A Libertarian Take On: Illegal Immigration
Take note: This post is sure to be considered controversial. There is an enormous tendency for discussions on this topic to get heated, even nasty. With that in mind, I’d like to ask commenters to remain civil with each other. Insults are certainly amusing, even cathartic, but they’re not really very productive. They have, in point of fact, a tendency to derail discussion rather than advance it. Let’s try to steer clear of that, please.
Let me state my position, as a Libertarian, up front. I am against illegal immigration and open borders.
That may be quite unlike what you’re used to hearing from Libertarians, but let me explain my reasons.
First, illegal immigration is not an instance of malum prohibitum. For those of you unfamiliar with that phrase, what I’m saying is that illegal immigration isn’t “wrong just because the lawmakers say it’s wrong.” It is, instead, an instance of malum in se, or “a thing that is wrong on the weight of its own attributes.”
Why is illegal immigration wrong? There are several reasons, the largest of which lies at the feet of our Federal government in the form of Federal Minimum Wage laws. I could go into a whole new book on that subject alone, so let me be brief and concise: Federal minimum wage laws, whatever else they do, impose an artificially elevated cost for legal American labor. Employers who are unable or unwilling to pay more for labor than they believe that labor is worth will look for a less expensive alternative, and they find that alternative in illegal aliens.* The effect of this dynamic is that those who are legally eligible for work find fewer potential employment opportunities, because those opportunities have gone to less expensive illegal labor.
That is a tangible harm to legally eligible laborers.
Second, a secure border is a necessary prerequisite for the provision of a common defense, which actually is one of the few legitimate responsibilities of the State. Without a secure border, threats to the citizenry cannot be identified prior to the realization of their hostile intent, much less intercepted. And the interception of external threats to the citizenry, again, is a legitimate function of any government.
Indulging in a brief digression: There is a disturbing streak of naïveté regarding this topic among a sizable percentage of the Libertarians whose writings I’ve encountered, and I’m not just talking about commenters on Facebook and Twitter; I’m talking about men like Murray Rothbard and other luminaries of the Libertarian scene. While I agree that people should not be persecuted for participating in a black market — for labor just as with that set up for recreational drugs — the fact is that black markets are dangerous to participants and non-participants alike, and the black market for labor does exist and is dangerous in that way.
First: The Federal minimum wage catalyzed the rise of a black market for labor, and that black market harms legally eligible laborers.
Second: The security of our borders is a legitimate function of our government — one of the very few legitimate functions of our government.
And now let us add to those facts: The secondary malum in se acts which are attendant to that black market. Identity theft. Human trafficking, which often involves extortion, false imprisonment, assault, and murder. Violent personal crime such as rape and home invasions. The correlation between human trafficking and drug trafficking.
And with that last one, we come full circle. Black markets align with black markets. The black market in illegal labor walks hand in hand with the black market in illegal recreational drugs.
Lest you get the wrong impression, I don’t believe that either should be illegal. That is the Libertarian perspective.
But for either to exist in a state that poses no tangible harm to the innocent, our Federal government must get out of the way. It must give up control of certain aspects of the community it ostensibly exists to serve.
But as long as a Federal minimum wage exists, and as long as foreign nationals invade this nation in order to exploit employment opportunities that are therefore denied to American citizens and legally present labor, I cannot — not just “even as a Libertarian”, but especially as a Libertarian — support an open border or amnesty in any form. I don’t believe that any Libertarian who has given it any degree of serious reflection should.
Thanks for reading, and until next time, please remember to support this blog; do good work, and be good to yourselves and each other.
*Note: I do not, and will not, refer to illegal aliens as, “immigrants,” or “undocumented.” Those appellations are lies, designed to excuse a phenomenon that brings real harm to real people. I will not sugar coat that with euphemism, and I personally find it disgusting and shameful that so much of the media does.