Libertarian

Opening Minds on Open Borders, Part 3

Guest Article by Jacob Hornberger, Libertarian Candidate for President of the United States.

One of the worst things that libertarians and members of the Libertarian Party could ever do is abandon their position in favor of open borders and adopt the socialist immigration position of Democrats and Republicans. 

Imagine, for example, a LP presidential candidate in the presidential debates being criticized for favoring immigration socialism and an immigration police state, just like Democrats and Republicans. How would he or she respond?

And make no mistake about it: Despite claims among Republicans that Democrats favor open borders, nothing could be further from the truth. When it comes to immigration, Republicans and Democrats are on the same page. They both favor a socialist system of government-controlled and government-managed borders. 

It is only we libertarians who favor open borders. See, for example, the book that Citadel libertarian economics professor Richard Ebeling and I co-edited many years ago — The Case for Free Trade and Open ImmigrationAlso see George Mason University economics professor Brian Caplan’s new best-selling graphic novel Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration.

The only differences between Democrats and Republicans on immigration concern the types of measures that are used to enforce their socialist system of immigration controls. Democrats, for example, favor building a Berlin Fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, while President Trump favors a Berlin Wall. Or Democrats might oppose Trump’s policy of separating immigrant children from their children as a way to deter immigrants with families from illegally entering the United States.

But make no mistake about it: Both Democrats and Republicans support America’s overall socialist immigration system and the police state that comes with it. After all, they didn’t call President Obama the “Deporter in Chief” for nothing. He proudly set the record when it came to forced deportations, a record that Trump, not surprisingly, is dead-set on breaking.

There are some libertarians and LP members who say that the libertarian movement and the Libertarian Party should abandon its longtime open-borders position and join up with Democrats and Republicans in support of a system of government-controlled borders and, implicitly, the immigration police state that comes with it. Let’s example some of the popular reasons for their advocating this shift.

  1. Billions of people would come to the United States and overwhelm and conquer us. 

It’s tempting to engage in catastrophic thinking when it comes to liberty. For example, when libertarians advocate the repeal of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, statists (i.e. people who look to the government to solve societal problems) respond “There will be people dying in the streets!.” Such catastrophic fears reflect a lack of understanding of how a free-market system works and also a lack of faith in freedom itself. No one would be dying in the streets if Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid were abolished today. Freedom and free markets really do work.

Consider San Francisco. I think most every American would agree that it is quite possibly the most beautiful and attractive city in the United States. Why then doesn’t every single American — all 327 million of them — suddenly move to San Francisco? Wouldn’t that be catastrophic? Shouldn’t we establish border controls around San Francisco or California to protect against that contingency?

There are two reasons why everyone doesn’t suddenly move to San Francisco — owing to the natural laws of supply and demand, the city is horribly expensive. Moreover, people simply prefer to live elsewhere. 

The same thing happens with foreigners. As more people move into a country, prices start going up, making it financially difficult for others to move there. The law of supply and demand and the price system is a great regulator of people’s economic decision-making. 

Moreover, it might be hard to believe, but most people around the world like where they live. They have no interest in picking up stakes, leaving family, friends, and job, and going to a country where people speak a different language and have a different culture and work ethic.

The reason that some Americans engage in catastrophic thinking with respect to immigration is the decades-long back-up of people at the border. Americans see that backup and automatically assume that everyone in the world wants to come to the United States to live. Actually though that backup is just the result of socialist central planning in immigration. As noted in Part 2 of this essay, central planning creates distortions in supply and demand. That’s why there is a back-up of workers at the borders while farmers’ crops are rotting here in the United States owing to a shortage of workers. 

As soon as the borders were open, the backup of people at the border would disappear and migrant flows would become so normal that no one would ever notice them, any more than they notice how many people are crossing state, local, or county borders. Moreover, once the drug war and the national-security state’s regime-change operations in Latin America were ended, which they should be, that would reduce the massive violence in Latin America that brings about aberrant migration flows into the United States.

2. Foreigners would come here and vote for Democrats, which would mean even more socialism for America.

It is easy to conflate immigration with citizenship. Actually, they are two separate and distinct concepts. Just because a foreigner comes to live and work in the United States, that doesn’t mean he has to become a U.S. citizen, any more than a foreign tourist visiting the U.S. has to become a U.S. citizen. 

