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The Libertarian

Vin Suprynowicz

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Visiting with some students at the Community College a few weeks back, I struggled to answer a question about illegal immigration.

I struggle, still.

Explaining libertarian thought -- and Austrian economic principles -- on open borders isn’t hard. The free movement of goods, capital, and labor within the United States is a great example. We don’t need to apply for special permission, to acquire and show documents at some border post or wait a fixed amount of time, in order to travel to Alaska or Alabama -- even to relocate and take a new job. Nor do we need to pay some tariff or obey some quota on how many cars we import from Detroit, in order to “protect” some struggling “domestic” Nevada auto manufacturing industry.

It works great. We’re all far richer thanks to such free movement. It’s not hard to see that a great way to spread that secret of wealth would be to allow similar free movement of goods, capital and labor across international borders.

But this argument runs head-on into the realities of our despicable 60-year-old welfare state -- a problem which the economists identify as a fatal compromise in the system of private property rights.

Economist Hans-Herman Hoppe of UNLV famously explains that the problem of smelly bums crowding and soiling our parks and libraries would go away if we stopped funding these “public” facilities through taxes, instead encouraging private entrepreneurs to develop such facilities (by taking government out of competition with them) and simply paying our low, low membership dues to the owner to use the park and the library. “Then the bum would have no place to practice his bumhood,” professor Hoppe smiles.

Multiply that problem by 100,000, and you begin to see the problem with illegal immigrants clogging government schools and tax-subsidized emergency rooms that are barred by law (or by socialist bureaucratic and court fiat) from expelling them. (Note that pay-as-you-go private schools and clinics face no such problem -- though they can still accept as many charity cases as they please.)

Likewise, try to get valid contact data and pursue a legal claim against an uninsured illegal alien who runs into your car. By definition, these are not people who have “signed on” to our accepted legal and social codes of showing up in court and willingly paying damages.

The standard Libertarian answer is “I favor open borders ... once we get rid of the welfare state.” This is about as useful in helping plan short-term actions as saying “I plan to enter and win the Mr. Universe competition ... as soon as I get a new physique.”

So, if theory doesn’t help, let’s go to the opposite extreme.

A knock comes on your front door. Presenting himself there is a young man who claims to be a distant cousin. “Mom said if I was ever in Vegas, maybe you’d give me a place to stay for a month while I find my feet.”

Since Americans are at heart a generous people, I dare say many would invite the lad in while we tracked down Aunt Mabel on the phone to make sure the young man’s credentials were bona fide. Then, despite the inconvenience, I suspect many of us would loan him the front bedroom for a fixed time -- 60 days? -- after laying down some firm conditions. No illegal activities; keep the place clean; we expect you to find work and start saving up.

Now compare the needy nephew to another character. You return home from work one day to find a total stranger has broken into your house and settled in to stay in your front bedroom. You ask who the hell he is and what he thinks he’s doing. Your burglar informs you he’s now living in your front bedroom, but you don’t have any real complaint, because he’s a hard worker and while you were out he mowed the lawn.

Of course, he may have broken the mower, since the instructions were all in English. He’ll need you to get those translated into Spanish for him right away. Also, the milk in your refrigerator is getting sour; would you please buy some fresh this evening -- a whole lot, actually, since several of his family members are arriving to move in with him tomorrow?

I suspect most of us would be on the phone to the police by this point, and that if they refused to come, a firearm or a baseball bat might make an appearance as we explained to this character he was to be off our property in 60 seconds.

The politely knocking nephew, I submit, resembles someone applying to immigrate to America, legally. We delegate to the federal government the power and responsibility to check his background, set down some firm but reasonable rules of conduct, and to demand that he display some combination of sponsorship, cash on hand, educational achievement, and/or valuable job skills sufficient to convince us we’re not going to be supporting him indefinitely.

We have a further right to set a limit on the number of relatives staying in our front bedroom at any one time. Every other nation in the world, I submit, does the same.

Are we “troglodyte right-wing racists whose hatred makes us ignore the need for comprehensive reform” if we don’t extend an equal welcome to the guy who broke into our house without our permission?

The “pragmatic” objections are pretty lame.

“Who would replace them in the workforce?”

All the regular work -- and lots more -- got done when millions of boys went into the armed services on short notice in 1941. If we need more workers, stop sending out “disability checks” to drunks. When they get hungry, they’ll work.

“But once we give them amnesty, they’ll pay more in taxes than they cost us.”

Actually, under the proposed Senate amnesty, illegals could cost us billions. Remember, the reason 85 percent of Mexicans currently in this country are here illegally is because most don’t have the education or job skills to beat out would-be immigrants from Asia and Africa in any fair contest for good-paying jobs, in the first place.

“Actually, the reverse is true: The federal government will give billions to the illegal aliens,” write author Bradley Steffens and (Las Vegas based) certified financial advisor and tax preparer Scot Fairchild. Nothing in the Senate amnesty legislation “prevents illegal aliens from qualifying for the earned income credit.

“All a family of four has to do is file a tax return showing earnings lower than $37,263 (tax year 2005) and it will be eligible for the EIC. The credit can be up to $4,400 (tax year 2005) per family. A family filing five years of back taxes could receive a check from the government for $22,000. Multiply that by the estimated 3 million illegal alien families, and the government could pay out $66 billion in earned income credits, roughly $660 for each of America’s 100 million taxpayers.”

What? It’s “not feasible to round up and deport millions of illegal aliens”?

Wrong. They’re not hard to find. Our guys currently “catch-and-release” 1 million per year, without ever setting foot in a lettuce field.

Former Managing Editor John Dillin recalled in the July 6 Christian Science Monitor how “Fifty-three years ago, when newly elected Dwight Eisenhower moved into the White House, America’s southern frontier was as porous as a spaghetti sieve.” We had 3 million illegal migrants.

“President Eisenhower cut off this illegal traffic ... quickly and decisively with only 1,075 United States Border Patrol agents -- less than one-tenth of today’s force.”

Ike appointed retired Gen. Joseph “Jumpin’ Joe” Swing, a former West Point classmate and veteran of the 101st Airborne, as the new INS commissioner. On June 17, 1954, “Operation Wetback” began. Over the objections of “business-friendly” politicians like Lyndon Johnson and Pat McCarran, some 750 agents swept northward through agricultural areas with a goal of 1,000 apprehensions a day. By the end of July, over 50,000 aliens were caught.

Another 488,000, fearing arrest, fled the country. By September, 80,000 had been taken into custody in Texas alone, and an estimated 500,000 to 700,000 illegals had voluntarily fled the Lone Star State. Illegal migration had dropped 95 percent by the late 1950s.

We can’t even get the federal government to stop enforcing their absurd marijuana laws when we so direct them by majority vote. So, if they “have to enforce all the laws,” why in hell won’t they enforce sensible immigration laws, currently on the books, that have overwhelming public support? Ike did.