Posts tagged Open borders

Re: A Quick Note on “Borders”

“It comes down to a question of whether property owners have a right to deny access to their land to others, arbitrarily . . .”

No, it does not come down to that at all. I am quite happy to welcome undocumented immigrants onto my property; so what it comes down to is a question of whether or not other people, who do not own my property, have a right to deny access to my land to others, arbitrarily. Of course they do not. They have no right to do anything but keep their preferences, and their borders, on their own property, not on mine.

“This may well be true; but if so it actually renders all argument irrelevant since their right to have any policy- including open borders- unsupportable. For instance, an illegitimate state operating an open borders policy is enacting unjust domain over the properties of its citizens-”

Horsefeathers, sir. This is absurd.

Of course you are right that in my view, no nation-state can legitimately have any policy at all, because no nation-state can legitimately exist. But the mistake here is in trying to treat political demands for amnesty or open borders as if they were demands for an active policy in the first place. They are not demands for government action; they are specifically demands for a structured sort of in-action, and they cannot reasonably be described as “actions of an illegitimate State against its oppressed citizens.” They are not impositions of “unjust domain over the properties of its citizens” because the property rights of a states’ citizens don’t include the right to force immigrants off of other people’s property in the neighborhood. Nothing is being imposed upon them, any more than the absence of war is somehow the political imposition of “peace” on unwilling civilians; or, at least, if you are going to claim that a state without border restrictions “is enacting unjust domain over the properties of its citizens” in virtue of its lack of border restrictions, then you will have to tell me whose property rights are being restricted by the open borders, and how they are being restricted by government’s simple refusal to harass or detain international migrants.

To Paul Or Not To Paul

Robert, there’s certainly no evidence of such a position in his platform. Here’s what he says. Boldface is mine.

  • Physically secure our borders and coastlines. We must do whatever it takes to control entry into our country before we undertake complicated immigration reform proposals.
  • Enforce visa rules. Immigration officials must track visa holders and deport anyone who overstays their visa or otherwise violates U.S. law. This is especially important when we recall that a number of 9/11 terrorists had expired visas.
  • No amnesty. Estimates suggest that 10 to 20 million people are in our country illegally. That’s a lot of people to reward for breaking our laws.
  • … Pass true immigration reform. The current system is incoherent and unfair. But current reform proposals would allow up to 60 million more immigrants into our country, according to the Heritage Foundation. This is insanity. Legal immigrants from all countries should face the same rules and waiting periods.

In other words, Ron Paul apparently advocates:

  1. … having the government aggressively and rigidly enforce admittedly incoherent and unfair immigration laws; and
  2. … having the government adopt a new system of immigration laws which will still enforce “rules and waiting periods” — which have to be designed in such a way that they will prevent any substantially increase the number of immigrants entering the country above current levels.

The position would still be statist even if it were what you’re describing, but it’s not. Paul has already ruled out any system of immigration liberal enough to substantially increase the number of immigrants legally entering the country as “insanity.”

Re: Memo to the netroots on immigration

Or, in other words, to make my point a bit more explicit, the requirement to get an SSN before you start a job, whatever its merits or demerits, would not impose a “more involved process” on “coming into the US to work.” It would only be imposing a requirement on immigrants to work, after they had already come into the United States.

That may seem like splitting hairs. But it’s significant that the point at which the requirement would be imposed need not be the point at which the immigrant enters the U.S. And that the penalties for failing to do so need not have anything to do with the right to remain in the U.S.

I go to New York most summers to take a temporary teaching job, and when I do I have to fill out the requisite paperwork for New York state tax withholding. But I don’t have to fill out those papers ahead of time in order to enter or to stay in New York. And if I took a job off the books in New York without filling out those forms, then the penalty, if I got caught, would be the usual fines. Not being exiled from the state of New York and sent back to my old home state.


Is a lifeboat mentality ethical? Probably not, but that’s inevitably what you’re going to get with a sinking ship. With a world population of 6.5 billion and growing by the second, you’ll have a hard time convincing those who live in the few islands of prosperity to let the masses in.