Under a system of open borders, foreigners who come here would simply retain their citizenship, unless they wished to apply for U.S. citizenship. The United States can make the requirements for citizenship as stringent as it wants. And only citizens can vote.

I have a friend who is a Japanese citizen who has been living here in the United States for some 25 years. She votes in Japanese elections. She pays taxes to the Japanese government. So what? What difference does it make? Today, there are more than a million Americans living in Mexico. They retain their U.S. citizenship, vote in U.S. elections, pay taxes to the U.S. government, refuse to learn Spanish, eat hamburgers instead of enchiladas, and decline to assimilate. So what? What difference does it make?

3. Immigrants steal jobs away from Americans.

No one has a right to any particular job. Given such, when someone is laid off and replaced by someone else, there is no stealing that is taking place. It’s called the free-market, competitive process. 

It’s true that immigrants sometimes displace American workers, especially at the bottom of the economic ladder, such as in backbreaking farm work. But those same immigrants are also  buying used cars, food and clothing for their families, and other items. The increase in demand in those sectors means an increase in jobs in those sectors. That’s where the displaced Americans end up working. They end up with better and higher-paying jobs as a result of the division of labor that comes with open immigration.

4. Immigrants come to get on welfare. 

The argument here is that with open borders, millions of people will come to America to get on welfare, which will result in higher taxes for hard-pressed American taxpayers.

I have never heard of any immigrant who comes to America to get on welfare. I’m sure there must be a few but i’ve never encountered any. Immigrants come to America to get rich, and no one gets rich on welfare. 

Indeed, i have never heard of one single immigration raid on a welfare office. They are always without exception, on private businesses because that’s where illegal immigrants are found, working.

Americans love welfare, as reflected by their devotion to a welfare-state way of life, e.g., Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schooling, and others. Yet, hundreds of millions of Americans don’t suddenly move to California, a state with extremely generous welfare benefits. Indeed, how come 327 million Americans don’t suddenly pick up stakes and move to Sweden, legally and illegally, to take advantage of that country’s generous welfare system?

The fact is that it takes a rare type of person to move to another country. A person who is only interested in getting on welfare doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to undergo such a move, especially when there is a multiyear time lag before a foreigner can go on welfare. What does that person do during the years that he must wait to get on welfare?

Moreover, the economic vitality of the 99 percent who come to work would far outweigh the increase in taxes that might come with the 1 percent who are coming to get on welfare.

But even if open borders were to result in higher welfare-state taxes, would that be any reason for libertarians to abandon their principles and join up with Democrats and Republicans in support of a socialist immigration policy and the police state and death and suffering that come with it?

Perish the thought! That would be horrible because libertarians would then be like Democrats and Republicans. And how could the Libertarian Party continue to call itself “the party of principle” if it abandoned its principles because they pinched in the form of higher taxes.

And imagine what would happen, say, if a LP presidential candidate were to say in the presidential debates that Libertarians endorse immigration socialism and an immigration police state but only until the welfare state was abolished, even if that didn’t happen for another 50 years.

I say that Libertarians should continue to adhere to principle, even in the remote case that it might mean the payment of higher welfare taxes. We must continue being true to ourselves while, at the same time, continue fighting to end the welfare-state wronging for everyone, including Americans.

5. Open borders will change America’s culture. 

This is the argument that my anonymous critic DM makes. (See Part 1 of this essay). She laments the fact that immigrants threaten America’s national culture and the culture of North Carolina, where she lives. 

DM says she just wants to preserve America’s national culture. But exactly which national culture is she referring to?

I grew up in Laredo, Texas, which is located on the U.S side of the U.S.-Mexico border. When I returned there to practice law in the 1970s, the judges would impanel Laredo citizens to serve on juries. An estimated 20 percent of the jury panel could not speak or write English and would be excused from jury duty. Several years ago, while visiting Laredo, i walked around McDonalds at lunch and took an informal survey. 95 percent of the conversations were in Spanish. Today, store signs are both in English and Spanish. Streets signs like Hidalgo, Zaragoza, and Malinche are named after Spanish, Mexican, or native heroes. The annual George Washington birthday celebration includes an Jalapeño Festival.

