Opposing the War on Immigrants

One of the issues anarchist and statist libertarians often butt heads is immigration. Us anarchist libertarians don’t believe the imaginary lines created by illegitimate entities should exist. Statist libertarians often cherish those imaginary lines to such a point that they demand fences, guard towers, and armed patrols to keep people on the other side out.

The problem with strong borders is that they necessarily require a strong enforcer. A strong enforcer in the hands of the state will always lead to the expansion of state power:

Libertarians should pay more attention to the ban on immigration. These regulations are big government at its worst: over-militarization, over-criminalization, over-regulation, anti-market, and anti-liberty. Nearly every aspect of American life is affected by them, yet many libertarians are still ambivalent.

Its consequences are devastating. Consider this fact: the number one reason for arrests under federal law last year was for unsanctioned entry into the United States. And it’s not even close. Half of all federal arrests in the United States are for immigration offenses — drugs are a distant second at just 15 percent.

If libertarians are focused on reducing government power and intrusion into the lives of peaceful people, immigration ought to receive at least as much attention as the drug war. But it’s almost like the liberty movement is stuck in the 1980s when illegal immigration, though common, was largely ignored.

Statist libertarians, and other opponents of freedom of movement that claim to support small government, cannot have both a small government and heavily defended borders. Anybody who follows a philosophy that advocates free markets should understand the problem here. The state is a monolithic entity that is slow to adapt to changes and relies on violence to accomplish all of its goals. Meanwhile immigrants are more akin to market actors. There are millions of them and when you have millions of people who can quickly adapt to changes going against a single entity that seldom adapts to changes the former group is going to win.

We see this today. When the state throws up border crossings on major highways immigrants use less traveled routes. When the state builds a wall immigrants climb over it, cut through it, or tunnel under it. When the state patrols the border immigrants watch their patrol patterns and learn how to avoid them. No matter what the state does immigrants adapt their strategies to compensate.

Furthermore immigrants seldom have a lot of money so they come up with cheap solutions. This harkens back to asymmetrical warfare. One side uses cheap tactics to take out the other side’s very expensive equipment. Eventually the size utilizing cheap tactics wins by simply bleeding the other side dry. Immigrants, likewise, use cheap tactics that the state tries to counter with extremely expensive equipment and tactics. A handful of immigrants crossing the border can cause the state to spend out police patrols to pull over anybody who has a bit too much melanin in their skin to check for their citizenship papers. Patrols like that cost a lot of money.

Libertarians, even those who believe those imaginary lines are important, should oppose the war on immigrant on the grounds that it’s incredibly inefficient and a detriment to liberty.