This argument presupposes that the most privileged people in the world have some kind of business supporting themselves in the style to which they have become accustomed by forcibly interfering with the peaceful migration of the poorest and most vulnerable, and to use force to stop them from taking jobs for willing employers, or to live on property onto which the owners have welcomed them. The comfort of American natives is not worth more than the well-being of people from other countries, and Americans do not gain the right to maintain a particular standard of living on the backs of pauperized foreigners simply in virtue of being Americans.

Nativism is the progressivism of fools. Besides the fact that it’s a disgusting sentiment, it also has no basis in anything that could possibly be recognized as liberal values.

Re: Memo to the netroots on immigration


A more substantive reply to your points will have to wait a little while due to other work, and it may be worth a post of its own at my blog. For the time being, though:

Yes, coming into the US to work should be a more involved process than crossing a state line. At the very least, people who want to work in the US need to be issued Social Security Numbers or some functional alternative so that we can keep track of their payroll taxes and the legally-mandated contributions of their employers on their behalf.

I don’t think that anybody, whether native or immigrant, should be forced to contribute to Social Security in order to get a job. If they don’t intend to draw benefits that they didn’t pay in for, then it’s none of the government’s business. But if you think that it is necessary to issue new SSNs and subject immigrants to withholding taxes, then go ahead and issue those SSNs. But all that takes is one more sheet of paperwork to do at the point of employment, probably at the same time as the W-2. It has nothing in particular to do with imposing any kind of special restrictions or special ex ante screening for immigrants at the point of the border crossing, or as a condition for establishing long-term residency, and there’s no reason why enforcement should be considered a matter for immigration law, or punished by deportation, rather than merely considered a matter for tax law, as it would be considered if the person working off the books were an American citizen.

There’s no intrinsic connection between being an undocumented immigrant and working under the table. It is only because of the existing government restrictions on immigration, and the need to avoid government detection, that undocumented immigrants are disproportionately likely to work under the table.

Re: Memo to the netroots on immigration

cfrost: Rad Geek, good luck getting your plan passed into law, in the U.S. or anywhere else on planet earth.

I didn’t say that my proposal is popular. I said that it’s right. I am not foolish enough to think that being right guarantees being popular. Or amoral enough to believe the converse.

As for California farmers, they surely are foolish if they believe that they can practically maintain a quarantine zone larger than most European countries by forcing individual drivers to lose their pears or grapes at an agricultural checkpoint. I’m not too worked up about it in the grand scheme of things, though.


Thanks for the dishonestly selective quotation. I do wonder who you think you’re fooling, though, since the source is right above your cherry-picked selection. The existing immigration system certainly does criminalize millions of immigrants — tens of millions, in fact — and forcibly pauperizes many if not most of those by dramatically restricting the kinds of jobs that they can find or their opportunities for advancement. The number who are jailed and deported is in the hundreds of thousands per year (the government only tabulates statistics on “criminal alien” deportations, which are upwards of 80,000). The hellish crossings of the desert that current immigration policy forces on new immigrants “only” kill a few dozen people a year. I feel so great knowing that my government “only” forces a few dozen desperate people per year into a slow and agonizing death from dehydration or exposure in 115 degree temperatures.

Re: Memo to the netroots on immigration


RadGeek, do you think that the government should relinquish all control and supervision over the flow of people across our borders?

Yes. I think that both the Border Patrol and the ICE internal security forces should be completely abolished, as should the entire visa / resident alien documentation system, with complete amnesty for all currently undocumented immigrants. In terms of traveling freely, establishing a temporary or a permanent residence, getting a job, etc., moving from Ottawa to Michigan should be no different, and involve no more scrutiny or documentation, than moving from Michigan to Ohio.

Any legitimate functions that the Border Patrol and ICE serve (say quarantining people with dangerous communicable diseases or apprehending known criminals) can and should be served by ordinary police forces, without regard to immigrant status.

For example, do we have a right to deny entry to war criminals?

I don’t have a firm opinion on whether or not governments would have the right to deny entry to known war criminals. But if they do have such a right, the problem is how to identify war criminals from among the general pool of immigrants, and I don’t think there’s any way of creating an ex ante system for identifying and screening out war criminals that won’t violate the rights of millions of non-war criminals by subjecting them to heightened government scrutiny without probable cause. There’s no reason to think that the average Mexican worker is secretly a war criminal, and no non-xenophobic reason for treating prospective immigrants with a greater presumption of their criminality than U.S. citizens would be.

