Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Is There a Right to Immigrate?

In the wake of a recent post I wrote on immigration, an argument that keeps arising is the claim that "immigrants have a right to immigrate."  This assertion takes different forms such as, "a border is just a line (man)," or "everyone has the same rights, how can you deny them the same rights you have?" and so on.  I touched on this argument again in another immigration post, but I want to make a more direct argument opposing the premise of this claim.    

The whole basis of the "right to immigrate" argument starts with a kind of out-of-context, rationalistic, assertion of individual rights from which proponents proceed to deduce conclusions. The proper way to deal with this question is inductively, i.e., start with the facts that give rise to individual rights in the first place so we can see how to apply the concept in practical situations.   

While I take as a given that individuals possess natural rights, by virtue of being human, the fact is that individuals must take specific actions in order to protect those rights in a social context.  Rights are not respected out of thin air.  There is not an ethereal entity that emerges from the universe to protect our rights.  There needs to be an actual means or vehicle through which we attempt to protect, as best as possible, the natural rights to which we are entitled.  

When a group of property owners and individuals agree to form a government to protect each other's rights and provide for the common defense, they create a sovereign "nation" by virtue of that agreement.  That government, like a home owner's association, is granted certain enumerated powers, and that particular government, in effect, is created by and for those particular people, its citizens.  That particular government can take many different forms but, in essence, it is the framework by which those people choose to protect their natural rights.     

Those people and their government are a sovereign nation.  They elect and grant power to the government to represent them in dealing with foreign nations or foreign nationals.  The reason they do this is to protect themselves from threats and deal with affairs of state that affect the group collectively.  The threats and issues stemming from foreign relations can take different forms and a foreign policy must be defined, and laws implemented, to fairly and objectively deal with foreigners while respecting the rights of its own citizens.  

Note the flow here.  It starts with property owners and citizens seeking to protect their rights by forming a government within their lands.  The people, through their government, then look out at the world and say "how do we deal with the rest of the world beneficially, while protecting the rights of our citizenry?" It does not start with the claim that "everyone has rights" and proceed to the conclusion that "anyone at anytime can come into any sovereign nation irrespective of the laws and policies of that nation because rights."

A sovereign nation is comprised of the private property owners and individuals that elected and fund that government within that border.  The relationship of the foreign national to a sovereign nation is analogous to the relationship of random citizen to a private property owner.  In the case of a private property owner, he can determine who comes onto his property and with whom he may trade or cooperate.  But, just because someone rings his doorbell, it does not mean he must grant him entry.  

In similar fashion, the government is elected to act as the gatekeeper at the nation's private property door.  However, complications arise, because the government represents a group (the country), not a single individual, and therefore must represent the interests and protect the rights of all the citizens of the sovereign nation in determining who can enter.  Since the government represents everyone, its actions must be based on objective policy and law.     

For example, if one private property owner wishes to trade with foreigners or wishes to bring foreigners into the country, can he do so without the implicit or explicit consent of the rest of the country?  This is exactly why foreign policy and immigration policy is necessary.  It is designed to deal with exactly these situations, and it is why it is a necessary function of the government in its capacity to provide for a common defense.        

In a detail prior post, I covered, in some detail, the types of issues and the types of threats that would be of concern under such a policy.  There I define "threat" in the foreign policy context, and stress the necessity to identify such threats contextually.  For example, should the government prevent a private company from selling military technology or weapons to North Korea or Iran (maybe in the future, these countries will be allies and that is fine)?  Can a private property owner bring in individuals who carry a deadly virus?  Can a private property owner bring in and house thousands of communists who wish to overthrow the government? Could a private property owner who owns ocean frontage allow an enemy nation to dock its nuclear submarine fleet and board its military personnel? Can private property owners transact with nations under embargo?  Can a private property owner bring in ten million destitute Muslim migrants because he feels sorry for them?  

