Thankfully, after a bit of arguing about it in the early 00s, libertarians seem to have come back around to a pro-immigration, more or less open borders consensus, assuming minarchy rather than ancapistan. Why, you might ask? Because immigration both satisfies important parts of our principles, and produces dramatic net benefits economically, and because immigration enforcement produces a horrible human cost. It is a win-win, or a complete lose. Let’s look at these in some detail-
First, the practical effects of immigration. A quick google search reveals a multitude of studies on the economic effects of immigration, from groups across the ideological spectrum ranging from the Cato Institute to the Center For American Progress, and almost all of them agree that even with our welfare state factored in, immigrants are a net benefit to the United States economy. And since it factored into the Brexit debate, I also looked up the impact of immigration in the UK, which has a much bigger welfare state than ours. Turns out that most studies agree that immigration has a positive impact on their economy too. Moreover, immigrants start businesses at much higher rates than native born Americans, providing more jobs, more value, and more prosperity for the entire country. Immigrants are also, contra Trump and his ilk, less likely to commit crimes than native born. And, just in case anyone tries to pull the Islamic terrorism scare canard, I always love to point out Dearborn, MI, which has the highest percentage of Arabic immigrants in the United States…and a crime rate that’s actually a bit less than cities of its size.
Beyond the statistics, what about the contribution of immigrants to our country? What about the inventions from immigrants, ranging from the telephone to rechargeable batteries? What about the music and entertainment, from Neil Young and Rush to Idris Elba and Salma Hayek? And what about the food? If you eat in America, thank an immigrant.
Second, there’s the effects of immigration enforcement in the modern era. Our immigration system is byzantine, overregulated, and takes an astoundingly long time to get anything done. Hundreds of people die trying to cross the border every year, all for the “crime” of wanting to work. Children who came here at a young age often face deportation to countries they never knew. Native people are separated from their families and from sacred events. And most publicly there’s the way that children are pulled from their families…resulting in some separations that might be permanent. Beyond the human cost, there’s also the immense environmental destruction that building a full border wall would cause, and the bill for it all.
And let’s not even look at how US intervention, such as in Latin America and the Middle East, created so many refugee crises in the first place.
Where’s the morality in any of that?
Some will respond that sovereign states have the authority to regulate their borders, and, again assuming minarchy for a moment, I agree. However just because someone or some entity has power doesn’t mean they need to wield it. The United States did just fine without any immigration restrictions for the first 120 or so years of its existence, until the Chinese Exclusion Act-which by its very name should be obvious that it was racist as hell. And every immigration law since has been tinged with that racism, that fear of the unknown, the fear that the foreigners will take our jobs and destroy our country…when the history doesn’t support it at all.
Finally, as valuable as the arguments from data, hunger, and humanity are, there’s the arguments from principle, which in my view are far more important. As Ron Paul said, any wall that can be used to keep people out can also be used to keep people in. That should be terrifying in any time, but especially in the current moment, when the United States government has become much more brazen about waging war on its own people, we should all be suspicious of any effort to pen us in.
Most importantly of all though is this: free people should be allowed to move freely, and free people have nothing to fear from new people and new ideas.
Open the borders. Bring on the next wave of what’s truly made America great.