Opening Minds on Open Borders, Part 2

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

America’s system of immigration controls is a socialist system. That’s because it is based on the socialist principle of central planning. The government centrally plans the movements of millions of people, assigning immigration quotas to each foreign country and setting qualifications for immigrants. The central-planning process entails what the libertarian Nobel Prize-winning economist Friedrich Hayek called “the fatal conceit,” the mindset of the central planner that he possesses the requisite knowledge for planning an intricately complex economic process.

It simply cannot be done. As any citizen of Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, and the Soviet Union can attest, central planning always produces crises or what the economist Ludwig von Mises called “planned chaos.”  What better term to describe America’s never-ending immigration mayhem than that? Socialist central planning in immigration is why the United States has been besieged by perpetual crisis and chaos in immigration.

An immigration police state

A socialist system is not self-enforcing. Because people ignore or violate it, it needs to be enforced. That’s precisely what has happened with America’s decades-old immigration system. The system began with a simple law that made it illegal to enter the United States without official permission. When people ignored that law, the government called into existence the Border Patrol in 1924. When that didn’t work, the government began imposing an ever-greater array of immigration enforcement measures, none of which has worked but all of which have added up to an immigration police state in the American Southwest. A police state is the opposite of a free society.

America’s immigration police state includes 

  • highway checkpoints for travelers who have never left the United States;
  • roving Border Patrol stops and searches;
  • intrusive searches of American citizens returning from vacation or business trips abroad, including forcing Americans to turn over their cell phones and passwords for inspection of the information contained in the phone;
  • warrantless searches of ranches and farms along the border;
  • immigration officials boarding Greyhound buses and demanding to see people’s papers;
  • the criminal prosecution of Americans who hire, transport, harbor, or aid illegal immigrants;
  • forced deportation of millions of people;
  • violent raids on American businesses;
  • forcible separation of children from parents;  
  • the building of a Berlin Fence along the border
  • President Trump’s proposed building of a Berlin Wall along the border;
  • and legalized stealing of people’s land through the power of eminent domain.

These types of things are found in countries ruled by totalitarian regimes. They are all antithetical to the principles of a free society. America’s socialist immigration system, together with its brutal enforcement measures, have played a major role in the destruction of liberty in America.

Moreover, none of these police-state measures has worked, which is why the authorities have continued adopting new and ever more brutal enforcement measures. No matter what they have done to enforce their socialist immigration system, the decades-long immigration crisis has continued. That’s because socialism is an inherently defective system. It simply cannot be made to work, no matter what reform or enforcement measure is adopted.

America’s socialist immigration system has destroyed the right of people, both foreigners and Americans, to pursue happiness, which, as America’s Declaration of Independence states, is a natural, God-given right that adheres to all people. This socialist immigration system has also destroyed the rights of economic liberty, liberty of contract, private property, and freedom of association of the American people. 

Death and suffering

Unfortunately, the consequences of America’s socialist immigration system are not neutral and benign. Instead, they entail death and suffering for innocent people — that is, people who are simply trying to sustain or improve their lives through labor. Google “father” “two-year-old daughter” and “Rio Grande.” You will find a photo of the bodies of a man and his young daughter who drowned crossing the Rio Grande. They are not the only ones. There are many others who have died of thirst or the elements crossing the dessert in the American Southwest, in the backs of 18-wheelers being driven by human smugglers, or from being shot by Border Patrol officers. Thus, America’s socialist immigration system has brought not only an immigration police state to our land but also death and suffering to a large number of people who were doing nothing more than pursuing happiness.

The only solution: freedom and free markets

There is one — and only one — solution to America’s immigration crisis and immigration mayhem. Let me repeat that point for emphasis: There is but one solution to this immigration morass. That solution is freedom and free markets, which means free trade and open immigration — i.e., open borders. Unlike socialism, freedom and free markets really do work. They are the only things that work. 

What could be more impractical than advocating something that has never worked and that is incapable of working and that brings death and suffering and a police state to a society? What could be more practical than advocating something that is capable of working and always does work and that is consistent with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

Freedom and free markets are consistent with moral, ethical, and religious principles. When anyone crosses a border, he isn’t violating anyone’s rights. If he violates someone’s rights, then he can be prosecuted for that offense, not for peacefully crossing a border. With open borders, foreigners are free to cross the border like human beings, with dignity and without losing their lives in the process. No more deaths from drowning in the Rio Grande, from thirst crossing lonely deserts, or from dehydration in the backs of 18-wheelers. 

