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The Libertarian Argument for Closed Borders

While many libertarians support having open borders, there are several reasons why the ideology should support restrictions on immigration.

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Jack Parkos | United States

Many modern libertarians are proponents of open borders with little to no restriction on immigration. But is this stance appropriate for libertarians? Just because other right wingers support closed borders, does not mean they are anti-immigration. Rather, they seek restrictions on it. It isn’t “anti-libertarian” to support secure borders. Even Ron Paul was not an open border libertarian.

We live under a massive welfare system, which balloons because the US government has caused massive destabilization all over the world. This causes mass immigration, and sometimes even state importation of refugees and immigrants. Refugees will leech off the welfare state at the expense of taxpayers. This does not seem like the stance a presumed libertarian would take. It could easily be said that open borders are just as statist as closed borders.  Many libertarians believe that the only borders should be one’s own property. But we must understand that the federal government has power over the border, and it likely will not give up this power anytime soon. Thus, libertarians must choose the position that will best protect our liberty, and it isn’t to open the borders.

Open border libertarians argue that the welfare state argument isn’t an argument against immigration but an argument to end the welfare state. In truth, it is an argument for both. But how does placing more people on welfare and thus expanding the welfare state, help reduce it? Libertarians should be trying to reduce the number of people on welfare. By allowing more people in who may not have skills desired by the markets, we only expand the welfare state and harm the immigrants who want to enter legally and join the workforce.

A study done by the Center for Immigration Studies shows that 62% of illegal immigrants receive welfare of some kind. Los Angeles County spent 1.2 billion dollars on welfare benefits for illegal immigrants in just two years. These are people who are getting free government handouts at the expense of the taxpayers. Even if the welfare state is reduced, it could easily be voted back up.

A solution to this could be to have a vetting process based on value to the job market. Immigrants who want to work should be welcomed into the country. Perhaps this system could be similar to an Elis Island system.

Immigrants tend to vote in support of big government to get benefits. Democratic politicians use immigrants to gain votes. Of course, many people already vote for larger government, but we do not need more people voting for this. Obviously, it is impossible to regulate people coming in based on political ideology. But reducing it to peaceful workers will decrease the likelihood of people voting for welfare, and thus weaken the Democratic party.

US foreign policy has been a disaster. The policy of destabilizing regions based on the drug war and war on terrorism must stop.  But in the meantime, there is a lot of danger going on in the world and we shouldn’t put the American people in harm’s way, thus we should ideally be isolated from the conflict.

In Latin America, the drug war has created violent cartels and gangs like MS-13. The war on drugs should be ended, but that does not mean we should let gang members in. A proper vetting system could prevent criminals from getting in and allow peaceful people to enter.

Then we get to the Middle East, which becomes more complicated. It is no lie that US foreign policy has created the terrorist problem we see today. But is it smart to import people from countries that hate the United States and the West in general? The answer is obviously no.

There is a refugee crisis in the world. But this does not mean we should not import them all into the country. There are too many security concerns with this. To better understand why this is dangerous we must look at Europe.

Europe has taken a very open borders stance and has paid heavily for this. In the past years, there have been several terrorist attacks in Europe. Even on top of that, crime rates have skyrocketed since these policies began. as an example, an estimated 77% of rapes in Sweden are committed by the Muslim Male population. Muslim males make up 2% of Sweden’s population. This does not mean all Muslims are rapists and evil, but this stat shows the danger of letting everyone into the country without a proper vetting process. Many of these refugees are unemployed and are subsidized by the government.

Open borders lead to more authoritarianism, so an ideology based on preventing such authoritarianism should respond appropriately.

How could the border and immigration issues be addressed?

  • End the welfare state. This will take a while likely, so reduce it as much as possible.
  • Stop welfare incentives for people to enter solely to live off welfare.
  • Create a proper vetting system for South and Latin America (As well as other nations in Europe, Asia, etc). to vet out those who will work, and those who would only live off of welfare. Those with clean records should be allowed to enter legally and become citizens.
  • Try to stop illegal immigration into the country.
  • Allow peaceful illegal immigrants an easier path to citizenship.
  • Deport illegal immigrants found guilty of a violent crime.
  • End the war on drugs that has destabilized Latin America.
  • Stop the war on terror overseas and focus on domestic issues.
  • Temporarily stop all immigration from the Middle East until hostilities cool down a bit and we can have a proper vetting system.

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  1. Actually, Dr Ron Paul has made statements in favor of open borders as well as other statements critical of
    open borders. In 1981 he spoke at the Libertarian National Convention and clearly stated his support for open borders for trade and for immigration.

    When he was running in the Republican primaries for President in 2008, he stated at one campaign forum that he regretted voting in favor of building a wall at the border.

    The issue is more complex than you might think. Prior to the immigration reform of 1986, there were far fewer “illegal aliens” in the country at any one time. Strengthening border enforcement after 1986 had the effect of encouraging those who came over the border to work to stay in the country, because they knew it would be harder to cross the border again in the future. Prior to 1986, many workers would come from Mexico to work, return to Mexico for part of the year, then come back to work again. Increased border enforcement made that a less attractive option.

    Also, as National Review pointed out in the 1990s, increased enforcement of laws against “illegal aliens” working as a result of the 1986 law was a direct cause of these immigrants turning to welfare programs to survice, when the ability to get a job was so limited.

    The issue is more complex, and needs to be dealt with by free market analysis and a commitment to freedom.

    Reply

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