Difficult as it is for patriotic Americans to believe, not everyone shares our reverence tor this republic or identifies with the idea of becoming an American. Not everyone enters the United States simply seeking a better life. In the extreme example we recently saw, they may come to wreak terror and destruction among our people. Perhaps more commonly they seek to subvert us or gain the economic advantages of living here while retaining hostility towards America. This is obviously not true of all or even most immigrants, but an immigra- tion policy based on open borders gives us no way to distinguish between those seeking to join the American family and those who wish to undermine or destroy it.
Most of the perpetrators of the recent terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were people with backgrounds that either should have prevented their entry into the United States or led to their deportation. Having open borders assumes that all of them should simply be allowed in the country and that we will deal with the consequences of their actions after they are already here. This puts thousands if not millions of lives at risk. A policy of open borders cannot safely be sustained in a world of international terrorist networks like Osama bin Laden's.
Even without citing extreme examples of those who would commit horrible acts of mass murder to demonstrate their hatred of America, values differ widely throughout the world. Not all cultures balance individual rights against community in the same way we do. Not all cultures have a history of defining liberty in the way we do. If unlimited numbers of such people from such cultures immigrate to the United States and there is no assimilation re- quirement, does this really work towards Trinward's ideal of liberty?
Would Trinward's libertarianism be advanced by people who want to establish an American version of the Taliban? Or by people who reject separation of church and state? Even as- suming a basic similarity in values, Trinward admits mass immigration brings a lot of peo- ple who will be busboys, trash-pickers and migrant laborers. These jobs do not pay well. Americans who make low wages do not tend to vote for libertarian policies; they tend to support income redistribution and bigger government. Artificially increasing the numbers of people who see their self-interest as lying in government intervention rather than the free market hardly helps the libertarian cause. Other Americans may begin to hold similar views as mass immigration produces greater income inequality and leads to increases in those who are poor and without health insurance.
Trinward repeats the argument that such immigrants only come to America to do the jobs Americans won't do, and thus do not significantly displace U.S. workers. But in fact, immi- grants only take jobs Americans won't do at their current pay rate. The option is to in- crease wages, a perfectly free-market response to labor supply and demand. Current im- migration results in wage depression of $140 billion a year. In 1970, 88 percent of Florida agricultural workers were black Americans. Now over 80 percent are immigrants. From 1967 to 1987, real wages for these workers were halved as immigrants from Haiti, Mexico and elsewhere displaced Americans.
George Borjas of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, one of the leading research- ers on immigration, attributes 20 to 30 percent of the real earning decline for low-skilled in the past 15 years to immigration. Scholar David Jaeger found that half of the real wage de- cline for high school dropouts and 20 percent of the wage gap growth between high school graduates and college graduates from 1979 to 1989 was due to immigration. Even during the golden era of immigration, 1870 to 1910, economists Jeffrey B. Williamson and Timo- thy Hatton found that unskilled American workers would have had 10 percent higher wages without mass immigration.
It is also ridiculous to say that America does not have a culture aside from McDonalds and Burger King. For cultural reasons, we differ greatly not just from the Middle East coun- tries now in the news but also the Western European nations that have been our allies and ancesters. Even if some of our cultural traits have been inherited from other countries, especially the English, that does not mean the U.S. is a microcosm of the United Nations and that it lacks a dominant culture that people from some other countries may not share. The simple truth that Trinward's calling America the Land of the Free and does motivate European countries, Mexico or Japan to have open borders illustrates this: Most of these countries have more restrictive immigration policies than we do.
Additionally, if immigration restriction is unenforceable, why are so many other countries able to practice it so effectively? As far as immigration and welfare are concerned, the data is clear. Approximately 9.1 percent of immigrant households are on welfare compared to 7.4 percent of native-born households. Among large immigrant groups, Mexicans have an 11.3 percent welfare participation rate, Vietnamese 25.8 percent, Dominicans 27.9 percent and Cambodians 46.8 percent. As far back as 1990, immigrant households consumed 13.1 percent of cash welfare benefits. Even with the best of intentions, unskilled, low-wage workers have a propensity to rely on government assistance. Importing more such people would expand the welfare state, not usher in a libertarian paradise.
Harry Browne and his nemesis Jacob Hornberger favor open borders. But other estimable libertarians disagree. The Libertarian Party's first presidential candidate, John Hospers, wrote a forceful critique of open borders in the Journal of Libertarian Studies. Murray Rothbard held there was no right to immigrate.
To see why, all one has to do is consider the analogy to a house with unlocked doors Sierra Times editor J.J. Johnson raised in his own rebuttal. Economist Hans-Hermann Hoppe points out that in the most libertarian society imaginable, one based on anarcho-capitalism, immigration would be based on the consent of property owners. Unless immigrants are go- ing to occupy vast swaths of empty land, they have to live somewhere. In a society where all property is privately owned, that means living on someone else's property. Their ability to immigrate would thus be predicated on a private property owner's consent. Free immi- gration in such a society would not be libertarian; it would be a coercive imposition on prop- erty owners.
This implies an individual right to one' property and a collective right to regulate the disposition of American publicly owned property. Immigrants have much to offer America, but only a sane immigration policy that seeks those who wish to be Americans and turns away those who do not will insure that this country continues to have much to offer them.
Terrorism & Homeland Security
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