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News Link • Property Rights

Immigration: Anarchy Worked

• C4SS / Thomas L. Knapp

Let me get straight to the point: There’s no difference in principle between a “national border” and the turf claim of a street gang.

None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

“National borders” and “gang turf lines” are imaginary lines drawn on the ground in order to assert baseless claims of territorial authority. The only thing which differentiates them is that most governments are better-armed than most street gangs. Not better-behaved, just better armed.

The passage of a Jim Crow/police state law in the US state of Arizona last week, based on alleged threats to that state’s civil order and economic health, is a fitting hook on which to hang a brief history of travel over the “national borders” claimed by the United States. To hear the Know-Nothings complain, you’d think that the US has a history of strict border control and that the federal government has only recently begun to lie down on the job.

Nothing could be further from the truth. For close to a century, the federal government exerted precisely zero control over immigration. People decided where they wanted to be and then they went there, with no need to request permission.

It was a quintessentially anarchic process — and it worked. Westward expansion and industrialization over the course of only a couple of generations would have been impossible without an unrestrained flow of immigrant labor. America’s resident population couldn’t breed fast enough to transform itself from an agrarian society to an industrial society.

The framers of the US Constitution didn’t even bother to enumerate a federal power to control immigration, choosing only to provide for regulation of naturalization of immigrants — i.e. how they might go about becoming citizens. While some assert an implied original intent to allow for immigration regulations, there’s no such intent alluded to in The Federalist Papers, while a complaint about the lack of such an intent is found in the anti-federalist literature of the time.

The US Congress passed four naturalization laws between 1790 and 1870, none of which purported to regulate immigration in any way.

It wasn’t until 1875 that the Supreme Court conjured up a federal power to control immigration (because the states had started doing so themselves and resurgent federalism needed to be nipped in the bud).

It wasn’t until 1882 that the first restriction on immigration (the Chinese Exclusion Act) became law.

It wasn’t until 1891 that a federal Bureau of Immigration was created, its main job being to collect a “head tax” of 50 cents from each person passing through Ellis Island.

It wasn’t until the early 20th century that the federal government created a formal policy of regulating immigration for protectionist economic purposes.

Passports for entering and leaving the United States weren’t regularly issued until 1941. Prior to that, a few had been issued to US envoys during the Revolution, and temporary passport schemes had been put into operation during the Civil War and World War One, ending when those wars ended.

It wasn’t until 1952 that Congress passed the first comprehensive set of regulations on immigration.

The history of US immigration regulation is part and parcel of the history of expansion of government power in America. In its form of the last 60 years, it represents the tail end of New Deal social engineering and the front end of “the instrumentality of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores” which “conservative” activist William F. Buckley, Jr. called for pursuant to the Cold War.

When someone claims to be for “smaller government” while simultaneously clamoring for “border security” and against “amnesty” for peaceful people whose only “crime” is crossing an imaginary line drawn on the ground by a street gang on steroids, they’re contradicting themselves. There is no smaller form of government than anarchy, and anarchy worked when it came to immigration. It would still be working today if not for the fact that an unrestrained government (and no government allows itself to be restrained forever) grows into every niche, and strangles every outgrowth, of human activity.
C4SS News Analyst Thomas L. Knapp is a long-time libertarian activist and the author of Writing the Libertarian Op-Ed, an e-booklet which shares the methods underlying his more than 100 published op-ed pieces in mainstream print media. Knapp publishes Rational Review News Digest, a daily news and commentary roundup for the freedom movement.

2 Comments in Response to

Comment by Sam Weathersby
Entered on:

Saying that national borders are the same as a street gangs turf lines would mean property lines are just as unimportant, as they are also man made,in the same mind for the same reasons, don't cha know! . I would have to surmise the author is tacitly  saying "I don't worry about the man made property lines that define how much space I have for my house.  My imaginary property lines don't REALLY exist, so, burglars, come on in!" 

Don't try to put that one on me. I think we do have borders & they should be protected. It is just as illegal to sneak into my house as it into our country. To often we in AZ have BOTH issues to contend with.











Comment by Ross Wolf
Entered on:

Increasingly the Arizona border resembles an Iraq War Zone as Mexican Drug smugglers from Mexico invade Arizona, escalating their violence against state police and Arizona Citizens with automatic weapons. Mexican Drug Cartels like Terrorists in Iraq now use (road side bombs) to attack the Mexican police and military. It would be naïve for U.S. Citizens to believe Cartel terrorism—won’t spread to American communities. Meanwhile the press appears focused on reporting the many demonstrations against Arizona’s recently passed immigration law, S.1070 reporting that the new law will cause profiling of certain groups. Not addressing that issue here, I can’t help wonder to what extent passed. S.1070 might help Arizona police damage Mexican Drug Cartels that benefited previously from police being prevented during lawful stops, from determining if a vehicle’s driver and passengers were in the country illegally. It would seem Mexican Drug Cartels might certainly oppose the passage of S1070. It would be interesting to learn if Homeland Security or other U.S. Police agencies have evidence of Mexican Drug Cartels contributing money or other resources to defeat the enactment of S.1070. 

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