What do advocates of open immigration have to say about the current immigration crisis involving children from Central America? It’s a fair question, and one I’m happy to answer. Let’s first review the essential facts (as reported by NPR):
Since October, more than 52,000 children—most from Central America and many of them unaccompanied by adults—have been taken into custody. That’s nearly double last year’s total and 10 times the number from 2009. . . .
A study by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees found that 58 percent of the unaccompanied children are motivated by safety concerns, fearing conditions back home. Their home countries have been racked by gang violence, fueled by the drug trade. . . .
Central American families may have been misled by rumors—often spread by profit-seeking smugglers—that their children will readily be reunited with relatives already in the U.S. . . .
U.S. policy allows Mexican child migrants to be sent back quickly across the border. However, under a 2008 law meant to combat child trafficking, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, children from Central America must be given a court hearing before they are deported (or allowed to stay). Given the huge backlog of cases, they may have to wait years for a hearing. . . .
In the meantime, as many as 90 percent of the children stay with relatives or family friends already living in the U.S., with the rest placed in foster care, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
First consider a point not directly related to immigration policy. To the degree that the problem is caused or exacerbated by drug violence in Central American countries, it is largely the fault of the U.S. government, which, by waging its rights-violating “war on drugs,” helps to create and perpetuate an extremely violent black market.
Regarding immigration policy, government has no moral right to compel U.S. citizens to finance the care of immigrants, and immigrants have no moral right to receive government support or to squat on public or private property. Government may properly deport those who, unable to care for themselves or find a sponsor willing to care for them, seek to live on government property or at government (i.e., taxpayer) expense.
U.S. citizens and legal residents have a moral right to offer to take care of immigrant children (or adults) if they wish to do so, and government has no moral right to stop them from doing so. In such cases, government’s sole proper role is to screen the children—in order to keep out criminals, those with infectious diseases, and the like—and to facilitate their immediate transfer to their families or sponsors.
For the above mentioned (and related) reasons, to the degree that current immigration of Central American children constitutes a crisis, it is a crisis predominantly caused by the U.S. government—and, in turn, by Americans who advocate its rights-violating, statist policies. The U.S. government has fostered the drug violence prompting many Central American children to flee their homelands, or their parents to smuggle them into America; it has violated the rights of U.S. citizens by forcing them to finance the care of many of these immigrants; it has failed to expeditiously deport those unable to care for themselves or find sponsors; and it has violated the rights of willing U.S. citizens and legal residents to expeditiously assume care of the children in question.
Far from showing that government should restrict immigration of rights-respecting people even more severely, today’s immigration crisis further illustrates why government should stop violating the rights of rights-respecting people to immigrate and the rights of citizens to voluntarily associate with such immigrants.