The election of Donald Trump leads many libertarians to fear for the future of the American immigration system. This is because libertarians consistently support immigration. Nearly all metrics support the libertarian position. For this reason, only fear-mongering remains for those who oppose the peaceful travel of individuals.
Socialists like Bernie Sanders call “open borders” (which has become a slur all its own) “a Koch brothers proposal.” Sanders went on in those remarks to defend his belief using the same hatred toward the free market as he always does. Said Sanders, “What right-wing people in this country would love is an open-border policy. Bring in all kinds of people, work for $2 or $3 an hour, that would be great for them. I don’t believe in that.”
Many on the right share that equal disdain for freer immigration. Scott Walker, who heroically defeated the public unions in Wisconsin, stated that “We are a nation of immigrants and should make our legal immigration policy based on what’s best for American working families and their wages in a way that will improve the economy.” In other words, after Walker identified how bureaucracy harmed consumers and advantaged some workers (government over private sector) in his battle against unions, he nonetheless wishes to use bureaucracy of his own to tip the scales in favor of certain workers (natives over immigrants).
The above arguments are most easily rebuffed by libertarians because they are completely antithetical to the free market. Most understand that advantaging some workers over others (as is done not just through immigration, but also through minimum wage and other state mechanisms) is on the whole both ineffective and economically unsound.
Then there is of course the more blatant fear-mongering position of individuals like Donald Trump, who suggest that immigrants are “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” He exploited the death of Kate Steinle at the hands of an undocumented immigrant as a political tool to suggest criminality of immigrants, and now figures to do the same following the Ohio State attacks by a Somali refugee.
However, this argument is just as easily refuted by libertarians. The Cato Institute has time and time again pointed out that immigrants commit far fewer crimes per person than native-born Americans. As noted by Cato, “homicides and robberies in the most immigrant-dense cities fell further than elsewhere in the country following a surge in immigration in recent years. Additionally, America’s crime rates plunged as immigration surged in the 1990s.”
With those two most typical arguments against immigration shot down, one new argument has emerged from the right-wing. This belief in limiting immigration centers around the idea that immigrants are overwhelmingly located in more leftist and socialist countries. Therefore, these people surmise, they bring with them a desire to grow government at the expense of American citizens. However, this could not be further from the truth.
The Cato Institute’s Alex Nowrasteh thoroughly debunked this argument in 2015. As he notes, the number of immigrants and descendants of immigrants did not affect the size of welfare benefits or spending at the state level from 1970 to 2010.
Further, increasing levels of immigration in the past have been historically indicative of more economic freedom in the future for all countries (including the U.S.). Most interestingly, some of the most seismic increases in the size of the federal government when immigration has been closed off, such as between 1930 and 1970. Lastly, immigrants and their children have historically mirrored their native-born American counterparts in their political opinions.
As to that last point, a 2014 Pew poll (as covered by Rachel Burger of Townhall) fleshes this out even further. That survey showed that among the most quickly-growing sect of libertarians is among Hispanics (undoubtedly the most common classification of modern immigrants to the U.S.).
The poll showed that while few in the total group could identify what a “libertarian” was, 12% of those who identified as libertarian were white, just narrowly edging the 11% who were Hispanic. Further inquiry showed that while some of these Hispanic millennials’ parents leaned left, this did not prevent the millennials themselves from becoming more right-leaning or libertarian as they grew up in American society. In other words, simply because older immigrants come into the country with left-wing views, there is no reason to believe that their ideology will be passed down to their children and permanently change the outlook of American politics.
In conclusion, freer immigration is one of the hallmarks of libertarian ideology. For that reason, libertarians mustn’t be tricked into thinking that a simpler system will not benefit people of all walks of life, whether migrants or native-born. Just as with conservative and progressive arguments against immigration, this relatively new argument falls flat upon further inspection.