As the debate around immigration has escalated in the United States, one of the focal points — and a cornerstone of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign — has been the proposed wall along the nation’s southern border. As a libertarian I believe in the free-market, and a truly free-market entails movement of people, not simply products and ideas. However, putting aside the arguments regarding immigration itself, there are sound reasons for a united libertarian-conservative opposition to a southern border wall, specifically those of cost and property rights.
If there’s one thing libertarians and conservatives agree on, it’s that the government needs to keep its dirty mitts off people’s money. Cost estimations for the construction of the wall vary wildly. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has estimated the wall would cost $12-15 billion. Donald Trump himself has promised a remarkably cheap $8 billion price tag. The habitual wastefulness of government should prove to libertarians and conservatives that these estimates are certainly on the low side. Furthermore, according to Department of Homeland Security reports, the estimated cost is around $21 billion. Of course, Trump has repeatedly promised that, “Mexico will pay for the wall!” However, according to the administration’s 2018 budget report, the government intends to invest “$2.6 billion in high-priority tactical infrastructure and border security technology, including funding to plan, design, and construct a physical wall along the southern border.” Where is that money going to come from? Realistically, either directly from the people through taxation or by printing more money and thereby devaluing the money in the wallets of Americans.
President Trump’s wall also has the potential to cause serious violations of property rights. The importance of property rights has led many libertarians and conservatives to work against unjust seizure of property through eminent domain. As Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner observed when he reintroduced the Private Property Rights Protection Act, “The freedom to own and protect one’s private property is foundational to our country. Congress must fight to protect the private property rights of Americans and reform the use and abuse of eminent domain.” But the current Republican administration has forgotten this stance, despite endorsing it in their 2016 platform. Property owners in Texas have already received offers from the Federal Government for their land, but this is only a courtesy. The legal precedent is certainly in favor of the Federal Government seizing the land if the land owners refuse to sell, for the same or even less value than the initial offers.
Cost and property rights are certainly not the only issues that conservatives should have with President Trump’s proposed border wall. There’s the effectiveness of a border wall, which is not quite as promising as Trump makes it out to be: 40% of illegal immigrants come to the United States on planes, not by crossing the southern border. And there’s also the fact that the illegal Mexican immigrant population is already in decline and illegal immigration from other parts of the world is in turn increasing. However, the cost of the wall and what it means for private property owners should be enough for conservatives to oppose the wall alongside libertarians.