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.
This is a very interesting perspective Greg, one that makes me reconsider my views on border security. I’ve long felt that we (the good ol’ US of A) should make immigration easier, but at the same time make our borders secure. The line of thinking being to: 1) get immigrants paying into the system so as not to “overburden” the welfare system by making it easier, and 2) gaining better control of immigration thru border security to help assist with getting immigrants paying into the system.
If I discount my feelings about welfare and the abuse that it suffers given the current policy supported by our government, I can clearly see that open borders are the only just position.
Too bad that open borders can also be exploited by those to seek to do harm to our country, but all I can say about this is maybe if we get our nose out of foreign affairs and withdraw our military from its strongholds throughout the world this risk would be lessened (or at least not blown out of proportion as many politicians would have).
Thanks Mike, I can think of no higher compliment than for someone to reconsider their views in light of something I wrote. I find that things become much clearer if one starts with the fully principled non-rights diminishing position and follow it wherever it may lead – without any conditions or contingencies for pragmatic reasons – and if it seems to lead into a problem invariably that problem is the result of some other state-induced disregard for rights (e.g. border security is only a contentious issue within the context of a welfare state) and not a result of the principled stance itself.
And I agree, the only argument remaining is the pragmatic one of keeping out those who would do us harm, but as you say, and I agree, that would not be an issue if we minded our own business and stopped making enemies all over the world. Besides, if someone wants in, they’ll figure out a way, unless we want the country to become both figuratively and literally a prison.
I have been troubled lately by the up-scaling events that really affect me on personal levels, but I’m glad that someone shares the same understanding on human civilization. Thank you for writing this article.