I’d like to clear up some confusions about the nature of the open immigration policy advocated by The Objective Standard. Open immigration does not mean that government plays no role in immigration. Rather, it means that government plays a specific, highly delimited role—namely, that of protecting the rights of Americans, not violating the rights of those seeking to immigrate to America, and not permitting entry to those whom the U.S. government has reason to believe might pose a threat to the lives or rights of Americans. As Craig Biddle put it in “Immigration and Individual Rights”:
Open immigration means that anyone is free to enter and reside in America—providing that he enters at a designated checkpoint and passes an objective screening process, the purpose of which is to keep out criminals, enemies of America, and people with certain kinds of contagious diseases.
Open immigration does not mean that government must let in criminals and terrorists. And our alternatives obviously are not limited to letting in criminals and terrorists or keeping out rights-respecting people who want to move here. The alternative consistent with individual rights is a policy under which immigration is open to all and only rights-respecting, non-rights threatening individuals. (The matter of how the government should check a person’s background, and what standards of evidence should be used in this context, is a complex issue beyond the scope of this article; this is the job of intelligence experts, who have a great deal of training, information, and technology at their disposal. The matter of when, if ever, citizenship should be granted to immigrants is also a separate matter.)
In his article, Biddle deals with several fallacious arguments made against a rights-respecting immigration policy. But I’d like to address a specific claim that I’ve seen made in several places and that I think is worth further discussion: the claim that countries that allow “too much” immigration from predominantly Muslim countries thereby expose themselves to rights-violating behavior by those immigrants.
The problem with this claim is that it ignores the fact that a rights-respecting immigration policy does not permit rights-violating actions on the part of immigrants. Once an immigrant has passed an objective screening process (as mentioned above) and enters the country, he is then subject to federal, state, and municipal laws in America. If would-be immigrants commit rights-violating crimes before they seek to migrate, our government properly keeps them out—or, in the case of terrorists, captures them for interrogation or execution. And if immigrants commit such crimes after they migrate, our federal, state, and municipal governments deal with them accordingly—just as they deal with anyone else who breaks a law. If an immigrant commits a particularly serious crime, then the government may deport, imprison, or even (in the case of first-degree murder) execute him; if an immigrant acts as an agent of an enemy state or regime, then the government may turn him over to the U.S. military for interrogation or execution. (The problem with many European nations is that their governments have not taken effective action against rights violations and enemy actions committed by immigrants in their jurisdictions.)
What a rights-respecting immigration policy does not do is punish the innocent for the crimes of the guilty. Although some people who wish to immigrate from Muslim countries are barbarians and should be kept out (or killed), many are rights-respecting people who simply want to come to America to live better lives. Many people wish to immigrate precisely to escape the faith-based or collectivist barbarism of their native lands, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ayn Rand, and countless others have done. And some of these immigrants, Ali and Rand included, are among the greatest freedom fighters in history.
The notion that a rights-respecting immigration policy would tolerate rights-violating behavior on the part of immigrants, either before or after they move here, is false, and advocates of rights-protecting government would do well to grasp the contradiction involved.