Why Libertarians Oppose #MAGA Immigration Policies

Updated: Aug 1, 2018

You can't hang around Libertarian social media for long without seeing that every time there is a post about immigration pointing out our view that freedom of movement is a natural right, there is an outcry of commenters saying "This is why I can't support the Libertarian Party." After all, at the national convention we recently removed a plank in the platform that explicitly supported immigration restrictions, in response to the current political climate on this issue using narrow exceptional reasoning to justify broad restrictions. The fears floated around this mirror those on conservative media: That allowing immigration will bankrupt our government, that it will let in a flood of terrorists, that it will allow foreigners to take American jobs, that it is part of a globalist agenda to break American culture and secure Democrat power.

This is often grounded in dogmatic statements like "a country without borders isn't a country at all." While it's quite clear by looking at a map that most countries have borders, what is meant by "borders" are some sort of magical (or literal) wall through which passage must be regulated by the government with great power and wrath, passing judgement on the worthy and the unworthy, smiting down those who trespass with callous indifference. The argument goes that if a country fails to have strict immigration policies and chase down "illegal immigration", then "law and order" breaks down and civilization will fall apart.

Many buy into this myth as some sort of universal, historical truth, but it could not be further from the truth. In fact, the idea of any sort of immigration regulation at scale is a very recent notion, even in America, where until the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, there was no such thing as an "illegal immigrant". In fact, it wasn't until World War I that passports became broadly required for travel. Why? Not as much to keep foreigners out, as to keep talented individuals from taking their labor away from the war effort. Even today, the passport system is used as a weapon to trap American citizens who have been put into debt by taxes. And it wasn't until 1924 that immigration "caps" even existed.

Increasing restrictions on freedom of movement, along with a national income tax and the New Deal, became the pillars of an American movement toward a bigger, more controlling government through the 20th century. In order to be stronger to fight world wars, governments shifted from treating their subjects as sovereign individuals and began treating them as resources. America nationalized what the Libertarian Party would later term "the cult of the omnipotent state", a worldview in which the government is tasked to be the ultimate ruler (of property), savior (from foreign threats), protector (of borders), and provider (of welfare) - an omnipotent God that the people must petition for all things. These themes spread across the Western world and carried through to the United Nations.

One of the most bizarre inconsistencies of the MAGA position is that it is often claimed that there is a globalist effort to break down American culture through open borders. However, the modern passport system was standardized by ICAO, an agency of the United Nations. If the globalist agenda is to let people move around freely without being tracked, someone forgot to get the memo to them, because in the middle of the Cold War (notice a theme when the worst anti-liberty policies arise?), they put into place the most powerful tool in the world for tracking, documenting, and potentially restricting every person who crosses any border in the world. More plausible is that these restrictions on freedom of movement continued the Western trend of putting liberties secondary to growing government powers.

The liberty-crushing power of the modern state rests on control: Control of wealth (federal income tax), control of necessities (federal entitlements), control of business (regulation), control of movement and trade (immigration and trade restrictions), and control of security (a large nationalized military acting as the world's police). Conservatives tend to oppose the first three and not the latter two, while the political left tends to be the inverse. For many libertarian-leaning conservatives who are anti-war, they see agreement on four out of five, which is why they then feel torn between pro-war Republicans and the Libertarian Party.

Instead of giving the state a leg of control to stand on, we encourage libertarian-leaning conservatives to see MAGA immigration philosophy for what it is: A means to keep people in fear, justify foreign wars and control over capital, and ultimately keep the government's footing in controlling you. If you're against big government and in favor of defending liberty sensibly, you're going to have to come around to realizing that immigration controls are part of the same big government package from the early 20th century that you oppose on every other issue. We look forward to working with you to shrink the government in all areas that infringe on individual liberties, including freedom of movement, to truly make America great again.

- David Johnson, LPKC Chair