Consider other questions related to the rights of immigrants.  If it's true that we must protect the rights of foreign nationals outside the country (before they are granted residency or citizenship), should we grant those same rights to foreign nationals before launching an attack on an enemy country? Would we interview each foreign national and grant them a jury trial and the various constitutional protections specified by the Bill of Rights before the attack? If you say, "war is different" then you are supporting my argument - foreign policy and the relationship of our nation to foreign nations is a different legal context. The policies by which our country deals with foreign nationals is and should be reasonable and a matter of law (not fiat), but the concept of natural rights does not impose an obligation or duty on the citizens of a nation to extend its own government's jurisdiction to anyone who asks for any reason.    

In the linked post, I make the case that the burden of proof falls on the immigrant or visitor, or his sponsors, to prove they are not a threat or will not impose obligations on others.  If that immigration criteria (developed by the elected representatives of the people) is met, i.e., they are found to not represent a threat under the policy, then it is reasonable for someone to immigrate or visit.  After all, to deny a citizen within the country who seeks to peacefully deal with a non-threatening foreign national, could be considered a violation of that citizen's rights (he would rightly ask, "why would you all stop me from trading or marrying this nice person who I can prove is a great person and no threat to you?").  But, note, any right's violation is considered from the perspective of the citizen, not from the perspective of any right to immigrate.  

Of course, if this policy is appropriate in a more free market context, how much more important is immigration policy today, where we do have a massive welfare state, where democratic elections can be dramatically affected by immigrant voters who skew left, and where myriad threats from overseas endanger our country?  Again, the facts and context drive the state's policy which exists to protect the rights of its own people.  

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I also for years have been challenging this oft-asserted (but never fully explained/justified) "inherent 'right'" to immigrate (contra a free-people's right to protect/defend/preserve their social order and specifically their Free Republic). Thank you for presenting a further-extended and more formalized discussion/analysis of the issue here.

The problem I am having with so much "analysis/judgement" from Objectivist intellectuals is that it seems to be little-more than rationalistic 'derivation' from broad principles, with few (if any) cherry-picked real-world facts/context ever mentioned. They seem to be stretching moral-principles *infinitely* to every conceivable rhetorically-plausible context, and then get indignant/dismissive whenever anyone else *does* raise additional real-world relevant facts for consideration.

Tony Palmeri

Steve D said...

'The relationship of the foreign national to a sovereign nation is analogous to the relationship of random citizen to a private property owner.'


This is the step where your inductive argument breaks down. You own your property but you don't own your nation. Analogous does not mean identical unless the analogy is perfect which it isn't here. The rights of other citizens to invite a foreign national onto their property must also be considered. Otherwise the following would be true.

The relationship of the foreign national to a sovereign nation is 'equivalent' to the relationship of a random citizen to a private property owner.

The Rat Cap said...

Steve D,

Perhaps you didn't read the rest of my post or missed it. After making analogy, I write:


"In similar fashion, the government is elected to act as the gatekeeper at the nation's private property door. However, complications arise, because the government represents a group (the country), not a single individual, and therefore must represent the interests and protect the rights of all the citizens of the sovereign nation in determining who can enter. Since the government represents everyone, its actions must be based on objective policy and law."

In other words, I point to the problem with the analogy. After explaining that difference, and noting why it is different, later in the post, I write:

"After all, to deny a citizen within the country who seeks to peacefully deal with a non-threatening foreign national, could be considered a violation of that citizen's rights (he would rightly ask, "why would you all stop me from trading or marrying this nice person who I can prove is a great person and no threat to you?"). But, note, any right's violation is considered from the perspective of the citizen, not from the perspective of any right to immigrate."

Steve D said...

A simpler way of looking at this is given that...

'To protect such rights, governments are instituted among men...'

If a person peacefully immigrates which right of yours (or anyone else living anywhere in the world) is violated? In what way does the government action prevent that?

The issue isn't induction vs. deduction but one of careful reasoning.

'rationalistic 'derivation' from broad principles'

derivation from broad principles is deduction not rationalization. Deduction is a valid form of reasoning provided the principles in question have been correctly determined by induction. If you don't agree, you must show an error in the reasoning.

Anonymous said...

Steve: The error occurs when one invokes a principle *beyond* all the actual real-world context where it was formed. Principles have a domain and a range. They are not *infinitely* stretchable to every conceivable rhetorically-plausible context.

