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Why Not Open the Borders?

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Thirty years ago, Democrats and Republicans sent 60,000 men from my generation to their deaths in an undeclared war in Southeast Asia. The rationale? To save people from the horrors of communism.

Apparently communism is not so horrible anymore. Today, if Cuban citizens flee communist tyranny, the biggest danger they face is the United States government’s forcible repatriation of Cuban refugees into communist tyranny.

Of course, this is only one of the many ways that Democrats and Republicans abuse and mistreat Hispanics. For decades, they have jailed illegal immigrants for committing the heinous crime of crossing the border in search of work. They also arrest and prosecute American citizens for giving work to illegal immigrants. INS deportation raids on both homes and businesses leave nothing but tears and anguish in their wake.

Is all this necessary for a nation that takes such great pride in the Statue of Liberty? We Libertarians don’t believe so. Why not simply open the borders to both free trade and open immigration? Why shouldn’t people be free to travel, trade, visit, and engage in peaceful activity?

“But everyone would come to America.” Not likely. It is extremely difficult – financially, emotionally, and culturally – to pull up roots, leave family and friends, and move to a foreign country, especially one in which people speak a different language. That’s why many immigrants soon return to their homelands. Those who come and stay are usually the risk-takers – those who are willing to give up security for the chance of improving their lot in life. They should be cherished, not punished, for they bring a vitality that energizes a society. Moreover, the removal of American trade restrictions against other countries – like the embargo against the Cuban people – would increase economic prosperity in those countries, diminishing the economic incentive for people in those countries to migrate.

“They’ll take jobs from Americans.” On the contrary – immigrants create jobs for Americans! While often displacing Americans in lower-echelon jobs, their consumption of food, housing, cars, electronics, and other goods and services develop higher-echelon jobs for Americans in those sectors.

“They’ll go on welfare.” Then Congress should prohibit them from doing so and punish any bureaucrat convicted of distributing illegal welfare. There is no constitutional requirement that foreign citizens be entitled to use government to take away the wealth of American citizens. Anyway, as many Americans have discovered, government welfare is a political drug that destroys the human spirit. Immigrants, like Americans, are better off without it.

“They’ll burden government services.” Then privatize them. Notice that it’s always the public sector – public schools, public hospitals, public roads – that complains about too many customers. When was the last time you heard Microsoft, Sears, Disney, or McDonalds complaining about too many customers?

“They’ll pollute our culture.” American culture should be one of freedom – one in which everyone is free to pursue any cultural interest he wishes. After all, it was America’s culture of freedom that motivated the French to give us the Statue of Liberty.

Open borders would not only raise the standard the living of both foreigners and Americans. It would also help to restore a sense of morality and civility to American society. How can it be considered moral and civil to forcibly repatriate people into communist tyranny? To incarcerate people for wanting to work? To punish employers for hiring them? How can any of this be reconciled with loving thy neighbor as thyself?

A decade ago, one of the ugliest walls in history was torn down. It is time to tear ours down as well. We don’t need governmental barriers that separate families, friends, and businesses. We need abrazos and handshakes that bring people together.

Mr. Hornberger, whose maternal grandparents immigrated from Mexico, is the co-editor of The Case for Free Trade and Open Immigration, a book published by The Future of Freedom Foundation. He is delivering a speech on open borders at the Libertarian Party’s national convention in Washington, D.C., in July.

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    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.