But anyway, why deny war criminals entry, even if it is within one’s rights to do so? If you’ve identified a war criminal trying to get into the U.S., why not let them in, and then arrest them within the country and pack them off to the appropriate tribunal?

For example, I supported Spitzer’s plan to issue driver’s licenses substantiated by ID other than immigration documents. If people are going to come here, they’ve got to be subject to the same level of monitoring as everyone else. I’m glad that we have means to track citizens.

I also support plans to extend driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, although perhaps for different reasons. But I don’t see how this cuts against the open borders proposal that I advocate. If driver’s licenses or government identification documents are a desirable thing to have for long-term residents, then all my proposal would require is precisely what you advocate — that these licenses or documents be available to all long-term residents, without requiring them to produce documentation of immigration status (since that sort of documentation would no longer exist).

Ex hypothesi, there’s no process, so there’s no path to citizenship for these folks, even if they spend years contributing to our society. Citizens have rights and privileges, but these people are just hanging out in indefinite legal limbo. Is that fair?

I don’t understand the inference here. It seems to me that you’re conflating immigration restrictions with a naturalization process. All I’ve proposed is that the immigration restrictions be done away with. As far as my argument goes, you can implement whatever kind of process you like for naturalizing immigrants once they are here; my only claim is that the government shouldn’t be making any efforts to stop them from getting here, or to control how they can make a living once here, or to throw them out over arbitrarily imposed time limits or restrictions on their peaceful activities.

Similarly, when I moved from Michigan to Nevada, I didn’t have to send any prior notice to the government and I didn’t have to undergo any kind of pre-screening or submit to any government restrictions on how long I could stay or what kind of work I could take. I just moved into a new house and started working. There are defined processes that I have to go through in order to do things like establishing official residency, getting a local driver’s license, registering to vote, etc. These processes just aren’t linked to any kind of ex ante screening at the border.

We’re still going to need checkpoints to inspect goods and make sure all the applicable duties and tariffs get paid.

Well, I don’t think that the government should be collecting duties and tariffs on imported goods, or limiting entry chokepoints for inspection. Those who do think that duties and tariffs are important don’t need government-controlled chokepoints to do that, either; the U.S. government’s physical control over the land borders and the sea coasts used to be far, far looser than it is today, but nevertheless they got by just fine, even when import duties were almost the only source of federal revenue.

But. If this sort of thing is both justified and desirable, then channeling cross-border traffic through government chokepoints isn’t necessarily inconsistent with what people call open borders immigration policy, which refers to the right of people to travel freely across the border without government restrictions, not necessarily the presence or absence of inspection stations. (Does California have an open border with Nevada? I’d say so, in spite of the agricultural inspection stations. Although personally I think that the inspection stations are foolish.)

So, if you please, I support what you call “physically open borders.” If what I can get is checkpointed borders with non-discriminatory inspections, but free and open crossing without any kind of government visa system, then that would be less than what I advocate, but it would also be big step forward over the system we have now, which serves to criminalize, forcibly pauperize, jail, and/or kill millions of immigrants every year.

Just letting people circulate freely without actively inducting them into our system is ghettoizing.

Not as ghettoizing as constantly forcing them to live with the threat of imprisonment and forced separation from their friends, family, livelihoods, and homes.

I haven’t said anything against having naturalization procedures. I just denied that those procedures should be tied to restrictions on crossing borders or living and working within the country.

Re: Memo to the netroots on immigration

herbert browne:

Yes, there are 2 distinct issues here. Like rootlesscosmo & Rad Geek I support the former as an “open border” process, with this caveat: It only works with with citizens of countries with whom it is RECIPROCAL, ie the country has to be willing to allow ME to go there & work legally, if I want.

I don’t understand this restriction. Let’s say that you want to move to Ruritania, but the Ruritanian government has closed its borders to American immigrants. And let’s say that a Ruritanian citizen, who had nothing in particular to do with the Ruritanian government’s stupid decision, wants to move to America. Certainly the situation sucks for you, and the Ruritanian government deserves blame for treating you badly. But why should the sins of the Ruritanian government be taken out on some innocent would-be Ruritanian ex-pat, who played no particular role in forming or implementing the policy?


The reality is that it’s going to be time consuming to process all the people who want to come.

