There is a case for saying that libertarians agree on over 90 percent of issues, yet spend at least 90 percent of their time time arguing with one another over what they don’t agree on.  The latest?  Donald Trump’s “Yuuge” border wall, and whether or not there should be an increase in government control over immigration.  Let’s begin down this little rabbit hole!

We’ll give the closed border libertarians the first crack at the bat.  Their argument is as follows: in a truly private property society, no one would allow anyone to just enter their property at will.  Furthermore, we can look at monarchies as a close historical parallel to a private property society.  The king, emperor, etc, owns all the land, and he wouldn’t let anyone just come on his land.  Plus, there’s a chance that immigrants might vote to increase the welfare state, and or commit overt acts of violence.  Therefore, it is the correct libertarian position to support increased amount of government border security.

So does this argument hold any water?  Well, not really, especially when you look at actual history.  Continue reading for some jimmy rustling!

In the 19th century, large swaths of Europe had a monarch running the show.  Using the logic of closed border libertarians, it would have been very difficult for a person to cross the border of one country into another.  However this wasn’t the case.

“This economic and social system of Europe [before 1914] was predicated on a few axiomatic principles. These principles were considered safe and unshakable…. They were freedom of movement for men, for goods, and for money. Everyone could leave his country when he wanted and travel or migrate wherever he pleased without a passport. The only European country that demanded passports (not even visas!) was Russia, looked at askance for her backwardness with an almost contemptuous smile. Who wanted to travel to Russia, anyway?”

These are the words of Gustav Stopler, a 19th century German classical liberal.  In addition, the United States had a fairly lax immigration policy.  What was the result?  Chaos?  No, instead a long period of peace, prosperity, and cultural enrichment, as many artists and musicians were frequently in countries other than their place a birth.

But this is now, not 19th century Europe and America.  This time it’s different, these particular immigrants are going to be too much of a risk, as the argument goes.  “They’re criminals; they’ll take away jobs from the native population; they could potentially vote for an increase in welfare,” and on and we go.

When it comes to criminal activity, immigrants are statistically speaking, less likely to commit a crime than their native born counterparts.  Furthermore, an increase in the enforcement of immigration does not in fact reduce the crime rate, according to a report by Thomas J. Miles of the University of Chicago Law School, and Adam B. Cox of the New York University School of Law.

“The finding that Secure Communities does not reduce rates of violent crime or the overall rate of FBI index crime calls into question the longstanding assumption that deporting noncitizens who commit crimes is an effective crime control strategy. Our estimates suggest that the marginal immigrant detainee is a much less serious offender than the marginal prisoner in the criminal justice system–even when that immigrant detainee has been selected for detention using a program designed to target the most serious immigrant criminal offenders. This lower offending rate undercuts the effect that incapacitation-through-deportation has on overall crime rates. Moreover, as we explained earlier, the elasticity of immigrant offending rates to deportation policies is likely to be inversely correlated to the seriousness of the crime. While proponents have focused on the program’s potential impact on violent and more serious crimes, a deterrent effect may be more likely for less serious offenses. Our estimates our consistent with this hypothesis, as the only index crimes for which there was even suggestive evidence of a small reduction associated with Secure Communities were the less serious property crimes burglary and perhaps motor vehicle theft.”

When it comes to refugees and terrorism, a report by the CATO Institute found that between 1975 and 2015, there twenty terrorists admitted to the United States as refugees out of a total number of more than 3.2 million people.  Furthermore, those terrorists managed to kill just three people.  You have a higher chance of being killed by a toddler than a refugee or immigrant.

But what about jobs?  Surely immigrants take jobs away from native born citizens?  For what must be the millionth time, no they don’t.  

The unemployment and employment levels of immigrants and non immigrants tends to be closely linked.  For example, both immigrants, and natives saw an increase in unemployment levels during The Great Recession.  In addition, there was also a decrease in immigration.  Illegal immigration was at its highest point in 2007, before the economic downturn.

Another argument frequently made is the increase in welfare that could happen as a result of immigration.  This also holds no water.  According to Leighton Ku and Brian Bruen of The CATO Institute,

“Low-income immigrants use public benefits like Medicaid or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program) at a lower rate than low-income native-born citizens.1 Many immigrants are ineligible for public benefits because of their immigration status.”

For many libertarians (and conservatives), one of their biggest areas of concern is the amount of spending the government gets into.  So, how much would increasing border security cost?  Well, let’s start with the wall.  According to the Bernstein Group, the material cost of building a 40 foot tall, 7 foot deep, 10 inch thick wall would be as much as 25 billion dollars.  Another report from MIT estimates the cost to be as much as 40 billion dollars  In addition, large parts of the US-Mexico border are very remote areas, with many areas that are very hilly, and even mountains.  In order to get workers and supplies to many of these areas, access roads would be need to be built, and maintained.  Then there is also the little issue with private land ownership on the border, which the government would have to “buy” from the owners.

The report also brings to light that because the terrain is so difficult, it would be a bad idea to try and transport building materials and supplies over long distances.  That means companies located as close to the border as possible would be the ones getting the government contracts.  Ironically, the Mexican based cement producer Cemex is one of the companies that stands to benefit from Trump’s grandiose plan.  Remind me again about “buying American?”

In addition to the wall, Trump also wants an increase in manpower in border patrol agents.  Each border agent costs around 171,000 dollars, and tripling the number agents would cost 7 billion dollars.  Smaller things, such as maintaining vehicles in a harsh environment will also add to the cost.

All of this, and “The Great Wall of America” will still not prevent undocumented immigrants from getting across the border.  For starters, it can’t protect against airplanes.  Many come in legally, with visas, and then stay longer than the visa allows.  Then comes the rather small detail of tunneling.  Since 2006, 13 massive tunnels operated by drug cartels have been found.  In March of 2016, a tunnel between Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego California was found, running at an average depth of 46 feet.  While it was primarily used to smuggle in drugs, tunnels could also smuggle in human beings, provided that there is proper ventilation.

Furthermore, by making immigration extremely difficult, many, especially poorer immigrants are forced to turn to criminal elements.  “Coyotes” as they are commonly referred to, operate the human trafficking wing of the cartels.  In order to utilize their service, people either have to pay a large sum of money, or act as a mule for the cartels.  Some even wind being in a modern day slave system.  This is especially true for migrants from places like Honduras and Columbia, attempting to flee instability caused by the US’s brilliantly stupid drug policy.

So what about the other side, the “open borders” advocates?

I honestly believe they are approaching the issue with good intentions, however, they end up getting lumped together with leftists, who also proclaim support for open borders, who apparently forget that the Soviet Union for much of its history operated strict control of its borders.  Got to keep in the slaves to achieve a “Workers’ Paradise!”  What “open borders” libertarians advocate is to take government control away from immigration, and put it in the hands of private individuals.  It does not mean that anybody could just walk onto your property and start to demand things from you.  That’s an absurd proposition, but what do I know, I’m just “trying to pander to leftists.”