Is that the national culture that DM is trying to preserve for the United States? Something tells me that it isn’t. In fact, it is clear that that is precisely the culture she fears in North Carolina!

So, what does DM propose to do about Laredo, which obviously does not fit into her vision for a single national culture with everyone speaking English? Should those Laredoans be forced to learn English? Should those who don’t speak English be stripped of citizenship and forcibly be sent to Latin America? Indeed, would DM call for giving Laredo itself back to Mexico, given that it is 95 percent or so composed of Mexican-Americans?

In fact, what DM obviously fails to consider is the monumental shift in culture that occurred when the United States willingly and eagerly stole the entire northern half of Mexico in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which settled the Mexican War. That was the war that President Polk instigated with the aim of stealing the entire northern half of a country that was based on Spanish and Mexican culture, language, law, and tradition.

How could the absorption of that part of Mexico not have a monumental impact on American culture, even more than 150 years later? A gigantic permanent cultural shift was inevitable, especially given that Mexican citizens living in the absorbed area were immediately given U.S. citizenship. In my hometown of Laredo, city council meetings continued to be held in Spanish for a long time after the conquest. How could it be otherwise?

In fact, this cultural shift has even had an effect on DM herself, even though she undoubtedly doesn’t even realize it. While advocating English as the one national language for America, she herself continues to speak Spanish when referring to cities like Los Angeles and El Paso in her articles, rather than to their English names, The Angels and The Pass. How ironic is that?

In her critique of my open-borders position, DM makes it clear that nothing matters more to her than culture. She writes: “To me, absolutely nothing trumps culture. Nothing.” Thus, it is not surprising that she would be willing to sacrifice liberty for the sake of her particular vision of an ideal American or North Carolinian culture. 

But that’s not the way libertarians prioritize things. For us, there is nothing more important than liberty. We not willing to trade freedom away for anything.

While DM doesn’t define what her vision for an ideal North Carolina culture is, let’s hypothesize in order to show that her culture prioritization inevitably leads to tyranny and oppression.

Given DM’s devotion to Dixie and the Confederacy, let’s imagine that her ideal culture in North Carolina would be: 70 percent White Anglo Saxon Protestant, 25 percent African American, and 5 percent Other. Every year, as part of the Dixie culture, the white populace attends the annual Rhett Butler-Scarlett O’Hara balls that are held around the state, with everyone being served mint juleps after arriving in horse-drawn carriages. On the way to the balls, the attendees marvel at the taxpayer-funded statues of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and other Confederate heroes in the government-owned parks along the way. Everyone in the state, of course, speaks English.

Imagine though that one day, thousands of Laredoans who cannot speak English decide to suddenly move to North Carolina to take advantage of tremendous economic opportunities in the state. Imagine also that thousands of New York Jews, Catholics, and Puerto Ricans, led by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, are “invading” the state from the north. Perhaps worst of all, the children of North Carolinian are traveling abroad to learn foreign languages and then returning home and practicing their new language skills.

Whoa! Suddenly DM’s ideal North Carolina culture is under siege. Something has to be done. What would DM propose to protect North Carolina’s culture? Why, border controls of course. A state law prohibiting entry into the state without official permission, state ID cards, a state Border Patrol, the criminalization of hiring, transporting, harboring, or helping illegal entrants, violent raids on private businesses, warrantless searches of properties along the border. and roving Border Patrol checkpoints. Maybe even a Berlin Wall surrounding the entire state.

In other words, a police state, the same type of immigration police state that Democrats and Republicans have brought to the American Southwest. 

That might be fine for DM, for whom culture is her most important value, but it’s not okay for anyone who values liberty. 

In her quest to attain some imagine form of cultural purity, what DM fails to realize is that America’s heritage is a culture of liberty and that within that liberty, people are free to develop their own cultures. That’s how America has come to have such diverse cultures as those in Laredo, San Antonio, San Diego, Seattle, Chicago, Milwaukee, New York City, Savannah, Charleston, San Francisco, New Orleans, Phoenix, and the Osark Mountains. 

It is that heritage of liberty to which we libertarians must remain dedicated. Adhering to libertarian principles is the only chance we have to lead the nation out of the statist morass into which both Democrats and Republicans have plunged us.

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