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Globe photo

By Don Kilmer

Posted July 15, 2019

I can be persuaded that our borders should be open to all who want to live and work in the United States—but only after the welfare state is abolished. Milton Friedman was right about this. Everyone talking about the border problem who fails to mention this issue is a fraud.

We now know that some 33 percent of the children crossing the border outside of authorized channels are unrelated to the adults they are traveling with. Isn’t this the definition of human trafficking?

The U.S. has virtually wiped out childhood communicable disease with vaccines and public hygiene. What are the health conditions of the countries these children are coming from? Isn’t quarantine and vaccination of these children before they are exposed to American children the least we can expect from U.S. border security?

A significant portion of the refugees claiming a central American country of origin are actually coming from Asia and the Middle East. That doesn’t make them dangerous, but it does suggest that accurate screening is not a high priority. How should our government screen for foreign agents whose governments want to harm Americans? How do we identify lone wolf operators from non-government organizations who want to murder Americans?

Again, I’m sympathetic to the libertarian ideal of the free flow of capital and labor across international borders. And I am more than sympathetic to an original public meaning interpretation of the constitutional text: that is, the federal government only has the power to regulate naturalization, not immigration.

But I’m sincerely interested in anyone’s thoughts on how these real world problems–human trafficking of children, communicable diseases, terrorism–get solved without some kind of border enforcement.


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    My cynical take in favor of the opposite side of the argument:

    1. Welfare issues will not be resolved through political discourse. It will require a crisis. Until crisis it will escalate. It will also serve as a tool of political manipulation. Resolution of transfer payments as a condition reduced authoritarianism at the borders is the same as asking for authoritarianism until the collapse.

    2. Why only worry about immigrants and welfare? Why not kick all the domestically produced deadbeats off welfare, rather than shut out opportunity for many hard working laborers who want to come here and do dirty jobs for low pay? Because they walked over the line that divides this tax farm from that tax farm?

    3. Are current levels of immigration are any worse than they have ever been? I suspect that immigration is actually a political football in play, which both sides use to activate their base. It seems there is no middle ground.

    4. My conservative and disciplinarian impulse gets the law and order argument. I often feel the same way about the issue, actually.

    On the other hand… following Robert Higgs Anarchism or William N Grigg’s “Tom Joad Test” I would rather be in support of Humanity against the cold harsh incompetent State than agree to appoint as my agent abusive functionaries to protect me from a fear mongered issue.

    I want to believe the overwhelming number of immigrants are not major threats, but are legitimately seeking to trade labor for money. They will be swept up as collateral damage. The State will aggregate more power unto itself without solving any problem (the problems are the rationale for its existence and growth in power). It will appoint incompetent and abusive functionaries who will create ever more scandalous conditions such as we are already seeing.

    The long term effect of this immigration crackdown is the destruction of the American Brand. America’s Soft Power is already declining and this is another big arrow into her heart.

    The myth that the United States was a welcoming place at least somewhat counter balanced the suspicion that it is just a lying Imperialist Country intent on bossing the world. Loss of the Brand is going to have huge consequences.

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      You raise good points.

      1.) Not sure I agree. Unless you are making a case for soft-authoritarianism (involuntary payroll deduction) vs. hard-authoritarianism (being kept in a cage).

      2.) I don’t propose ending welfare for only immigrants. I propose ending welfare for anyone and everyone. [And to prove I’m a hypocrite, I would exempt Social Security, but for only for enough time to terminate the program without harming those who relied on it for retirement. And mortality eventually solves that problem.]

      3.) Again, I can be persuaded to open the border to any and all comers who can get here and make it here without being a drain on the public treasury. No public school (for anyone). No public housing. No public medicine. I’d even be open to reinstituting contracts of indenture. If Google wants to transport, house and feed you in exchange of 5 years of crappy wages, go for it.

      4.) I would rather have a taco-eating, baseball-loving, beer-drinking (Can’t say Chevy-driving anymore, as they are welfare queens too.) Mexican as a neighbor than an elite socialist from Denmark any day and twice on Sunday. It’s not a feeling. It’s a desire to preserve what I love about America. Self-sufficiency. Independence. A streak of defiance when necessary and an instinct to man the barricades when the chips are down. Whether that’s enlisting after a Pearl Harbor event, or filling and stacking sandbags when the river rises. I don’t give a rat’s patuti what holidays someone celebrates, or the food they eat, or the gods they pray to.

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      These are good and worthwhile questions to ask.

      I can understand open borders advocates who say “abolish the welfare state, then have open borders.” I’m not saying I necessarily agree or that I’ve even thought through all of the implications, but I do think that it hangs together as a coherent argument.

      What I don’t understand is the logic chain in “the open borders right now!” arguments. But they seem to be pretty common among think tank and academic types:

      Forget the Wall Already, It’s Time for the U.S. to Have Open Borders https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/forget-wall-already-its-time-us-have-open-borders

      The Jewish Case for Open Borders https://jewishcurrents.org/the-jewish-case-for-open-borders/

      There Is a Strong Case for Open Borders https://fee.org/articles/there-is-a-strong-case-for-open-borders/

      Open Borders: In Defense of Free Movement https://www2.hawaii.edu/~reecej/Open%20Borders.html

      I do think there’s a bit of language mismatch. Nobody I’m aware of is in favor of closed borders, or even uses the term: that seems to mean that nobody can enter or exit the country (or perhaps only U.S. citizens can exit and reenter). So the debate is not between open border advocates vs. closed border advocates. It’s between open borders advocates vs. controlled border advocates. (There may be a better term than this.)

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        All good points. What annoys me is that everybody in this debate is too busy name-calling to discuss the hard questions.

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          One reason (this is just speculation) is that effective border enforcement has been off-limits is because it has been viewed as politically incorrect to discuss what you call “hard questions.” You might get called a racist or worse.

          My hunch is that this changed when President Trump took office, and Brexit may have helped as well. Right now, for instance, the first National Conservatism conference is taking place in DC with an agenda showing speakers talking about greater immigration restrictions on assimilation and economic grounds.

          I remember Bernie Sanders saying in an interview in 2015: “Open borders? That’s a Koch brothers proposal!” He went on to add something to the effect that right-wingers would love to import cheap labor to work at $2-$3 an hour. Open borders, he said, means the nation-state could not exist.

          I wonder if Bernie would say the same thing today.