The recent influx of unaccompanied immigrant children has once again brought discussions of borders and immigration to the top of the brewing cauldron of crisis de jour news reporting. The xenophobic response as usual gets the most play with calls to “send them back,” and “seal the border,” accompanied with just a dash of fear-mongering regarding “disease”. Considering America’s sordid history of erecting legal barriers to immigration, (often hypocritically spearheaded by the descendants of the previously disfavored group) nothing is perhaps more American than rallying to the cry of “keep out them ‘ferners!”. This response is actually not so surprising when you consider there is no greater threat to majority rule (i.e. democracy) than new people who can transform a majority into a minority. America’s immigration policy is not about extending our ideals of equality, fairness or justice to newcomers; it’s about power and who has it. If the system of governance (democracy) is built on a foundation of denying a basic human right (movement) in order for that system to continue serving those in power, then there is something foul within that system.
Everyone has the right to move and go wherever they please insofar as they are not trespassing upon the justly acquired property rights of another. Ah! So that settles it then – America is “ours”, so our property rights in it allow us to establish a border and keep people we don’t like out. Not so fast. Part of the problem is the imprecision of the English language. We can say “this is my school, team, job” etc. without meaning literally we think we own those things. However, when those possessive pronouns are applied to our localities (“this is my city” or “ this is my country”) most fall sway to the fantasy that the geographical coordinates of their residence conveys to them an undiluted ownership interest in an arbitrarily defined area surrounding said residence. Thus they conclude they have a “right” to have a say in what products may be sold, what wages may be paid, what businesses may exist, how buildings and homes can look, what moral code must be followed, and lastly, who may be permitted to enter this ill defined fiefdom. This is the foundation upon which statism and communal governance is founded: you’re near me, so I get to tell you how to live, and your refusal to move I take as tacit agreement with these rules.
The reality is that borders are a fiction. If you don’t believe me, just look at a photo of the Earth from orbit. I have yet to find “America” printed across the Rockies. This is not to diminish the legitimacy of private property boundaries insofar as both they and political boundaries share the “invisible” line property. What makes the former legitimate and the latter not, is that the latter’s existence relies solely on a fiat declaration of its own legitimacy (n.b. if a particular piece of private property was acquired through rent seeking and cronyism (e.g. eminent domain, subsidies, etc), it too is illegitimate). Declaration of political boundaries is akin to insisting that saying “I am the King” makes me King because my rights as King make it true.
The only principled position on borders and immigration is 100% open borders with no restrictions whatsoever. As long as one does not trespass on private property then no rights violation can occur. This is not to say, however, that such travellers have a right to assistance. There is no obligation upon others to provide newly arrived travellers with shelter, food or an education. However, conversely, the right to provide such assistance should not be infringed upon. Sending these children back or walling them up in detention centers runs contrary to the humanitarian imperative of every religious and spiritual ideology; it prevents those who take those teachings seriously, and who are able, to exercise their right to help those in whatever manner they so desire. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “Mr. Obama, tear down this wall” – by which “wall” = border + welfare state.