Decriminalize Immigration, Free Movement for All!

The United States recently experienced its first wave of large-scale anti-immigration raids following the election of Donald Trump, who made the mass deportation of “illegal” immigrants a central part of his campaign. Although ICE officials claim that these raids targeted individuals with criminal records, immigrant rights groups dispute this claim, arguing that law-abiding people were also targeted. At least one man with no criminal record was arrested; he had been granted the right to live and work in the U.S. under Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Trump’s executive orders on immigration may expand ICE’s priorities to include law-abiding people, but his renewed emphasis on mass deportation is not without precedent. We must not forget that Barack Obama presided over the deportation of a record-breaking 2.4 million people.

The current President’s obsession with border walls and immigrant crackdowns stems from unfounded fears and misconceptions. Immigrants actually commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans, and many (if not most) things the state considers crimes should not be outlawed in the first place! Unauthorized immigration from Mexico — the country Trump consistently highlights as a major cause of America’s woes — has been decreasing since 2009. Immigrants simply do not pose the threat that Trump claims they do.

Much of the hysteria is reliant on the fallacious assumption that the state ought to be protecting American workers from competition or the idea that it must preserve some vague notion of white American cultural purity. Both are the antithesis of a free society. True freedom means freedom to travel the world in search of a better life, unrestricted by government-drawn lines in the sand. True freedom also means free association. It’s also worth noting that America’s immigrant population spends millions of dollars in the American economy. Moreover, the competition they provide benefits the American consumer through greater division of labor translating into lower prices.

It is frankly disgusting to hear individuals who claim to favor “smaller government” or “free markets” cheering on men with guns forcibly tearing apart families: kidnapping and detaining men, women and children in the name of the arbitrary lines that separate nation states. These defenders of the status quo often mistakenly employ “the law is the law” arguments. The freedoms we have were made possible by the illegal civil disobedience of unjust laws, and our current immigration restrictions are monstrously unjust.

The only free market solution to illegal immigration is to legalize peaceful free movement for all. This is especially true for refugees and people from parts of the world that the U.S. government has played a role in impoverishing and destabilizing (of which there are many). We should not prevent the victims of the world’s most repressive regimes from voting with their feet.

While I have some sympathy for those who do not want newcomers to access the welfare state, the overriding goal should be to make the welfare state obsolete: preferably by expanding mutual aid and abolishing the regulatory policies, intellectual property enforcement, zoning requirements and licensing laws that enrich a narrow elite while impoverishing the masses. Combating the welfare state by restricting free movement and voluntary association is fighting a lesser evil with a greater one.

This is especially true when the proposed “solutions” involve destabilizing round-ups and a multi-billion dollar Soviet-style border wall. It is not only authoritarian but morally wrong to deny those seeking a better life the ability to do so freely. Border authoritarianism is as ugly a form of statism as any other.

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