Mass immigration to western countries from the third world is one of the most prominent political topics in 2016. The European migrant crises with over 1 million economic migrants coming from various countries in the Middle East and Africa is changing the very nature of European life and in Germany in particular. In the United States the country has for decades had the demographics of its country changed with unchecked immigration from Mexico and other Latin American countries. In Australia we had our own migration crises during Rudd/Gillard Labor government of 2007-2013 with asylum seeker boats coming on a weekly basis and with many of those on board gaining entry to the Australian mainland, and others perishing at sea often meters away from land.
The citizenry of these western countries are not receptive to the radical cultural changes this mass influx of migrants brings to their country, which is why we are seeing the rise of nationalist parties in European elections, the triumph of Brexit earlier this year and the growing popularity of Donald Trump in the United States. Here in Australia we saw the open door asylum boat policy end with the election of the Abbott government in 2013 and a broader backlash against open borders and multiculturalism with the return of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation to the parliament this year.
The support for open borders from the third world comes from both the political left and libertarians. The opponents of open borders are subjected to the usual accusations of racism, xenophobia and a lack of empathy for people who come from poor and violent parts of the world that these migrants are just seeking a better life and want to work hard to contribute to their new home. This is a simplistic view of the nature of immigration from radically different countries of the world, which has no consideration for the practical realities and consequences of what open borders brings to a country. The open border position is also one of the most fashionable ways to signal your virtue that you are a compassionate and worldly person.
Consequences of Open Borders
If immigration and open borders were as rosy as we are told by progressives and libertarians then why do the local populations despise the imposition of them by their governments? It should be noted here that we are talking about migration from third world countries, not people migrating from say the United States to Australia where both countries have very similar economic, legal and cultural systems. Plus these migrants are most likely moving countries due to their skills and employment being in demand therefore they are contributing to the economy of that country and paying tax to that country’s government for use of the public services there. This article will not debate the question of skilled migration from the first world as we believe that this type of immigration is beneficial and what immigration should be and used to be. In fact one of the dishonest tactics of open borders advocates is that they combine the immigration statistics of first and third world migrants to claim that there is not a problem with ANY aspect of immigration.
There are three reasons why open borders is not good for a country, first the economic burden that new migrants impose in terms of the welfare and public services they consume increasing the tax bill of ordinary citizens. In the United States for example the cost of allowing unchecked illegal immigration costs taxpayers at all levels of government $113 billion a year which includes health, education and welfare such as food stamps and housing assistance. The amount of tax paid by illegal immigrants is nowhere near offset by this large expenditure on the welfare they receive. When boat people were arriving in Australia they were estimated to be costing the Australian taxpayers $500,000 each to process and settle their asylum claims. Immigrants from the third world are largely unskilled and have limited English skills so finding employment under a high minimum wage is very difficult, plus why would you bother when you can just take handouts from the government no questions asked?
The second is the dramatic increase in crime and disrespect for the rule of law that accompanies mass migration. This was brought to the attention of the mainstream media after 1,000 women in Cologne, Germany were assaulted during 2016 New Year celebrations despite the best efforts of authorities to cover it up. Although only one incident it brought the forefront the dramatic increase in crime by recent migrants in Germany and Europe as a whole. Statistics recently released by German authorities reveal that crime in the country has dramatically risen with them being committed disproportionately by non-native Germans, crime amongst native Germans have actually decreased. Right here in Melbourne, Australia we are struggling with the rise of the Apex organized crime gang largely made up of African migrants involved in terrifying home invasions and car-jackings.
Third reason is the shift in culture that mass migration brings with it, especially the negative effects that has on the freedom of groups such as woman and homosexuals. Take for example a recent survey of British Muslims where 52% thought homosexuality should be illegal, 23% would like to see Sharia law in England a legal system which treats women as second class citizens, 39% think a wife should always obey her husband. Not to mention the intolerance Islam has for western vices such as drinking, wearing revealing clothing, satire and blasphemy. This is not even mentioning the constant terror attacks in the name of Islam in a variety of Western countries such as France, Belgium and even as far as the United States just in the past 12 months. Even more outrageous is how native citizens are being asked to change their lifestyle, such as “recommending” women to switch to less revealing clothing and avoid walking outside at night, all in the name of appeasing refugees. School officials have already warned girls to cover up and avoid provoking refugees. Importing more Muslims to western countries would greatly shift the culture and freedom citizens have to be who they want to be without fear of their personal safety.
Philosophical Justifications of Open Borders
I have laid forth the consequences of an open borders policy in various western countries, I would now like to respond to the philosophical case that libertarians in particular put forward in support of the policy of open borders. They claim that open borders are part of the right to freedom of movement, that having a state control who comes into a country is violation of natural rights and that borders are just arbitrary lines with no real economic purpose. However this is a simplistic application of libertarian theory which completely overlooks key libertarian principles.
The first is that of private property and freedom of association, libertarians believe that a person who owns property has the right to determine who comes into that property and any uninvited occupation is form of trespass and violation of the non-aggression principle. Property rights covers all private property from a home residence, business premise or club facilities. However this right is complicated by the fact that large amounts of land within in a country are public property, property that is operated by the government in practice but in theory belongs to the sovereign citizens of that country.
As much as we would like all property to be privately owned that is sadly not the case in the world. Therefore even if you are allowed the right to not allow immigrants onto your private property which is unlikely under anti-discrimination laws in western countries, they are still allowed to use all of the public property and services funded by taxpayers that surrounds all of the private property. Not mention it’s easy for them to trespass on a whole range of private property such as shops and hospitality venues. So even if an immigrant group is invited to live or work on a private property in the country it is virtually impossible for them to avoid infringing on the property rights of the local population.
As stated before the public property of a country belongs to the sovereign citizens of that country, therefore it is up to them if they want to share that property with people not of that country. The way that this is determined is by our current system of democracy, if the citizens vote they don’t want to allow people from certain parts of the world to occupy their public property based on some of the consequences I have already stated then under a system of property rights that is a just outcome. As Pauline Hanson famously said 20 years ago ‘If I am allowed to determine who comes into my home then I should be allowed to determine who comes into my country’. Unfortunately representative democracy is not functioning well on this issue as in many western countries the major parties collude to decide just amongst themselves they are going to disrespect the will of their countries citizens in regard to who is allowed to use the public property of the country.
Another argument in favour of open borders is that is discrimination to only allow migrants from certain parts of the world and a violation of the principle of equality before the law. But if you are not a citizen of a country then you don’t have the same rights as people who are citizens of a particular country, if you believe non-citizens have the same rights you are advocating a type of global citizenship. Equality before the law and non-discrimination from government in a country apply only to those citizens of that country. A government and country is not obligated to just let anyone into a country based on some global right to freedom of movement. I would suggest to open borders advocates if you believe that countries can’t deny entry to foreigners then please tear down the walls to your property and get rid of all the locks on your door, after all my home is your home. The right of people who are already citizens of a country always trumps the alleged rights of people who are from other countries, otherwise national sovereignty is dead.
In summary open borders don’t just leads to negative consequences for countries due to economic, legal and cultural factors but there is no underlying right to freedom of movement under a framework of property rights and freedom of association. The citizens of western countries are correct in asserting their rights to decide what their communities look like and desiring to feel safe and secure in their local streets.
If you liked this article, you may also enjoy my coverage of the links between open borders and terrorism here.