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Libertarians weigh in on the immigrant children debate

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A quote from 1996 by Libertarian Party presidential nominee Harry Browne puts the immigration debate into perspective: "End welfare, so that America attracts productive immigrants, rather than people who want to live off the taxpayers. Maintain open borders and a free market--so that America is a haven for people who want to produce in freedom."

In response to recent media reports about the increase in Latin American children seeking entry into the United States, Libertarian Party Chair Nicholas Sarwark released this statement this morning, July 8, 2014:

Should the U.S. government forbid foreign children from entering the United States? The Libertarian Party says no.

It would be unjust and inhumane for the U.S. government to prohibit these children from entering the United States.

A great irony is that U.S. government policies have caused the conditions that some of these Central American children are fleeing. The War on Drugs has created a huge black market in Latin America, causing increases in gang activity and violent crime. Some of the affected children naturally try to flee this violence. It is wrong to jeer at them, call them "illegals," and tell them to get out.

Many of these children are hoping to reach friends and relatives in the United States. A freer, simpler legal immigration process might result in a safer journey with more adult supervision along the way. In any case, Libertarians support maximizing freedom knowing that risks, including risks to children, are always involved. In some cases, children may be better off migrating, even without adult supervision, than staying trapped in dangerous environments — just ask the Jewish children who escaped from Hitler, or Tutsi children who escaped genocide in Rwanda.

Libertarians do not support forcing people to pay for other children's welfare, and there are obviously costs associated with helping children who arrive in the United States. However, there are many charitable organizations that have already mobilized to provide that help. A nation of 320 million people can provide sufficient charitable help to the number of children involved (around 50,000 over the last nine months). And if we'd just end the War on Drugs, the number of refugee children would be much lower.

Ultimately, the fact that many of these children are fleeing dangerous situations isn't the issue. Even if they were coming to the United States for fun, we should still allow them to enter. All foreigners should be allowed entry into the United States unless the government can produce positive evidence that they pose a threat to security, health, or property.

Our bad immigration laws affect a lot more people than just these children. Many foreigners want to come work in the United States, which benefits them as well as Americans. However, our government makes it impossible for almost all of them to work here legally.

The Libertarian Party believes that the U.S. government should not prohibit Americans from hiring foreign workers. There are about 60 million legal foreign entries into the United States each year (mostly tourists). Those foreigners should be free to work in the United States as well. There's no question of border security — it's just a question of the government's unjust and foolish protectionist labor laws.

(By comparison, there are only about 500,000 "illegal" entries into the United States each year. Most of those are foreigners who want to work in the United States, and who would be denied visas because of that intention.)

Some observers have noted that generous benefit and subsidy programs in the United States, including free education and health care, may be attracting lazy foreigners. The Libertarian Party supports the abolition of government benefits and subsidies, for both natives and foreigners. It's worth pointing out that foreigners use these programs at a lower rate than natives, according to a recent report by the Cato Institute.

It's a shame that many in the media are trying to make Americans feel fear and suspicion toward immigrants. It's particularly disgusting that protesters would yell at children to make their political point. Immigration is good for foreigners and good for Americans, and we need to change our laws to make immigration much easier.

The Libertarian Party Platform says the following about the freedom of trade and migration:

3.4 Free Trade and Migration

We support the removal of governmental impediments to free trade. Political freedom and escape from tyranny demand that individuals not be unreasonably constrained by government in the crossing of political boundaries. Economic freedom demands the unrestricted movement of human as well as financial capital across national borders. However, we support control over the entry into our country of foreign nationals who pose a credible threat to security, health or property.

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