Home Columns Free Thoughts: Humans, not harbingers — a defense of free movement across borders

Free Thoughts: Humans, not harbingers — a defense of free movement across borders

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Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the author and Ohio University Students for Liberty. They do not reflect those of The New Political or its editorial team.

By C.J. Fogarty

In light of the recent ban on several predominantly Muslim nations, fulfilling one of Donald Trump’s more controversial campaign promises, a general statement on immigration and its merits is relevant at this time.

Libertarian principles tend to say the free movement across borders should be promoted as a means of self-determination. Looking at the broad picture, immigrants are good for a nation looking to expand and diversify its workforce with different skill sets. From the beginning of civilization, people have sought to move in order to find an optimal place to make a living and achieve a certain degree of safety.

Recent attention has been drawn to the unique pattern of immigration to the United States and the role it has played in forming our identity. Those on the left argue for civil liberties, referring to the history of America as an immigrant nation shaped by foreigners who bring their traditions to this nation that ought to be protected. Hence the phrase inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your poor and huddled masses yearning to be free” is the basis for defending open immigration.

However, does this extend to defending illegal immigration? Does this equate to a deemphasis on national security? Donald Trump was able to rally his base to support the recent travel ban on the grounds of protecting us from unknown dangers. These claims, however, appear inflated when we consider that with very few exceptions (9/11 being an extreme exception), terrorist attacks have been committed by people born in America radicalized by jihadi rhetoric.

But, what about the ideas that these refugees bring over? Are we not concerned that radicals from these Muslim nations mean to do us harm? This was the argument from a viral video posted by a former U.S. Marine working in Iraq, who claimed to know “the truth” about Muslim culture and its views of Americans. The bearded Marine expressed fears — justifiable by his own experience — of people coming to America from the Middle East based on the extent to which he fears for his own life just walking outside his Iraqi home. The Marine apparently didn’t consider what his presence in Iraq symbolizes to the Iraqis. With the unprompted invasion, occupation and subsequent bombings committed by the American military, does the desire for retribution suggest an inherently violent nature among the Iraqis?

What anti-immigration arguments ignore, at the core, is the historical interaction of immigrants to American culture as well as the context of current events. One of the things noticed by observers of American culture, particularly Alexis de Tocqueville, was the extent to which America lacked the rigid hierarchies of European society and how social associations promoted community consciousness across diverse groups of people. The result has been a unique ability among immigrant populations to find community in the idea of America, which loans itself to a set of beliefs sooner than a set of specific identities.

Indeed, it’s the attempt to protect an identity that lies at the crux of these arguments, begging the question of whether the nation as a whole will benefit from restricting freedom of movement around the world.


Students for Liberty is a 501(c) nonprofit. While student members do not participate in political activity, they seek to educate people on Libertarian principles.

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