Only Against Illegal Immigration?

Guest Blog by Jennifer McKitrick

There’s something fishy about some anti-immigration arguments.

NO AMNESTY - GO U.S.A.! - GO U.S. LAW! - GO HOME! They say “We’re not against immigration, we’re against illegal immigration.” OK, so the problem with immigrants is that they broke some laws. But are they good laws? If yes, they’re for laws designed to keep immigrants out, so they are against immigration. If no, then they should be for changing the laws. But they say changing the laws is either unacceptable “amnesty” for illegals that are already here and/or it would encourage more immigration. But the immigration that would happen then would be legal, so if they’re only against illegal immigration, they should have no problem.

So, I think I think that they are less than sincere when they say they are only against illegal immigration. Perhaps the right thing to say is that they only support the amount of immigration currently allowed by law. Which is pretty much being against immigration for the most part. But I suspect it’s really just lip service so they don’t seem so much like xenophobic racists. Of course, they want to protect American jobs, but preferring that companies pay higher wages to Americans rather than lower wages to needy non-Americans has no moral justification that I can see, and is probably based on racism as well.

Jennifer McKitrick is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, and Vice-President of the Molinari Institute and Molinari Society.

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44 Responses to Only Against Illegal Immigration?

  1. Bob Kaercher October 10, 2007 at 9:42 am #

    That’s exactly my question, ph.

    Like others posting here, I also really have to ask why those who favor state-regulated borders automatically assume, as though it were a simple fact of nature, that these immigrants all uniformly head straight for the nearest welfare office as soon as they cross the border. Do some or many of them do that? It appears so–but does this mean that they ALL just come here for the “free” hand-outs? This appears to be the assumption.

    The pro-state-regulated borders advocates don’t appreciate being painted with the same broad brush strokes of “racism,” but that cuts both ways, doesn’t it? And if you keep insisting that immigrants “drain” the welfare and health care systems, that does seem to indicate that you’ve jumped to certain collective conclusions about the entire immigrant class as a whole, doesn’t it?

    Perhaps as libertarians we should focus primarily on abolishing the welfare state and desocializing health care and let that whole spontaneous order thing consequently take care of immigration. Let’s work toward liberty, not provide a rationale for state controls.

  2. Gene Callahan October 12, 2007 at 10:18 am #

    Neil Parille wrote:
    “First, I think we can do without the claims of racism.”

    Well, it cleear that you’d *like* to do without them. But in many cases they’re quite true. You see a lot more fury directed at Mexican immigrants than at Canadian ones. (Although Mike Meyers is pretty awful.)

  3. Gene Callahan October 12, 2007 at 10:24 am #

    “If yes, they’re for laws designed to keep immigrants out, so they are against immigration.”

    Well, that doesn’t follow someone who is against jaywalking is not therefore against walking!

  4. Forgotten Man October 12, 2007 at 11:13 pm #


    So what if it is “racially” (is it really racist, or is it natural for people to prefer to live with those like themselves? Also, are Mexicans and Canadians culturally the same?) motivated? Shouldn’t we be chastising them for using force to achieve their outcome instead of desiring that outcome. Does it violate anyone’s rights to prefer one group of people over another?

    The way I see it, it is like libertarians questioning the intelligence of the people that would like Creationism or intelligent design in public schools instead of informing them that they would be better off sending their children to schools of their own. They be right, but they are not going to win the battle by creating more enemies.

    Like I said, I have yet to see an open-borders advocate show the alternative to government control of the borders for those who prefer to live amongst those of their own culture. I am painting with a very broad brush, but they almost seem to gloat that there will be a hundred times the current immigration and that western culture as we know it will be supplanted by the third world overnight. “Gee, doesn’t bother me, I like spicy food and exotic women! You racist bastards on the other hand will have to live in your own version of hell! HAHAHA!”

    Unsurprisingly, this leads to more and more people accepting the state as a legitimate regulator of the border. The open-borders crowd gains their moral high ground but loses potential converts to the libertarian position. This means this approach is detrimental to advancing libertarian ideals.

    Instead of telling those who like western culture that it is doomed to die with open borders, we need to explain to them how freedom of association would do a better job of preventing them from dealing with immigrants. Not only would a return to freedom of association let them avoid dealing with new immigrants, it would allow them to avoid dealing with ANY group in the country. The ability to form racial covenants, to not serve immigrants, whatever they want. In other words a better deal under a libertarian society than what could optimally be delivered by the government, which has no incentive to seal the border even if it were supposed to.

