Split Down the Middle: A Brief Overview of Libertarians on Immigration

By Mason Mohon | UNITED STATES 

Libertarians fall on both sides of the aisle on many issues in the political sphere, and immigration is no exception. The issue is contentious, even among lovers of liberty, but what exactly are the cases for both side? This article will explore some of the different sides of the immigration debate, and look at the merits of each case.

In the first place, Lew Rockwell Jr., founder of the Mises Institute, wrote on Ludwig Von Mises’s beliefs regarding borders and nationalism in April of this year. What he states in that Mises was a supporter of “liberal nationalism,” a stance in opposition to open borders. To quote Rockwell “People belonging to a single language community did not want to be ruled by those who spoke a different language. They wanted to form nations in which they could govern themselves.” In essence, this statement means that people will want to self govern their own groups in the same way an individual would want to govern themselves, because they know what is best for themselves.

Now how does this apply to immigration? What Rockwell goes on to explain was that open borders, or allowing people of other linguistic groups to flood your country, will create a division between different people groups, and creating tension between certain linguistic, ethnic, religious, or social groups. This tension would of course be unwanted, because it would hinder the ability of a society to progress. This entire argument relies on the fact that there would be division between these groups. Find a way to eliminate tension, and you have solved at least part of the open borders problem.

Furthermore, a localized approach to the issue of immigration idea is also a meritable idea. David Bier is an immigration policy analyst at The Cato Institute, and earlier in May he wrote an article titled “Let the States Handle Immigration.” The article is a commentary on a recently proposed immigration bill proposed by Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson that would, in essence, allow states to have control over immigration to said state. Currently, the federal government has a monopoly on immigration, which has resulted in a large amount of illegal immigration and a waiting list for high skilled immigrant workers that would benefit the American economy. Bier’s argument for this stance was that markets need to be flexible based on the changes going on around them, yet our immigration system has been more or less the same since 1990. A lot has changed since 1990, and if the federal government cannot handle those changes, they should be left to the states.

The question now is why should it be left up to the states? This ties back into the views of Rockwell and Mises, about how smaller decentralized governments know more about their immediate surroundings than something going on halfway across the country. The federal government in Washington shouldn’t have the responsibility of creating a uniform immigration plan that will be effective in states as different as California, Texas, and New Mexico. The economic conditions of each of these states differs substantially, so congress should not be tasked with finding a “one size fits all plan.”

What we can see from these two different views on immigration, one that takes the stance of regulated borders and liberal nationalism, and the other that believes immigration will be beneficial if it is handled on a local level, is that a libertarian point of view can be applied to both sides of the immigration issue.