We need to make a beginning toward the establishment of freedom of immigration. A logical place to begin would be in calling for free immigration from our immediate neighbors, Canada and Mexico
There is not the slightest reason for excluding Canadians. They are virtually indistinguishable from Americans, and had one or two battles gone the other way early in our history, would in fact be Americans. By the same token, had the Confederacy won the Civil War, then, with the prevalence of today’s ideas, present-day New Yorkers would probably not be able to migrate to Texas, nor Texans to California. Such restrictions, based on mere accidents of history, simply have no logical foundation.
It should not be necessary to add that the free immigration of Canadians, Mexicans, or any other nationality should not be at the expense of the immigration allowed under existing law to the members of any other nationality. As in the case of tax reduction, no one should be made any worse off than he now is, because of an attempt to improve conditions for anyone else.
The reason we must seek to abolish restrictions on Mexican immigration at the earliest possible moment is because the attempt to restrict it is in danger of making us adopt some of the most obnoxious features of the former South African regime–namely, a virtual pass law, in which people of Latin origin will have to carry identity papers to show on demand to immigration police, who, if they do not find the appropriate “papers,” will have the authority to destroy the lives of said individuals by uprooting them from their jobs and homes and deporting them. Already virtually Gestapo-like conditions exist in Southern California in connection with a notorious immigration checkpoint, where fleeing Mexicans of all ages and both sexes have often run into oncoming automobile traffic rather than be arrested by officers of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. This ignominy, I must note, has now been compounded by the recent passage of Proposition 187 in the state of California, which, if upheld in the courts, will actually impose the requirement of having an official identity card that must be shown on demand to the authorities.
Furthermore, the principle of private property rights implies that the Mexicans, and everyone else, have a perfect right to come here–to work for anyone who is willing to hire them and to live wherever anyone is willing to sell or rent to them. The violation of the rights the Mexicans or any other category of immigrant is a violation of the private property rights of employers and landlords–it is telling them that other people have the right to dictate whom they may or may not employ or to whom they may or may not sell or rent their property. It is a blatant manifestation of collectivism to believe that somehow the people of the United States as a whole have the right to tell the individual, private owners of property how they may use their property–that they must use it not as they, the private owners wish to use it, but as the nation collectively, or at least a majority of those voting, wish it to be used.
As I explained in Chapter 9 of Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics, in a capitalist society free immigration does not deprive those already present of the opportunity of working and it does not reduce their standard of living. On the contrary, in the long run free immigration into a capitalist society from a semifeudal one, such as Mexico’s, must operate to raise the general standard of living in the capitalist society, because it means that more human beings will now live under freedom and have the opportunity to develop their talents. There are Mexicans and the children of Mexicans who have the potential for making the same kind of economic contribution to the general standard of living as have immigrants from other countries before them.
Immigration & The Welfare State
The only legitimate argument against unrestricted Mexican immigration (or unrestricted immigration of any other ethnic group) is based on the existence of our welfare state. To the extent that Mexicans come here and go on welfare and medicaid, or use public hospitals and public schools, and place an increased burden on government-subsidized public transportation facilities and so forth, then, it is true, there is a genuine loss imposed on the people already here. The solution, however, is not to violate the right of the Mexicans to immigrate, but to start dismantling our welfare state.
Without immediately abolishing the totality of the welfare state, which would be politically impossible, we could simply change its terms and make all noncitizens ineligible for its programs. This, of course, is essentially what a portion of California’s Proposition 187 seeks to do. [The stated purpose of CA Proposition 187 is to “provide for cooperation between [the] agencies of state and local government with the federal government, and to establish a system of required notification by and between such agencies to prevent illegal aliens in the United States from receiving benefits or public services in the State of California.” – Editor] However, that proposition also seeks to expel the immigrants and to deter further immigration through fear. Totally unlike Proposition 187, the mere exclusion of the immigrants from the welfare state would not impose any actual burden or disability on them. It would not be they who had to carry identity papers and prove why they should not be deported. There would be no question of that. On the contrary, it would only be the American citizens who sought the alleged benefits of the welfare state who would have to show papers and prove their citizenship.
While excluding the immigrants from the welfare state, we should simultaneously remove all government-imposed barriers to their being supplied privately with what they need. This would entail the removal of government licensing requirements in connection with meeting the medical, educational, transportation, and sanitation needs of the immigrants. As far as possible, this should be accompanied by privatization of such things as existing government-owned hospitals, schools, bus lines, and garbage-collection operations. An important result of privatization would be that the presence of the larger numbers of people resulting from immigration would be viewed as a source of more business, not more problems, as it is under the ineptitude of government ownership. In addition, in order to reduce the injustice that would exist in making immigrants pay taxes for the support of the welfare state for the native population, the immigrants should receive as nontaxable wages what would otherwise be their own and their employer’s social security and medicare contributions made in connection with their employment. The ironic effect of all these liberalizing measures would be to give the immigrants more freedom than today’s American citizens, and in that sense to make them truer Americans than today’s American citizens. If, at the same time, the immigrants could be reached with procapitalist ideas, this might well serve as the foundation for their being developed into a major group opposed to the welfare state for anyone.
In the present circumstances, it is especially important to make every effort to exclude immigrants from the public education system. At one time, it is true, public elementary education succeeded in educating pupils of all different nationalities in the three R’s. And even though its own existence represented a contradiction of the principle of individual rights, it instilled in pupils a basic respect and admiration for the United States. Today, public education teaches very little to anyone. It turns out masses of illiterates and students who have not the slightest idea of what the United States stands for. One of the last things we should want is today’s public education system teaching masses of immigrants in their own language. One of the major subjects that would be taught would undoubtedly be revolutionary Marxist nationalism. Under such conditions, as far fetched as it may sound, large-scale Mexican immigration into the Southwest could well result, one or two generations later, in a widespread demand for the return of the Southwest to Mexico. Thus, an important part of any campaign for free immigration for Mexicans should be an attack on public education and its Marxist domination. It is vital that the immigrants be assimilated as English speakers who support capitalism.
It would be enormously valuable if it could be explained to the immigrants that only the philosophy of individualism and respect for private property rights made possible their immigration. It would be legitimate to require of all immigrants an oath swearing to uphold the system of private property rights and to educate their children in the English language.
It would be a very short step from freedom of immigration for Mexicans to freedom of immigration for everyone.
This article was originally written in 1996 and is excerpted from Reisman’s Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics. Copyright 1996 George Reisman. All rights reserved. The encyclopedic Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics is a required reference for every Capitalist’s library. Reisman’s treatise is now available in two volumes: Volume I (focuses on microeconomic issues) and Volume II (focuses on macroeconomic issues).