On July 8, Libertarian Party Chair Nicholas Sarwark released a statement called “Libertarians say: Let the immigrant children in,” which says that the Central American children currently crossing the Mexican border into the United States should be allowed into the United States. While the statement makes several valid points, let us examine what is wrong with it from a philosophically consistent libertarian perspective.
“Should the U.S. government forbid foreign children from entering the United States? The Libertarian Party says no.
It would be unjust and inhumane for the U.S. government to prohibit these children from entering the United States.”
The U.S. government cannot forbid anything, because it does not exist. Likewise, the Libertarian Party does not say anything, nor can it, because it does not exist. Each individual person exists, and it follows that only an individual person has the ability to say something or forbid something. But putting this strange collectivist utterance aside, the answer to the question of whether agents of the state should use force to deny freedom of movement into a particular geographical area is no. However, this is not to say that because agents of the state should not do it, that it should not be done at all. A case for restricted immigration on the basis of private property rights is consistent with libertarian theory.
“A great irony is that U.S. government policies have caused the conditions that some of these Central American children are fleeing. The War on Drugs has created a huge black market in Latin America, causing increases in gang activity and violent crime. Some of the affected children naturally try to flee this violence. It is wrong to jeer at them, call them ‘illegals,’ and tell them to get out.”
The culpability of those who set U.S. government policy is quite clear, with the predictable repetition of the history of 1920s Chicago. But the solution is to reverse those policies, not to admit people to the United States against the wishes of private property owners therein.
“Many of these children are hoping to reach friends and relatives in the United States. A freer, simpler legal immigration process might result in a safer journey with more adult supervision along the way. In any case, Libertarians support maximizing freedom knowing that risks, including risks to children, are always involved. In some cases, children may be better off migrating, even without adult supervision, than staying trapped in dangerous environments — just ask the Jewish children who escaped from Hitler, or Tutsi children who escaped genocide in Rwanda.”
This is true.
“Libertarians do not support forcing people to pay for other children’s welfare, and there are obviously costs associated with helping children who arrive in the United States. However, there are many charitable organizations that have already mobilized to provide that help. A nation of 320 million people can provide sufficient charitable help to the number of children involved (around 50,000 over the last nine months).”
The problem is that people will be forced to pay for other children’s welfare, to the tune of $1,000 per day per child. Charitable deeds which are funded with stolen money (in the form of taxation and currency debasement) are not virtuous.
There is also the fact that compassion (which is normally a virtue) can be taken too far and turned into a tragic flaw worthy of the finest works of Euripides. To an external enemy wishing to bankrupt Americans, sending helpless children to the border to drain resources and divert the attention of border patrols is an excellent diversionary tactic for inserting terrorists. To the state (the internal enemy), allowing a large number of children to enter is beneficial because unproductive people give politicians an excuse to expand state power to give benefits to them, and there are few types of people who are less productive on average than children. The gang members who are also entering serve the interests of politicians as well, as they provide justification for expanding the police state.
“And if we’d just end the War on Drugs, the number of refugee children would be much lower.”
This is necessary, but not sufficient. Military interventionism, protectionist trade policies, economic sanctions, and foreign aid also create more refugee children in the countries targeted by them.
“Ultimately, the fact that many of these children are fleeing dangerous situations isn’t the issue. Even if they were coming to the United States for fun, we should still allow them to enter. All foreigners should be allowed entry into the United States unless the government can produce positive evidence that they pose a threat to security, health, or property.”
This statement is quite anti-libertarian, as it implies that the state should have authority over who gets to enter which geographical areas and what constitutes a threat to security, health, or property rather than private property owners. Only individuals are legitimately capable of owning land, as only individuals are capable of mixing labor with unowned natural resources, which is the correct way to create property based upon self-ownership and the resulting responsibility for one’s actions. Therefore, individuals should have the right to admit to or exclude from their private property any person for any reason.
“Our bad immigration laws affect a lot more people than just these children. Many foreigners want to come work in the United States, which benefits them as well as Americans. However, our government makes it impossible for almost all of them to work here legally.”
This is not necessarily true. It should be clear to a student of Austrian School economics that benefit is subjective. A person may value a lower population density more than the rise in real incomes that results from immigration, in which case foreign workers are not a welcome sight.
“The Libertarian Party believes that the U.S. government should not prohibit Americans from hiring foreign workers. There are about 60 million legal foreign entries into the United States each year (mostly tourists). Those foreigners should be free to work in the United States as well. There’s no question of border security — it’s just a question of the government’s unjust and foolish protectionist labor laws.
(By comparison, there are only about 500,000 “illegal” entries into the United States each year. Most of those are foreigners who want to work in the United States, and who would be denied visas because of that intention.)”
Again, the Libertarian Party cannot believe anything; only an individual person can do that. That being said, the belief is true as long as private property owners who control the area in which foreigners will be working have no problems with it. There is also the matter of child labor laws and compulsory schooling laws, which would prevent the children currently crossing the border from being free to work even if foreign worker restrictions were lifted.
“Some observers have noted that generous benefit and subsidy programs in the United States, including free education and health care, may be attracting lazy foreigners. …It’s worth pointing out that foreigners use these programs at a lower rate than natives, according to a recent report by the Cato Institute.”
This is true.
“The Libertarian Party supports the abolition of government benefits and subsidies, for both natives and foreigners.”
This is good, but the moral order in which to do this is to end the government benefits and subsidies, then open the borders because this subjects people living in America to less taxation and currency debasement.
“It’s a shame that many in the media are trying to make Americans feel fear and suspicion toward immigrants. It’s particularly disgusting that protesters would yell at children to make their political point.”
This is true.
“Immigration is good for foreigners and good for Americans, and we need to change our laws to make immigration much easier.
The Libertarian Party Platform says the following about the freedom of trade and migration:
3.4 Free Trade and Migration
We support the removal of governmental impediments to free trade. Political freedom and escape from tyranny demand that individuals not be unreasonably constrained by government in the crossing of political boundaries. Economic freedom demands the unrestricted movement of human as well as financial capital across national borders. However, we support control over the entry into our country of foreign nationals who pose a credible threat to security, health or property.”
These points have been addressed above.
To summarize, real libertarians say: immigration is a government program. The correct solution to the current border crisis is to respect private property rights, eliminate the various government programs which have made so many refugees, otherwise let people move where they wish and either associate with or dissociate from whom they wish, and do all of this without involving the state.