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The War on Immigrants Is a War on Freedom

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Lost in the furor over the so-called immigration crisis is that the war on immigrants is a direct assault on both free enterprise and freedom of association, freedoms on which our nation was founded.

Despite the often-heard canard about immigrants going on welfare, the fact is that most immigrants come to the United States to better their lives by getting jobs. After all, how often do we ever hear about some illegal alien being caught filing false papers at the local welfare office? Answer: Hardly ever. Nor is this surprising, given the fact that most illegal aliens wish to stay as far away from government officials as possible, for fear of being detected, arrested, incarcerated, and deported.

The fact is that the vast majority of illegal aliens find their way into jobs in the private sector. To put it another way, American businessmen have voluntarily and willingly hired millions of illegal aliens to work in their businesses.

Why have they done that? Most likely it’s because immigrants work hard and are honest. If they didn’t have a strong work ethic and were not honest, American employers wouldn’t be hiring them.

When the employer and the immigrant enter into a working relationship, they both benefit, from their respective standpoints. Each one of them gives up something he values less for something he values more. Thus, while it’s tempting to conclude that employers “exploit” immigrants by paying them “low” wages, nothing could be further from the truth. By entering into the employment contract, the immigrant is essentially saying, “I’m better off with this job than without it.” By the same token, the employer is saying, “I’m better off with this immigrant than without him.” Both of them benefit from the relationship.

In fact, exploitation enters the picture as a result of immigration laws. Given that the illegal alien is subject to being reported, arrested, and deported, dishonest employers sometimes take advantage of that by refusing to pay illegal aliens the agreed-upon wage, knowing that it will be extremely difficult for the immigrant to do anything about it.

The working relationship between the American employer and Mexican (or other foreigner) employee goes to the heart of a free-enterprise system. Under principles of free enterprise, why shouldn’t an employer be free to hire anyone he wants? It’s his money, isn’t it? It’s his business, isn’t it? Why should the government have the right to interfere with what a person does with his own money?

The same principles apply to freedom of association. Doesn’t that right entail the right to associate with anyone a person pleases? If a businessman wishes to associate with a foreigner, either personally or in a business relationship, why shouldn’t he be free to do so? Under what moral authority does the government interfere with a person’s freedom to associate with another person?

Aren’t freedom of association, freedom of enterprise, and freedom of contract fundamental rights? Don’t such rights connote freedom from state interference? Under what moral authority does the state interfere with the exercise of fundamental rights?

Does this mean that people who don’t like associating with foreigners should be forced to do so? Of course not. If a businessman doesn’t want to hire foreigners, he shouldn’t be forced to do so. If a consumer doesn’t want to patronize a business that hires foreigners, his choice should be protected. No one should be forced to hire anyone or associate with anyone he doesn’t want to hire or associate with.

America was founded on the principles of individual freedom and limited government. Unfortunately, for the last several decades our nation has moved in the opposite direction, as manifested by such socialist and regulatory, big-government schemes as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the drug war, and protectionism. The war on immigrants, with its direct assault on free enterprise and freedom of association, is just one more example of this regrettable trend.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.