Open borders mean no more immigration socialism, no more deaths and suffering of foreigners wishing to enter the United States, and no more immigration police state.

America’s heritage of open borders

For the first century of America’s existence, the country had a policy of open immigration. For some 100 years from the inception of the country, most anyone from all over the world was free to come to the United States without fear of being forcibly deported to his country of origin. At Ellis Island in New York City, there was an inspection for tuberculosis and for severe mental defects. As long as a person didn’t fall into two categories, he was free to enter the country. In the American Southwest and on the West Coast, there weren’t even those two restrictions. The borders in those two parts of the country were fully open. 

The whole world didn’t come to the United States, but millions of foreigners did. People who couldn’t speak a word of English. People who were desperately poor. People who didn’t have a lick of formal education. People with criminal records. They came in droves. No one turned them away because no one had the legal authority to turn them away.

That’s not to say that there wasn’t private prejudices and discrimination. Of course there were. There always has been prejudices and discrimination against others. There were Americans who hated the Irish (and Catholics). Others hated the Italians. Still others hated the Germans, the Poles, Japanese, Chinese, and others. They said that such immigrants were destroying our way of life in America. But those prejudices didn’t cause our American ancestors to abandon their system of open immigration because Americans understood that an open-immigration system is essential to a free society.

Thus, America’s heritage is open immigration. That’s the founding system of immigration that was chosen for our nation by the Framers and our American ancestors. That’s why the French gave America the Statue of Liberty. That’s why the famous sonnet “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus was placed on the base of the Statue of Liberty. We also shouldn’t forget that among the reasons cited by American revolutionaries for their Declaration of Independence in 1776 was their own government’s efforts to control immigration into the English colonies.

America’s shift toward socialism

The transformation to a socialist immigration system began in the late 1800s, which was the time that the Progressive movement was beginning to actively agitate in favor of socialism and interventionism. That’s not a coincidence. Socialism was spreading not only to immigration but also to many other areas of governmental policy.

In 1882 Congress enacted the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was the first immigration-control system enacted in the United States. In the succeeding decades, more immigration control measures would be adopted, along with socialist and interventionist measures in other parts of America’s governmental system.

Ultimately, America’s immigration control system would come fully into existence during the 1930s, when the Franklin Roosevelt administration completed the transformation of America’s overall economic system to a socialist, regulatory, government-managed, and interventionist system. 

During FDR’s New Deal, he used America’s new socialist system of immigration controls to prevent German Jews from freely immigrating to the United States, even though German Chancellor Adolf Hitler was, at that time, willing to let them go. FDR said that under America’s “quota system,” which is the core of immigration central planning, Germany’s quota had already been filled. (For an interesting comparison of FDR’s New Deal with the economic policies of Italy’s fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, see the book Three New Dealsby Wolfgang Schivelbusch.)

Since the beginning of the libertarian movement and the Libertarian Party, open borders have been the position of libertarianism and the LP. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. Libertarianism stands in firm opposition to socialism, police states, and state-sponsored death and suffering of innocent people. The core principle of libertarianism is that so long as people do not initiate force or fraud against others, they should be free to live their lives any way they choose. When people cross political borders, they are engaged in purely peaceful action that doesn’t violate anyone’s rights.

The biggest open-border system in history

The greatest free trade and free movement zone in history is the domestic United States. Every day, countless people cross state, county, and city borders. When they do so, they are not violating anyone’s rights. They travel freely to other political jurisdictions to shop, visit, trade, work, or open a business. If they commit a crime after entering a different state, they are prosecuted for that offense, not for violating people’s rights by crossing the border and entering the state.

America’s domestic system of open borders is one of the major contributing factors to the high standard of living of the American people. That’s because in every trade — including labor exchanges — both sides benefit. Otherwise, they would’t enter into the exchange. Because we all have been born and raised in this domestic open-border system, it appears perfectly normal to us.

It didn’t have to be that way. If the Framers and our American ancestors had instead implemented a system in which each state had the power to control its borders with respect to goods, services, and people in other states, today there would be the same crises and chaos along state borders that we see on the U.S.-Mexico border. That’s because immigration socialism doesn’t work at any level. America’s domestic system of open borders confirms that the only thing that works is freedom and free markets, i.e., open borders.

Every libertarian and every member of the Libertarian Party should take great pride in standing squarely against immigration socialism and the death, suffering, and police state that come with it and squarely in favor of freedom and free markets and the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness that come with them. They should also take great pride for defending people who cannot defend themselves against the immigration tyranny and oppression of the federal government.

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