What processing? Again, if we’re talking about entry to the country, rather than naturalization, then there’s no processing necessary: you let people come in via their port of choice and you leave them alone rather than demanding that they flash their papers whenever they try to get a job, try to go to school, etc. etc. I.e., you treat somebody moving from Michoacan to take a job in California the same way that you’d treat somebody moving from Michigan to take a job in California. No processing necessary.

You might say, “Well, what if the Michoacan@ isn’t ready to work and pay taxes?” Well, what if the Michigander isn’t ready to work and pay taxes? Why should the Mexican immigrant be treated with greater scrutiny and greater prior restraint than the American native? Simply because one is Mexican and the other is American? If not, then what other reason is there, besides discrimination on the basis of nationality? If so, then what possible connection could this have to anything like liberal or progressive values?

“Open borders” isn’t an accurate description of any progressive immigration policy or amnesty deal.

Depends on what you mean by “progressive,” I guess. The old-timey Progressives certainly were for all kinds of immigration restrictions. But then, the old-timey Progressives were for sedition laws and forced sterilization, too. I would hope that people who call themselves “Progressives” today have moved on.

“Open borders” makes it sound like society is just stepping back and letting events play out. That’s not what we should be doing at all, and it’s not really what anyone is proposing.

Of course it’s what some people are proposing. I’m proposing it right now. I believe that the government has no business whatsoever in choking off border crossings or in maintaining an internal police force for surveillance and deportation of undocumented immigrants. I think that both should be abolished immediately, and people should be free to move wherever they can find a home and make a living for themselves. Neither “society” (whatever that means) nor the government should be trying to micromanage freely adopted demographic patterns, or trying to exclude or screen people on the basis of their nationality.

We still have the right to manage the flow of new arrivals. For example, even if we agree that everyone who wants to work ought to be able to do so, it doesn’t follow that we are obliged to let in everyone who qualifies at the same time.

On what possible basis would you justify imposing these kind of discriminatory prior restrictions, screens, quarantines, dossier-gathering, etc. on Mexicans, Canadians, Guatamaltecans, Cubans, Haitians, etc., but not on U.S. citizens? How do you figure it’s “progressive” for the government to privilege one group of people over everyone else, when it comes to basic workaday activities like traveling, setting up a home, getting an education, or making a living, solely on the basis of their nationality?

Reform means taking control, and using that power more wisely and humanely, not abdicating.

Sure, which is why reform is a bankrupt goal: it leaves a fundamentally racist and classist system of power in place, even if it liberalizes the exercise of that power slightly around the edges. I’m not for immigration law reform. I’m for repeal.

Re: Memo to the netroots on immigration

Even if we went back to the days of Ellis Island, we didn’t have open borders. In fact America has always had strict rules about how you go about becoming American, some well-founded and some outright racist.

If you mean federal laws that imposed restrictions on who could enter, live in, or work in the country, then it is certainly not true that the U.S. has always had such laws. There were no such laws prior to 1882.

If you mean federal laws that impose restrictions and define procedures for immigrants, once they have arrived and set up in the U.S., to achieve status as naturalized citizens, then it’s true that the U.S. has always had such laws. But naturalization laws aren’t the primary issue in debates over “open borders.” The primary issue is the right to cross the border freely and to live and work where you choose.

And we’d have to figure out rules to govern who could stay in the country while their application was being processed, and what kinds of things they could do during the waiting period (Work? Go home for a visit? Etc.)

What business does the government have subjecting a peaceful Mexican immigrant to a higher level of scrutiny or restriction in the right to engage in everyday activities such as working or visiting home, than they would subject an American citizen to, simply because the object of their scrutiny happens to be Mexican rather than American?

Isn’t that just institutionalized bigotry?

Re: Memo to the netroots on immigration

“Open borders” is a straw man. Nobody advocates that.

Oh, really? I do.

The anti-labor and racist effects of giving government the power to discriminate against peaceful workers, based solely on their nationality, should be obvious. If self-identified Progressives are not willing to oppose, on principle, the government’s surveillance, stopping, stamping, recording, searching, restraining, beating, jailing, and exiling peaceful workers who have never done anything to violate anybody else’s rights, based solely on those workers’ nationality and an arbitrary government-imposed quota, then so much the worse for Progressivism.