

      So, again, the Constitution plainly presumes that congress has the power to regulate–or ban–any ” Migration or Importation” of persons to the United States.

      But, now that I recognize who you are, I realize that any further argument with you is pointless.

    • So, is the issue of visa and passports and their requirement for entry into the United States unconstitutional?

      • docjim,
        If the framers had wanted to give Congress the power to regulate immigration, they presumably would have said so. They didn’t say so in the Constitution.
        Do you know where, if anywhere, they said so in documents which would indicate “original intent?” You won’t find it in the Federalist Papers — but what you’ll find in the Anti-Federalist papers is the complaint, from “Agrippa” (probably John Winthrop), that the Constitution threatened the homogeneity of the Republic precisely because it would result in a national government which allowed unregulated immigration.
        If Congress had believed it possessed a power to regulate immigration, it presumably would have exercised it. It didn’t for nearly a century.
        Between 1790 and 1870, Congress passed four naturalization laws, none of which purported to regulate immigration, but merely specified how long an immigrant must reside in the US and what conditions he or she must meet to achieve citizenship.
        The first law purporting to regulate immigration (the Chinese Exclusion Act) wasn’t passed until 1882.
        The first US passports (other than consular documents issued during the Revolution to identify envoys and such) were issued during the Civil War as a temporary measure; that stopped when the war ended. Ditto for World War One. Passports and visas weren’t required by the US until 1941, and the first comprehensive immigration law (McCarran-Walter) wasn’t passed until 1952.
        Can you name any other alleged power of Congress which wasn’t exercised at all in the first 90 years of the nation’s existence, and which wasn’t exercised in any comprehensive way for the first 160 years? I doubt that you can, because I doubt any such power exists. “Immigration law” New Deal social engineering quackery, not constitutional governance.

        • That leaves it to the States – the framers were not so silly as to establish free commerce between the states without detailed regulation from the central government and THEN presume that any one state could feel free to bring in slews of immigrants while every state around it was keeping them out (for whatever reason).  Given reciprocity there would be nothing to prevent the immigrants from coming into the free state and then migrating to the other states from there.  It’s obvious, intuitive and insulting to imply the framers wouldn’t see that within 2 minutes of the proposition being made.
           
          “If Congress had believed it possessed a power to regulate immigration, it presumably would have exercised it. It didn’t for nearly a century.”  Docjim covered it below – we needed the bodies to flesh out the bones of the country.
          Nor was travel so swift, or so multidmodal, prior to the advent of the interstate highway system and air travel.  It was much easier to gauge and control influx and interaction when people couldn’t constantly be moving 60 miles, or more, to or from point x in an under an hour.  The ability to move so swiftly is a revolution that mankind didn’t have to deal with until the advent of the engine/motor.  In 1872 the idea of traveling around the world in 80 days (or less) was considered science fiction.  People didn’t  worry a man would start out in Khartoum on Monday and be in Washington DC by Tuesday.

  • I think we are in substantial agreement about strict construction, but in this case I have to agree with Dale.  Article I sec. 8 says in part:

    Congress shall have the power to… establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization…

    It seems to me that a power to regulate how a person may become a citizen of the United States implies a power to determine who may come here to apply in the first place.  As to the dearth of immigration laws prior to 1870, I suggest that this is more a matter of practicality than law.  For one thing, the tiny federal government had little capacity to regulate immigration.  More importantly, what would have been the point with the huge, open territories of the west waiting to receive anybody who cared to get on a boat to New York, Philadelphia, Charleston, or any other US port?

    Consider the dates of the more recent immigration laws you cite: 1941 and 1952.  In both cases, there was a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States, and Congress would have been derelict and indeed bloody stupid NOT to have done something to try to keep nazi or communist agents out of the country.  We face today a similar danger in the form of AQ and other terrorist organizations as well as hostile countries such as Iran, North Korea, Red China, Russia, etc., and Congress ought to act in accordance with its general powers to defend the country by taking steps to keep hostile and / or undesirable people out.