Temporary Protected Status (TPS) allows immigrants to live and work legally in the United States if they would face extreme hardship after being forced to return to their countries of origin. Immigrants from El Salvador, which has been ravaged by natural disaster and poverty, have been TPS-eligible since 2001, and today there are 262,500 Salvadorans with that status in the United States. Collectively, they are the parents of 192,700 American-born U.S. citizens. On Jan. 8, the federal government announced that it would end the TPS program for Salvadorans by September 2019, forcing immigrants who have built a long-term life in the United States to return to a poor and violence-wracked El Salvador or join the ranks of unauthorized U.S. immigrants living fearfully in the shadows.
When asked whether DHS proposes that Salvadoran parents must leave their U.S. citizen children behind, a senior administration official replied, “We’re not getting involved in individual family decisions.” There’s no question, though, that the policy will tear countless families and individual lives apart.
“The deportation of hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans — as well as Sudanese, Nicaraguans, Haitians, and Hondurans — is objectionable on multiple levels,” said Libertarian National Committee Chair and Phoenix, Ariz., mayoral candidate Nicholas Sarwark. “Salvadorans are exceptionally well-integrated into American society, with 85 percent speaking some English and 48 percent speaking English very well or exclusively. Their labor force participation rate is 88 percent compared to the U.S. average of 63 percent, and 45,000 Salvadoran TPS holders have mortgages. They are not part of the problem of welfare dependency. They are part of the solution. People who are obviously contributing members of society should be welcomed with open arms. The comparatively few who have criminal backgrounds should be dealt with separately.”
In her announcement, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen argued that the 18-month delay before deportations become effective will allow Congress to come up with a “permanent solution.” Immigration isn’t a problem in need of a solution, though. Immigration is an asset to the United States, one that grows the economy and improves the lives of not only those people who move here, but also those who were already here. Ultimately, the only way to deter immigrants is to destroy the market economy that draws people here from throughout the world.
The United States had no quantitative immigration laws until 1921, and no qualitative laws until 1875 when convicts and prostitutes were barred from entry. “Mental defectives” and Chinese were prohibited in 1882 for blatantly racist reasons. One of the complaints in the Declaration of Independence for the revolt against King George III was that “He has endeavoured to prevent the Population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for the Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their Migrations hither.”
The U.S. economy suffered not at all from our acceptance of the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Immigrants made this country great in the first place, and they continue to do so today. We need to move in the direction of more open, legal immigration, not in the direction of militarized borders fit only for a police state.
“The entire debate about immigration results from a misapplied concept of property rights,” said Sarwark. “When we refer to ‘my car, my clothes, or my toothpaste,’ few would argue that the word ‘my’ does not imply a property right. But we also use the word ‘my’ in the context of ‘my street, my neighborhood, and my country.’ We obviously don’t have a property right in the entire country, but opponents of immigration use arguments that imply we all do have a collective right to our country — and, therefore, a right to exclude foreigners. We don’t. We each have an individual moral right to hire, do business with, or sell a house to any willing person from anywhere. We also have the moral obligation not to interfere with our neighbor’s right to do or not do the same.”
The issue of immigration has been obscured by layers of cynical campaign rhetoric, but it comes down to whether individual liberty applies only to native-born Americans or to everyone. If freedom works for us — and it does — what possible moral reason do we have to say it applies to people born in San Diego, but not to those born inches away in Tijuana?
The Libertarian Party plans to field more than 2,000 candidates for public office in 2018. You can count on Libertarian officeholders to champion the common-sense policies of fairness and individual rights for all, no matter where they were born.