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Libertarian 101: What is the libertarian position on immigration?

Posted by Barry Ritchey II in the Denver Libertarian Examiner. Excerpt:

With the illegal immigration debate heating up in Arizona and abroad upon passage of a new law “taking the handcuffs off” of law enforcement in the State, it might be necessary to again visit a sensible libertarian position on immigration.

Too many times ‘immigration reform’ is convoluted by lawmakers to intrinsically include more controls over the ‘legal’ populace, wholly ignoring the real reason that the debate comes up at all.

Crime, over-crowding, and the overall monetary cost to society all come up as common gripes among anti-immigration sentiment.

All are valid.

Those symptoms of a broken system have been especially apparent in Colorado, a State that has typically discouraged migration of any kind, evidenced by becoming the first State to refuse to host the Olympics in 1970 for fear of a population boom.

Well, that boom came anyways. And in fact, that vote ended up backfiring for many Coloradans.

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  1. Brian Holtz Brian Holtz May 1, 2010

    “If you can’t alienate ownership, you don’t have ownership.”


  2. and not one word on Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, per Obama’s, my Yokohoma Momma, tainted Nobel Peace Prize and gum ball trinket ………

    and Doctor [PhD] George Phillies claims that libs are the ONLY 21st Century American peace party …….

    and other libertarians wonder why the general population considers them irrelevant …….

  3. Thomas L. Knapp Thomas L. Knapp May 1, 2010

    “nobody can alienate her ownership over her own body.”

    If you can’t alienate ownership, you don’t have ownership.

  4. Alexander S. Peak Alexander S. Peak May 1, 2010

    While I believe there is legitimate debate within the libertarian movement over such issues as abortion and intellectual property, there are some issues that I think everyone should agree are objectively unlibertarian. Two jump to mind:

    (1) Walter Block defends “voluntary slavery contracts.” I consider “voluntary slavery contracts” to be objectively unlibertarian because nobody can alienate her ownership over her own body. Contracts are only valid when they entail the transfer of alienable property.

    (2) Ron Paul defends having central planners regulate immigration. But this is also unlibertarian because it destroys property rights and the freedom of contract. If you want to rent your land out to someone, you should be free to do so, regardless of whether the person has the “proper paperwork” issued by some irrelevant third party. Likewise, if you want to trade something (like wages) for the fruits of someone else’s labour (like widgets), and the other person consents, what right has any third party to step in and invalidate this contractual transfer of alienable goods?

    While I’m against intellectual property on the libertarian grounds that only scarce things can be owned, I’m willing to admit that there are some strong libertarian arguments to the contrary. I do not believe there are any legitimate libertarian arguments, however, in favour of legitimising “voluntary slavery contracts” or central planning of human migration.

    Gary writes, “All nations have the RIGHT to exist.”

    I don’t know what Gary means by “nations,” but only individuals can possess rights.

    Gary also writes, “China has too many people.”

    From what I’ve heard, we could easily fit every living human on Earth in Texas, and there would be enough room for all of them to have a regular, middle-class home. I don’t know how accurate the claim is, but I have yet to see anyone tell me that it is objectively false. And, assuming it indeed is correct, then we’d have to say it’s completely wrong to claim that China has “too many people.”

    Sincerely yours,
    Alex Peak

  5. paulie paulie April 26, 2010

    End the welfare state and this discussion is moot except for screening for infectious diseases and criminal background (which would still be controversial with some libertarians.)

    I’m on the anti-screening side. Wouldn’t want it at state lines, county lines, city lines, etc., ergo, wouldn’t want it at national borders either. And given national borders and ports which handle many thousands of people each and every day, how long would the lines and delays be for any reasonably thorough search — days, weeks, more?

    I realize this position puts me on the “purist” or “radical” side, even among libertarians.

  6. Robert Capozzi Robert Capozzi April 26, 2010

    around: …(which would still be controversial with some libertarians.)

    me: Laws against murder is controversial with some Ls, not because they favor murder, but they have a problem with laws enforced by the State.

    I have a hard time imagining nonmonopolistic insurance companies providing a reasonable screen on entry into a nation/territory. Maybe they could.

    Immigration, like most hot-button issues, is one where I think Ls gain the most support by steering center. Overall State reduction should not be jeopardized by taking polarizing stances on sideshow matters.

  7. George Tatevosyan George Tatevosyan April 26, 2010

    Glad you brought the topic of libertarian position on immigration. I always thought that the imigration issue was a very clear litmus test to separate rightwing or nativist populists from libertarians. If you favor huge border-guard forces of corrupt merc privateers to patrol borders, ICE and mask wearing DOJ swat team robocops kidnapping people and splitting up families, while making up lies to tell corrupt judges and criminal politicians to justify their beaurocracy’s ever-growing annual budgets – you ARE NOT a libertarian, in my opinion. Plenty of people have anti-immigrant views, I just wish most of them would stop cloaking themselves in libertarian pretensions. Most illegal (ie: Mexican) immigrant haters are registered Democrats and Republicans. Politicians from both major parties whip up anti immigrant or pro immigrant voter semtinent whenever it’s politically convinient, so it’s been just another great way to panic-pimp and fear-monger their way to political office time and time again. It’s amusing to see the coopted tea party thing turn into anti-immigrant distraction, I am not worried though, they will figure out they’re being used – eventually.

  8. AroundtheblockAFT AroundtheblockAFT April 26, 2010

    End the welfare state and this discussion is moot except for screening for infectious diseases and criminal background (which would still be controversial with some libertarians.)

  9. paulie paulie April 25, 2010


    Thanks – my point exactly.

  10. Nations Have No Rights Nations Have No Rights April 25, 2010

    Gary: All nations have the RIGHT to exist.


    NO nation has a “right” to exist.

    Only individuals have rights, not political collectives such as nations. That’s libertarianism 101.

    If the people living under the jurisdiction of a political entity (citizens, “illegal” immigrants, refugees, whoever), want to change the “government” — or nation — that governs them, that is their right.



  11. Trent Hill Trent Hill April 24, 2010

    “I am personal freinds with Jim Gilchrist, and invited him to
    lunch with me and Bill Hunt and a handful of others.”

    Bruce, I’d be interested in hearing more about this.

  12. Steven R Linnabary Steven R Linnabary April 24, 2010

    China does NOT have too many people. It has an authoritarian government that imposes it’s corrupt tyranny on the people.

    This corruption makes it impossible for the people to feed themselves nor to provide for their or their children’s futures.

    This leaves the only options to be either fight or flight. Most people will choose flight.

    If the people flee tyranny, they should be welcomed with open arms. Especially if our own government is actively imposing these tyrannical and corrupt regimes on the people.


  13. Gary Gary April 24, 2010

    All nations have the RIGHT to exist. China has too many people. Some 100,000,000 Chinese walking into Vietnam or Korea would be wrong.

  14. paulie paulie April 24, 2010

    That depends on what you mean by open borders.

    Bruce is probably correct if he means that most Libertarians would not go as far as I would in completely ending border checkpoints.

    On the other hand, I think he is wrong if he means to imply that most Libertarians favor immigration quotas and/or anything similar to Gilchrist’s positions.

    I believe most Libertarians are still closer to my position than Gilchrist’s, as is the party platform, even after being revised in 2008.

  15. Bruce Cohen

    To: Citizens For A Better Vets ;
    Cc: Mark Seidenberg

    “Thank you for your inquiry, Markham.

    I personally am not in favor of ‘Open Borders’, nor do I believe
    are most Libertarians.

    I am personal freinds with Jim Gilchrist, and invited him to
    lunch with me and Bill Hunt and a handful of others.”

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