I am not criticizing the employment of "a principled approach" to things.

I am criticizing an improper application of principles.

A proper application isn't: 1) Begin with a principle (that had been derived in a certain context), 2) Disregard that context and pretend the principle is infinitely applicable, 3) Turn the crank of deductive thinking, 4) Derive a new Law, Policy, Moral-recommendation (or whatever), and declare it an absolute.

Tony Palmeri

Anonymous said...

I'm curious how you view race in all of this. The United States was founded as a European ethno-state (largely Anglo-Germanic). This is clear given its history and early documents. See for example the Naturalization Acts of 1790 and 1795 where it is stated that the only people who could be citizens were "white persons of good character". Throughout America's history until the 1950s America was conceived of as a white country with a minority black population who had no political or social power (and were largely isolated into their own areas not to mention that Lincoln wanted to send them back to Africa). All that changed with the passage of the 1965 immigration act which was duplicitous. It promised not to change the racial demographics of the country but of course the politicians lied and the stupid American people believed them. If you research the history of that Act you see a bunch of treacherous groups and people involved not the least of which is the controversial role of Jewish advocacy groups that wanted to change the racial composition of the country to better serve their ethnic interests and heritage Americans be damned.

So if a government is analogous to a home owners association, why isn't it proper for a those home owners to determine the racial composition of their community? I think the same applies to nations; its actually far more important for nations. We know now due to accumulated scientific findings and history (as if we didn't have enough of the later) that there are innate biological differences among the races *and* that racial diversity is a very *dangerous* phenomenon. Multi-ethnic states *always* devolve into ethnic cleansing. If Objectivism is supposed to be "a philosophy for living on earth", shouldn't it take into account that phenomenon? Ie, shouldn't it take into account that some element of racial tribalism is "metaphysical" as opposed to "the man made"?

My point is that Objectivism seems to be just another social constructionist ideology not to dissimilar from Leftism. I see that there are a (very) few Objectivists that are recognizing that the O'ist position on immigration is suicidal. But are any of you willing to recognize that race plays a role? Show me one low IQ country that is even remotely libertarian. And please don't tell me that all welfare states are in the same category as if there is no difference between all white Norway and 80% black South Africa. Both welfare states but one of them you need to live in an estate with an electric fence to keep you from getting *necklaced* and in the other all you have to deal wit is the cold weather and pretty Scandinavian women. The difference between the two is not just ideas. Its genetics as well.

In 2047 when whites are a minority in an America in which the Republicans can never again win a national election and the Democrats are in total control and dominated by a bunch of racial identity groups, ie black Democrats vs Hispanic Democrats vs Asian Democrats etc, and whites are being subjected to ethnic violence... Do you really think that Ayn Rand's race blind view of human nature is going to appeal to those young white people? "Man qua Man"? As if all of humanity had neurological uniformity?

I don't hate on Rand. I just don't see how a blank slate ideology like Objectivism has a future. Rothbard's views especially further developed by Hoppe may play a role in the future. But I just don't see the same for Rand's.

- D. Jensen

Steve Jackson said...

Steve D.,

"If a person peacefully immigrates which right of yours (or anyone else living anywhere in the world) is violated? In what way does the government action prevent that?"

Assume country A is free and prosperous. Country A has 5 million people. Country A borders Country B which is statist and poor. Country B has 25 million people. Country A decides in the name of "rights protection" to have open immigration with Country B. B's citizens flood A and, once they get the right to vote, vote to establish statism.

Now you could argue that as long as Country A has a good constitution that it wouldn't be a problem, but all constitutions have to have a means of change.

I think you would have to admit that under your system Israel and Europe would become Islamic and might say that that's the breaks -- hey, if the natives don't like it they can move to another country. But what happens when the Muslims ban emmigration?

-Steve Jackson

Steve Jackson said...