  5. Black Bloke October 14, 2007 at 9:42 pm #

    Western Culture only exists in the minds of those people who hold themselves as either proponents or opponents of it. Your mind won’t be eliminated, so Western Culture won’t be eliminated. If you feel you need to resort to the initiation of force for you to preserve Western Culture, then morally, it isn’t worth preserving.

  6. Forgotten Man October 15, 2007 at 10:46 am #

    Black Bloke, obviously you did not read my post carefully. Where in my post is it indicated that I am a proponent or opponent of western culture? Do you not grasp the idea of groups voluntarily agreeing in a libertarian society that no one will sell their home to a Mexican or a black bloke, etc?

    I am pointing out that western culture or any culture for that matter does not need to be preserved by force. I think that others are afraid to bring this point up in defending liberty for fear of being labeled “racist”. Libertarians have taken Voltaire’s phrase “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” to heart, except for things that may be construed as racist. I am mainly talking here about the Reason and Cato crowd types. I know types like Walter Block, etc aren’t afraid to defend the freedom of association.

  7. Otto Kerner October 16, 2007 at 12:27 am #

    We libertarians believe that simply being a group of people living in an area of land doesn’t give you the right to control which people from outside that area are allowed to move in. However, almost all other people do believe that it does convey such a right. Which side is correct?

  8. Sag October 17, 2007 at 2:58 pm #

    Forgotten Man and other closed border advocates:

    Granted the “racist” terminology is inflammatory. Ok. Now to the issue itself: what exactly are you advocating? Others have noted above that your characterization of the cultural makeup of “illegal immigrants” may not be accurate. But the real issue is: what specific government measures are you advocating?

    Presumably one isn’t interested in who you’d like to invite over for tea (or for work for that matter). If you prefer to hang with Canadians or Western Europeans fine. Others may prefer Japanese or Ruritanians for that matter. The question is: if someone wants to hire a Ruritanian, or sell them a house, or a Ruritanian wants to live in NY at his or her expense – are you in favour of forbidding these peaceful exchanges?

    If not, then what’s the anti-immigration argument you’re defending? If you’re against welfare then why should this only apply to Mexicans? Why not also to Americans? Why not have the federal government prevent say people from New York City from moving upstate since they’re more in favour of interventionist programs than upstaters? Red staters seem to be most in favour of war and empire (big government programs in other words) than blue staters. Should they be prevented by government force from emigrating to blue states? Should blue staters who seem most in favour of domestic welfare be prevented from moving to red states?

    I just don’t see the issue. What exactly about free exchange is the problem? Why does free exchange somehow mean hordes of undesirables forcibly turing people out of home and hearth? How is this different from other government reasons for depriving people of their liberties? If you’re simply commenting on who you’d prefer over for tea, then you’re not a closed border advocate.

    If you are a closed border advocate then again, exactly what anti-immigration government programs are you advocating and how are they consistent with liberty?

    See Ryan McMaken on Lew Rockwell’s blog:

  9. Forgotten Man October 17, 2007 at 10:43 pm #

    Sag, really? So I am a closed borders advocate now? Please quote from my posts and show me where I have shown that I am. This is the last time I respond to people who have not bothered to read my posts or cannot comprehend the arguments I make!

  10. Sag October 18, 2007 at 5:07 pm #

    Forgotten Man, relax…I lumped you in with the “closed border” advocates as you claim to be somehow different from “open border” advocates because you favour “covenants”. Nothing I posted above in any way advocates forcing people to deal with anyone they don’t want to deal with as far as their own person and property go. Nor do any of the “open border” posters including the original blog advocate any such thing.

    So what is the difference between your argument and that of the “open border” advocates? Zero as far as I can tell. Except that you seem to have a problem with the “open border” argument. If you don’t, fine….

  11. Sag October 18, 2007 at 5:27 pm #

    Ok Forgotten Man. It seems your issue is there isn’t enough outreach to xenophobes or other exclusionary types (to show them that they could discriminate in a libertarian society so long as they didn’t violate anyone else’s property rights). My guess is that “open border” advocates typically find xenophobia odious and somewhat related to certain (odious) collectivist notions such as nationalism etc.

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