At Wednesday’s holiday party at The Heartland Institute – which was wonderful, by the way, 130 guests! – an older couple approached me and said they like what Heartland does… EXCEPT for our position on immigration. “Why do you support open borders?” they asked. I guessed from the body language and anxious look on their faces that they were strongly opposed to open immigration.
Instead of saying, “well, Heartland doesn’t actually take positions… and we avoid the immigration issue… and there are good reasons on both sides of the debate… and we hosted a debate on immigration at a past Heartland annual benefit…” I simply said, “I don’t support open borders,” which is true. They both smiled broadly, and then the lady launched into a passionate and clearly well-practiced call for Trump’s “wall.” I just listened and learned.
Libertarians strongly favor the freedom to “vote with your feet” by leaving countries (or cities or states) ruled by oppressive regimes. That position isn’t consistent with supporting anti-immigration policies for countries ruled by less oppressive regimes. It’s not a question of whether nations have the “right” to control their borders. Frankly, “nations” don’t have rights, so the question is improperly framed, and it leads us down rabbit holes about the definition of “sovereignty.” I believe there are two real questions: the post-911 one of whether the safety of US citizens can be protected with open borders, and the Pat Buchanan/Donald Trump question of whether unlimited immigration hurts the employment prospects of American citizens.
Frank Buckley is a Heartland policy advisor, occasional speaker at Heartland events, distinguished author, and professor law at George Mason University. A native Canadian, Buckley believes Canada strikes the right balance – in some ways more liberal than our current policies (a higher percentage of Canadians are foreign born than Americans), and in some ways more restrictive (a points system rewards English language proficiency, education, and skills; and a bona fide job offer must be on the table). He has described this set of policies elsewhere in recent years, but does a nice job summarizing it today in a piece for USA Today.
I highly recommend that short article to you, and that you consider (a) avoiding arguing with people on this controversial issue, but (b) if a conversation is unavoidable, suggest he or she study the “Canadian solution” proposed by Frank Buckley by simply Googling “F.H. Buckley immigration.”