Here's the deal: supposing you had open borders. Supposing the immigrants contracted to work for (say) $3 an hour and live three families in a house. Since this is a voluntary contract, a doctrinaire Objectivist might claim, all sides profit. The employer gets cheap labor so he can deliver goods & services at the lowest possible price. The consumer profits because they gain goods & services at those low prices. And the immigrants profit because they make more money than they would have made had they stayed in their home countries.

But...

What happens when the immigrants get fed up with working for $3 an hour and living three families to a house? What happens when they take it to the streets in protest? And start burning cars? And assault our Objectivist's sons in the schoolyard. And groom his daughters as sex slaves? Or perhaps invades his house and cuts him to pieces with pangas?

Then what?

Does our Objectivist wag his finger and tell the immigrants they have violated the terms of the contract? Call the cops with SWAT teams kicking down doors? Or does our Objectivist hide under the bed and wonder what happened to his high minded doctrines?

Lest you think I am using hyperbole, this is precisely what is happening now in Europe and South Africa. Third world immigrants are burning cars, and assaulting children, and massacring entire families.

Really, I would like to sit down someone like a Binswager or Brook or Ghate and confront them with these realities. Are they ideologue enough that they would refuse to recognize that reality even when it is kicking down his door?

Ed Mazlish said...

Building on what Steve Jackson wrote:

Steve D.'s error is contained in the sentence "If a person peacefully immigrates which Right of yours (or anyone else living anywhere in the world is violated?"

With that question, he smuggled in the assumption that all immigration is peaceful. The entire debate, from the perspective of thosenof us in favor of immigration screening, is that not all immigration is peaceful. And by peaceful, we don't just mean "not a jihadist" or "not a criminal." Cultural collectivists who have nonunderstabding of or respect for individual rights are not peaceful immigrants either - they pose an objective threat to the continued viability of a rights respecting society.

We want screenings in place to ensure that all prospective immigrants are, in fact peaceful. Presuming them so does not make them so.

Steve Jackson said...

Steve D.,

"If a person peacefully immigrates which right of yours (or anyone else living anywhere in the world) is violated? In what way does the government action prevent that?"

Immigration into the US (even by people who are generally law abiding) is not "peaceful" in the context of the current welfare state. We all have to pay for the taxes to support the costs of these immigrants and their anchor babies for example. Why should I have to pay taxes for my local public schools to hire Mayan translators because the current crop of Meso-Americans are coming from such rural areas that they don't even speak Spanish.

Say I don't want to associate with Muslims. Well the law doesn't give me that right, so Muslim immigration is de facto rights violating.

And this is just short term. Think of the long term consequences of allowing Muslims into the US. The first generation of Muslims into France came mostly to work. It's the second and third generation that are often cuasing the biggest problems. 70% of France's prison population is Muslim.

Anonymous said...

Ed Mazlish writes:

"Steve D.'s error is contained in the sentence "If a person peacefully immigrates which Right of yours (or anyone else living anywhere in the world is violated?""

Jesus Christ Ed. After everything I posted this is what you respond to? A completely ignorance based comment by some blank slate social constructionist? What I wrote is what you *need* to deal with. Because if you don't there is not a snowballs's chance in hell that you will EVER convert white people to liberty especially in the coming decades where whites are going to lose their majority status. Jesus, do you Objectivists really think you are going to sell your hyper-individualism to black and brown people? Show me where that has EVER happened.

The naiveté coming from O'ists is mind boggling.

D. Jensen

Peter Smith said...

"The relationship of the foreign national to a sovereign nation is analogous to the relationship of random citizen to a private property owner."
I think this is root of the problem with your argument. I don't think the government and the sovereign nation are in any way analogous to a private citizen and his property.
The government is just organized force.
The sovereign nation is the jurisdiction of said government.
If you have a rights protecting government, then it only steps in if force or fraud is committed.
This then makes possible things like individual citizens owning private property.

The act of immigration in and of itself, is not force or fraud and so there is no role for the the state in a rights protecting government.

It's actually not that complicated an issue IMO if you understand that rights are a freedom of action, rights protecting government only acts in retaliation to force and/or fraud and immigration in and of itself is neither force nor fraud.

Justin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Justin said...

No because there is only one human right, to be free from the initiatory use of force.